Dog Skin Problems
The sound of a dog constantly scratching or licking can be as irritating as nails on a chalkboard. But don’t blame your pooch for these bad habits a skin condition is probably the culprit. Possible causes range from parasites to allergies to underlying illness.
Dogs can have allergic reactions to grooming products, food, and environmental irritants, such as pollen or insect bites. A dog with allergies may scratch relentlessly, and a peek at the skin often reveals an ugly rash. Corticosteroids or other, newer medicines can help with itchy rashes. But the most effective treatment is to identify and avoid exposure to the allergens
If your dog can’t seem to stop scratching an ear or licking and chewing their toes, ask your veterinarian to check for a yeast infection. Symptoms include irritated, itchy, or discolored skin. The infection usually strikes the paws or ears, where yeast have a cozy space to grow. Yeast infections are easy to diagnose and often respond well to a topical cream. In some cases, your veterinarian may prescribe oral drugs, medicated sprays, or medicated baths.
These skin abnormalities are easier to see in shorthaired dogs. In longhaired dogs, the most obvious symptoms may be a dull coat and shedding with scaly skin underneath. Folliculitis often occurs in conjunction with other skin problems, such as mange, allergies, or injury. Treatment may include oral antibiotics and antibacterial ointments or shampoos.
Another type of bacterial infection, impetigo is most common in puppies. It causes pus-filled blisters that may break and crust over. The blisters usually develop on the hairless portion of the abdomen. Impetigo is rarely serious and can be treated with a topical solution. In a small number of cases, the infection may spread or persist.
Seborrhea causes a dog’s skin to become greasy and develop scales (dandruff). In some cases, it’s a genetic disease that begins when a dog is young and lasts a lifetime. But most dogs with seborrhea develop the scaling as a complication of another medical problem, such as allergies or hormonal abnormalities. In these cases, it is vital to treat the underlying cause so symptoms do not recur. The seborrhea itself typically can be treated with certain medicated shampoos.
Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm, but by a fungus. The term “ring” comes from the circular patches that can form anywhere, but are often found on a dog’s head, paws, ears, and forelegs. Inflammation, scaly patches, and hair loss often surround the lesions. Puppies less than a year old are the most susceptible, and the infection can spread quickly between dogs in a kennel or to pet owners at home. Various anti-fungal treatments are available.
Shedding and Hair Loss (Alopecia)
Anyone who shares their home with dogs knows that they shed. How much shedding is normal depends on breed, time of year, and environment. But sometimes stress, poor nutrition, or illness can cause a dog to lose more hair than usual. If abnormal or excessive shedding persists for more than a week, or you notice patches of missing fur, check with your veterinarian.
Mange is a skin disorder caused by tiny parasites called mites. Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, spreads easily among dogs and can also be transmitted to people, but the parasites don’t survive on humans. The symptoms are intense itching, red skin, sores, and hair loss. A dog’s ears, face and legs are most commonly affected. Demodectic mange can cause bald spots, scabbing, and sores, but it is not contagious between animals or people. Treatment depends on the type of mange.
Fleas are the bane of any pet owner. You may not see the tiny insects themselves, but flea droppings or eggs are usually visible in a dog’s coat. Other symptoms include excessive licking or scratching, scabs, and hot spots. Severe flea infestations can cause blood loss and anemia, and even expose your dog to other parasites, such as tapeworms. Treatment may include a topical and/or oral flea killer and a thorough cleaning of the pet’s home and yard.