Under all that floof, our furry friends have skin, just like us. Skin problems are one of the most common ailments dogs can suffer, with a wide range of causes, conditions, and treatments. These skin problems can range from mild to severe, with some being contagious to other animals as well as humans. Let’s take a look at some of the most common canine skin issues, their symptoms, and how to treat them.
Just like their humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to food and environmental factors that result in dermatitis. Environmental irritants can include pollen, dust, mold, plants, and grass. Known as atopic dermatitis (atopy), symptoms of environmental allergies can include redness, an itchy rash (particularly on the face, feet, chest, and stomach), and sometimes even infection in the ears and inflammation in the nose. Allergic reactions to food can result in similar symptoms, though they are less common than environmental irritants.
Parasites are organisms that live off of other organisms, often causing harm to their hosts. Because their bodies are covered in fur, dogs unfortunately make ideal hosts for these parasites. Below are some of the most common parasites found in dogs:
- Mange is a serious skin condition caused by mites. Often found on neglected or stray dogs, this disease leaves sores and lesions on the skin, resulting in hair loss and severe scabbing. The two types of mange include sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange.
- Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, is the most common type. It is highly contagious to both dogs and humans, though the mites cannot live on human hosts for long.
- Demodectic mange is caused by mites that normally live on dog’s skin and are usually harmless. A healthy immune system will fend off excess amounts of these mites, but if a dog has a weakened immune system, the mite infestation can get out of control. This type of mange is not transferable to humans.
- Fleas are a parasite known to infest and bite dogs, causing your dog to itch profusely. If left untreated, this can lead to bleeding and hair loss. Fleas can infest homes and bite people as well, making them highly contagious for both pets and pet parents.
- Ticks are much larger than fleas and mites, making them more easily visible to the naked eye – though they can still be hard to spot. Ticks do not infest in the way that smaller parasites do, but many of them carry harmful diseases that can be passed to both dogs and humans through bites. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know if your pup has a tick bite until they show signs of a tick-borne disease, such as fever, lameness and lethargy, swelling around the joints, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Fungal infections take place when a fungus invades the skin tissue. The most common types of fungal infections in dogs include ringworm and yeast infections.
Ringworm spreads through direct contact with fungus, either through another animal, a person, or an object like a couch or food bowl. A ringworm infection can leave circular spots of hair loss, scabby, inflamed, or dry skin, dry and brittle hair, and rough and brittle claws.
Yeast infections are extremely common in dogs and come from an overgrowth of a normal fungus found on dogs skin. Causes of yeast infections in dogs include immune deficiencies, immunosuppressive drugs, and allergic reactions. If you notice recurring or chronic ear infections, itchiness and redness, a musty odor, hyperpigmentation, crusty, flaky, scaly, or thickened skin, your dog may have a yeast infection. Yeast infections in dogs are not contagious to humans or other dogs.
Bacterial infections in dogs often indicate an underlying skin condition, as other conditions which cause itching, sores, and lesions allow harmful bacteria to grow. The bacterial infections themselves are not contagious, but their underlying cause may be. Below are some of the most common bacterial infections in dogs:
- Hot spots are red and swollen areas of skin that come from excessive licking, biting, or scratching one part of the body, typically the head, limbs, and hips. These are very painful and will rapidly worsen and spread if left untreated. Hot spots can come from any condition that causes your dog to feel itchy, such as parasites, allergies, dermatitis, ear and skin infections, and even stress and boredom.
- Pyoderma, also known as impetigo, is one of the most common canine bacterial infections. Puppies are more prone to this infection, and it is often seen in areas where there is less fur, such as the groin and underarms. Pyoderma shows up as lesions that look similar to pimples. They are often red, raised, and pus-filled blisters. This infection is often secondary to allergic dermatitis, and can also stem from conditions that cause itchy skin, as well as thyroid disease, hormonal imbalances, and immunosuppressive drugs.
- Folliculitis is often caused by an infection of the hair follicles with staph bacteria. Folliculitis shows up in the form of sores, bumps, and scabs. Underlying causes of folliculitis can include parasites, fungal infections, immune disorders, allergies, systemic disease, endocrine issues, and local trauma.
Diagnosis and treatment for dog skin conditions
Specific skin problems in dogs can be difficult to diagnose right away, as symptoms for dermatitis, parasites, fungal infections, and bacterial infections can be very similar to one another. Your vet will typically inspect your dog’s skin and perform any necessary tests. Additionally, they will want to know any details you can recall that may have led to the issue at hand. This can include new products in your home, bringing your dog to a new environment, or observing symptoms in your dog at a certain time of day.
Treatment options will depend on the ailment, but this can include topical ointments or sprays, special shampoos, supplements, or medications given by mouth or injection.
Cost of treatment for dog skin conditions
The cost of treatment has a large range depending on the condition and severity. Initial consultations can cost a few hundred dollars, while dermatological treatments can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Because skin conditions in dogs are so common, it is best to be prepared with pet insurance to avoid paying steep bills out of pocket.