How to Detect and Treat Common Skin Problems in Dogs

Posted by Jackie Ly on

a person checking a dog's skin infection

One of the most common reasons owners send their dogs to the vet is skin issues. When you see them excessively scratching or itching and feeling discomfort, you get worried about what could’ve made them like that– is it because they rolled on the grass when you took them for a walk? Is it because of what you fed them?

Taking care of your dog’s skin is just as important as training and giving them a healthy diet. All these aspects work together to give your dog optimum health.

As a responsible fur parent, it’s important to learn how to detect skin problems in your dog and how to treat it. It’s also good if you’re taking care of their skin at home to keep it healthy.

Below are some of the most common skin problems your dog might encounter, how you can detect them, and what are the next steps to take once you notice the symptoms.

Common skin problems in dogs

Allergic dermatitis

Dogs can have allergic reactions to food and/or environmental factors that can lead to infection. Allergic or atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin condition in dogs brought on by allergies. Some of the most common allergens are grass, moulds, trees, pollens, and ragweeds. 

Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include redness, an itchy rash on the face, feet, chest, and stomach), rhinitis (nose inflammation similar to hay fever), and secondary bacterial and fungal skin and ear infections.

Common areas affected are the belly, feet and ears, where secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections may form and cause odour, discharge, scabbing, and crusting. Many animals suffering from atopic dermatitis also rub their faces and eyes.

Food allergies can cause similar symptoms caused by environmental allergies, but they're less common and usually happen year-round rather than seasonal.

Dry skin

Dogs' dry skin is caused by a variety of reasons, including nutritional imbalances and deficiencies, allergic skin diseases such as atopy, food allergies, and flea bite allergies, as well as nutritional inadequacies. Even dogs with digestive problems or intestinal parasites may be more prone to dry skin.

Even dogs with non-specific diseases of the liver, kidneys, or even cancer have a higher risk of developing dry skin. Symptoms of dry skin include flaky skin, dandruff, and being more likely to have a shedding problem or hair loss than other pets.


Parasites feed on other living things and often cause harm to their hosts. Unfortunately, dogs are perfect hosts for these parasites because of their furry coats. Below are some of the most common skin parasites in dogs.


Mange is a skin problem brought on by mites. This condition is often found in abandoned or stray dogs. Mange causes ulcers and lesions on the skin that leads to hair loss, severe scabbing, and itching.


Fleas are a parasite known to bite and infest dogs, making them itch a lot. This can result in bleeding and hair loss if left untreated. Fleas are extremely contagious for both pets and pet parents since they may invade houses and bite humans as well.


While they can still be hard to spot, ticks are much larger than fleas and mites, making them easier to see with naked eyes. Ticks contain dangerous diseases for the dog, and ones that may even be passed from dogs to people. 

Unfortunately, you won't know if your dog has been bitten by a tick until they start to show symptoms of a tick-borne disease. These symptoms include fever, lameness, lethargy, swelling around the joints, vomiting, and diarrhoea.

Bacterial infection

Bacterial infections in dogs are a symptom of an underlying skin condition, just like other conditions where itching, sores, and lesions allow often harmless bacteria to overgrow. 

The bacterial infections themselves are not contagious, but their underlying cause could be. Below are the common bacterial infections in dogs.

Hot spots

Hot spots are areas of skin that are red and swollen as a result of overly licking, biting, or scratching one section of the body, usually the head, neck, and area around the base of the tail. If left untreated, they are extremely painful and will quickly spread and get worse.


Several bacterial skin infections that typically happen from allergic dermatitis are flea, food, and seasonal allergies (atopy), but other immune-suppressing conditions including thyroid problems, adrenal issues, or steroid use can result in pyoderma.


Deep bacterial infection of the hair follicles is a common cause of folliculitis. Folliculitis appears as sores, lumps, and scabs, typically on pressure points (such as the elbows, hips, or chin). 

Parasites, fungi, immunological disorders, allergies, systemic diseases, endocrine problems, and local pressure trauma from laying on a hard surface that irritates the skin are some of the underlying causes of folliculitis.

Fungal infection

When a fungus overgrows and infiltrates the skin tissue, fungal infection develops. Ringworm and yeast infections are the most common fungal infections in dogs.


Ringworm can be contracted from direct contact with fungus, whether through another animal, a human, a sofa, or a food dish. Ringworm infection can cause circular patches of hair loss, scabby, inflammatory, or dry skin, dry, brittle hair, and rough, brittle nails.

Yeast infection

Yeast infections are quite common in dogs and are caused by an overgrowth of a typical fungus that lives on their skin. Immune deficiencies, immunosuppressive medications, and allergic responses are some of the causes of yeast infections in dogs.

Your dog might be suffering from a yeast infection if you notice persistent or recurrent ear infections, itching, redness, a musty odour, hyperpigmentation, and crusty, flaking, scaly, or thickened black skin.

How to detect skin problems in your dog

Prevention is better. 

Make sure your dog is updated on preventives against fleas, ear mites, and ticks. These preventives usually last for a month and come in spray or spot-on treatments, or as oral chews. If you walk your dog in the woods or anywhere with undergrowth, it’s also better to protect your dog with repellants to avoid bites in the first place, even if they also have a preventive.

Use good shampoos with good reputations to avoid dry skin and allergic reactions.  

Know the signs 

Even if they seem to be very mild, any skin issues your dog has should be closely monitored. Itching, rashes, or bald spots on your dog's skin might be signs of a health issue that has not yet been identified by a veterinarian.

Here are the most common symptoms of skin conditions in dogs:

  • prolonged or frequent itching
  • lesions or skin sores
  • Having dry, flaky, or scaly skin
  • Rashes
  • Lumps
  • Redness
  • Dandruff
  • Bumps
  • intense itching
  • excessive licking or scratching
  • bald patches and hair loss
  • bruises and sores on the skin (also known as acute moist dermatitis)

Check your dog regularly

Regularly check your dog for any of these signs, and keep track of any reactions your dog has. They  may itch more often after meals, during a particular season, or if you've just finished cleaning the house; all of these symptoms may point to an underlying skin allergy or atopic dermatitis.

How to treat common skin problems in dogs

Consult your veterinarian

Bring your dog to the veterinarian for a checkup if you notice any unusual behaviour or skin issues. Your dog's hair, skin, and overall health can be examined by the vets and vet nurses in your area to determine what could be bothering your dog.

Provide detailed information 

To help your veterinarian identify an accurate and precise diagnosis of an allergy or skin infection, the more information you can provide, the better. When you take your dog to the vet, take note of these things:

  • Information on your dog’s diet
  • Any new items in your house that could have caused irritation
  • The times you notice symptoms
  • Types of symptoms you have observed
  • Any information about underlying illnesses

Use prescribed treatment

The best course of action depends on what is causing your dog to have a skin condition. Topical therapy (applied to the skin), such as ointments and shampoos, or medications given orally, intravenously, or both might be included. 

Only the veterinarian who examines your dog will be able to provide you complete advice given the broad range of treatment options. Always ask your veterinarian for guidance and follow any recommendations they make before giving your dog any medication for skin problems.

Just like you, skin is the largest and most exposed organ of your dog’s body. It’s important that you are aware if there’s any unusual bump or rashes in their skin, or unusual behaviour like excessive itching or scratching, so that you can quickly assess their condition and take them to the vet. 

Invest not just in your skin care but also in your dog’s skin care, as this will help them avoid mild infections getting worse. After all, a happier, more-stress life with your dog makes your skin glow too!

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