There are many dog skin problems that can affect your furry friend’s life if you are not careful enough when it comes to its health. Pets can be affected by the same diseases as humans, such as bacterial infections, fungi, parasites and allergies to environmental stimuli. Diseases affecting dogs’ skin can be divided into 2 categories, namely pathogenic skin diseases and pathological skin diseases.
The first group directly affects a dog’s skin, for example, scabies. The second group initially affects other organs and then a quadruped’s skin.
An example in this regard could be hypothyroidism. Diagnosing and treating these skin diseases require a fairly lengthy process which is not always easy.
Factors that trigger skin diseases in dogs
Every known skin problems in dogs are caused by 4 types of factors, namely bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasites and allergic reactions.
If a dog has not left the house it can still be susceptible to bacterial infections. Staphylococci can occur at any time and cause problems to any pooch. The staph bacteria can appear from nowhere and make your dog’s life very uncomfortable, as well as your life. If you notice your dog scratching, especially all over its head and then its itchy areas slowly extend all over its body, this might be a sign that a staph is causing all these problems. The treatment of bacterial infections usually consists of washing the affected dog with antibacterial shampoo or applying antibacterial ointment.
Fungal skin diseases usually occur in puppies. Hair loss and skin lesions are common symptoms of such infection. If it is left untreated for too long, it extends and the symptoms get worse. This type of infection may occur anywhere on your dog’s body and it requires medical treatment with antibiotics or antibiotic shampoos.
Since puppies are more vulnerable than adult dogs, you should pay extra attention to any change that occurs in their behavior or on their bodies. Fungal infections are as serious as any other types of infections and they should be treated according to their severity and symptomatology.
Parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites can attach to your dog’s fur anytime. Fleas and ticks need fresh blood in order to lay their eggs and to feed. They find a dog’s fur really comfortable because it keeps them warm and provides shelter. As for dust mites, they feed on dead skin cells that are all over you dog’s skin.
All these parasites can infect your pet with various diseases that they carry. If your dog starts scratching more than usual and it has different rashes or bumps on its body, then you should take it to the vet as soon as possible. Most treatments against parasites consist in ointments that are applied externally.
Most allergic reactions that lead to the appearance of skin problems are caused by what your dog inhales or eats. Pollen, dandruff, mold, dust and a variety of chemicals can cause skin problems to a dog. Moreover, mosquito bites or other insect bites can also cause allergic reactions to pooches.
Changing their diet and eliminating allergens from their environment is usually a necessary part of their treatment. However, determining the stimuli that causes allergies can be quite a lengthy process. The vet can only recommend a set of tests and try to identify the cause of the allergy based on the results.
Types of dermatitis in dogs
The simplest definition of dermatitis categorizes this disease as an inflammation of the skin. In case of dermatitis, irritation produces itch, is red and may, or may not, be well defined on the skin. Acute dermatitis causes blisters while a less rapid type of dermatitis causes excess dead skin and a form of mange. Chronic dermatitis causes the hardening of the skin or the formation of a crust produced by excessive rubbing.
Among the many causes of dermatitis in dogs are bacteria, parasitic infections, allergies to different foods, flea bite, contact with toxic substances, predispositions of different breeds and adverse reactions to medications. There are several different types of dermatitis defined by the factor that produces them and by the cellular mechanism responsible for irritation. The most common types of dermatitis met in dogs are allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, pyotraumatic dermatitis and flea allergy dermatitis.
Allergic contact dermatitis
Allergic contact dermatitis occurs in dogs that have a hypersensitive reaction to some allergens from the environment. This type of dermatitis is rare and is caused by the contact of a dog’s skin with certain substances. These substances can be metals such as nickel, materials such as rubber, wool and plastic. Also, among the possible factors that could trigger this disease are paint and carpet deodorant. Allergic contact dermatitis affects only those animals with a hypersensitivity to a certain molecule.
Symptoms of this type of dermatitis are lesions on a dog’s skin that have little hair such as abdomen, nose, lips or back paws. The affected areas have small bumps or blisters on them that are very itchy and red. The best thing you can do to help a dog with allergic contact dermatitis is to find what exactly makes it allergic. If you fail to identify the source of dermatitis, then you can try to avoid any source of illness. Sometimes vets recommended steroid therapy, but this method is not always effective.
Irritant contact dermatitis
Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when a dog’s skin is exposed to environmental toxins, such as the sap of poison ivy or the salt from the roads. Compared with allergic contact dermatitis, irritant contact dermatitis often occurs in young dogs because they approach toxic substances out of curiosity. Irritant contact dermatitis has the same symptoms as the allergic one, but ulcerations may also appear. There are a few measures to reduce the exposure to allergens in both cases as it follows:
- Use glass or stainless steel bowls for food and water because otherwise the exposure to plastic or paint can cause contact dermatitis
- Use hypoallergenic detergents and hypoallergenic shampoos to wash your dog’s sheets and toys and to wash it too
- Limit access to your dog on grass and choose sidewalks and paved surfaces when you take it out for a walk
Atopic dermatitis in dogs occurs between the age of 6 months and 3 years. It is caused by an allergic reaction to one or more substances found in the dog’s environment, which are usually in grass. The genetic construction of a dog may also be a factor that triggers this disease. Some dog breeds are prone to developing eczema, such as Fox terrier, Shar Pei, Dalmatian or Schnauzer.
Among the symptoms of this disorder are itching, scratching and redness, as well as the appearance of scale and local hyperpigmentation of the skin due to scratching. This can cause a type of eczema that is easily confused with mange or ringworm.
The only correct diagnosis can be established after taking intradermal allergy tests. A dog’s face and legs are most often affected by atopic dermatitis, but ear infections are fairly common too. In order to treat this disease you must try to isolate and remove the allergen. One way to get rid of the allergic reaction that causes atopic dermatitis in dogs can be the subcutaneous administration of certain doses of the allergen. The vet is the only person knowledgeable enough to do this procedure. This method can yield results only after 6 months or a year of treatment.
Pyotraumatic dermatitis is also known as “hot spot” and it manifests through the appearance of a red lesion that is moist on a hairless portion of a dog’s skin, which occurs suddenly. Pyotraumatic dermatitis is caused by bacteria that normally live on the skin.
Dogs scratch a lot overnight, fact which might end up in waking up with a visible wound. Once they have it, they continue to scratch it, bite it or lick the affected area, making it all get worse. This type of dermatitis may occur near a flea bite, but it can also be triggered by an allergic reaction or a contact with an irritant. This disease is most common in warm and humid climates.
Dog breeds with long and thick hair, such as Golden Retriever, Newfoundland, Bernese Mountain Dog and German Shepherds are especially prone to the development of one or more hot spots. Besides taking proper care of a dog’s fur, regular visits to the veterinarian are also recommended in order to identify early signs of disease and receive treatment.
Flea allergy dermatitis
Flea allergy dermatitis is the most common allergy in dogs that is caused by a flea bite. Diseased animals develop an allergic reaction to the chemicals found in flea saliva. A single flea bite can cause a lot of suffering to a dog. Dogs with this type of dermatitis may lose their hair from the affected areas, back and tail. Because it is a disease that causes itching, dogs resort to excessive scratching that can expose them to other skin conditions.
Oddly, most animals suffering from this type of dermatitis have few fleas. Dogs scratch a lot and lick themselves a lot on a regular basis, but one flea bite every 2 weeks can determine them to do so permanently.
Diagnosing this type of dermatitis is based on clinical signs. The vet should check the dog thoroughly to find flea bites, fleas and affected areas. Flea allergy dermatitis is treated in 3 phases, namely preventing new flea bites, treating secondary infections of the skin with antibiotics and anti-fungal solutions and the administration of steroids for a short period of time in order to stop the itching.
Other skin problems present in dogs
Dry skin is a sign of dog allergies, parasitic infestation and other diseases. However, in most cases, dry skin does not announce anything serious. As in humans, dogs get dry skin during winter.
If your dog is continually scratching its ears and toenails it is likely to have candidiasis. Symptoms of this infection include irritated skin, discoloration and itching. This infection is present in the ears of a dog because that environment is conducive to development.
Discovered in time, it can be easily treated with the help of special creams.
Folliculitis is an infectious bacterial disease that causes bumps, wounds and itching. These signs are easier to detect in dogs that have short hair. In those dogs with long hair, folliculitis can be discovered thanks to the fact that their fur loses its brilliance and in some cases they suffer from massive hair loss. In general, folliculitis occurs together with other skin problems, such as allergies. This infection is usually treated with antibiotics and antibacterial shampoos or creams.
Impetigo, another form of bacterial infection, is more common among puppies. It is characterized by the occurrence of skin blisters filled with fluid, which burst and form a crust. These bubbles are usually formed on the hairless areas of a dog’s abdomen. This is a serious infection that should be treated quickly with various antibacterial creams.
Herpes is caused by a fungus and is characterized by circular spots that form anywhere on the body of the dog. Usually occurring on a dog’s head, ears and paws, this inflammation causes hair loss too. Most dogs are prone to this infection, which spreads rapidly if not treated using antifungal agents.
Poor nutrition, stress, disease or allergens cause hair loss in dogs. These quadrupeds suffer from major hair loss in a short period of time. That hair might not grow back depending from case to case.
Seborrhea is characterized by weight gain and the occurrence of dandruff. In some cases, this condition is genetic and is triggered when dogs are very young.
However, this disease is often caused by other medical problems, such as allergies or hormonal abnormalities. Moreover, it is a functional disorder of the sebaceous glands characterized by excessive secretion of sebum.
Rosacea is a condition that is manifested by redness around the nose, but it can also occur in other parts of the body like head, legs, ears or hips. This fungus is very problematic because it can be transmitted from dog to man. The veterinarian’s intervention is needed in the shortest amount of time possible.
Discoloration or blemishes
If you notice discoloration or dark spots on your dog, this could be alarming. They might represent serious hormonal or metabolic dysfunctions, among which is cancer.
Although this sounds like a really bad affection, it is actually not. The only necessary treatment in order to remove skin tumors in dogs is cauterization.
This means that the affected skin will be burned with the help of special tools and in conditions of maximum comfort for the dog.
Eczema can occur on dogs’ tails, chests and hips. In general, eczema is caused by a wrong diet, allergies or insect bites. The only person able to determine the main factor that caused eczema is a veterinarian.
Mange or scabies in dogs
Mange or scabies is a parasitic disease, highly contagious, determined by the mite parasitism on a dog’s skin. It can be on its skin’s surface or in depth and it can produce skin lesions, scabs, pruritus (itching) and partial or total hair loss. The mites can be transferred from a sick animal to a healthy one. The dog that carries the mites could also show no signs of affection. Other than that, a dog could get mites from grass, kennel, shelter and so on.
These mites can live up to 15 days in favorable conditions, at temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius and high humidity. Often, puppies take mange from their mother. Nursing females are prone to scabies because their bodies are weakened and their immune systems are not as strong as they were before pregnancy. Dogs that have high risks of becoming infected are those that receive insufficient food or bad quality food.
In addition, they might be kept in crowded shelters where the humidity is high. Also, dogs receiving prolonged treatment with corticosteroids are prone to getting infected.
Symptoms of mange appear after an incubation period of 14-21 days and are:
- Pruritus, which means excessive itching. Dogs scratch so much until they hurt themselves
- Crusts, which initially appear on a dog’s head, nose, around its eyes, on its chest and abdomen, followed by its entire body
- Areas without hair appear more and more often
- Dogs stop eating, lose weight very quickly and the may eventually die
Sarcoptic mange is a form of mange that can be transmitted to humans too. It would be enough for a person to touch an infected dog, cow or goat in order to get it. In addition, it is transmissible between dogs and other animals. Contact is not necessary if the animals sit or share the same shelter, bed or mattress and go there in different moments of the day without meeting.
The treatment for mange consists in bathing, applying different special substances locally, by injection or orally. It can also be completed with antibiotics in order to prevent lesions from getting infected. As an adjuvant treatment, there are stimulants for a dog’s immune system, Omega acids, 3, 6 and 9, vitamins A, D3 and E.
When it comes to the duration of the treatment, this varies from dog to dog, depending on the degree of infestation, the immune status of the dog, and the accuracy of treatment administration by the owner. The duration of this treatment may last from several weeks to several months.
The importance of dog skin affections
Whether it is scabies or other dog skin affection, dog owners often make mistakes because they do not understand how serious these diseases are and how much they can affect a dog’s general health condition. Dog owners tend to wait for too long before taking their dogs to the vet. Dogs are often already weakened by injuries. Not to mention that dog owners apply different treatments without knowing that they are doing, listening to neighbors and so on.
A vet can simply explain all about the disease that affects one’s dog, about how to treat it and what to expect in terms of treatment, which can last for a long period of time. The treatment should not be stopped immediately after a dog shows signs of improvement regardless of which skin affection it suffers from. Its treatment should be continued until the veterinarian decides it is totally healed. Relapses have a good chance to reoccur if the hygiene and nutrition conditions are not met, so there is a lot of responsibility on a dog owner’s shoulders.
Conclusions for affected skin in dogs
Dog’s skin is prone to injury more than any other part of its body. Whether a dog faces dry skin or oily skin problems, or its skin is stripped of irritations and eczema caused by allergy or dermatitis, there is a natural remedy that can be safely used. Vitamin E is known to do wonders for tissue repair. It can be added in the water used for bathing the dog and then gently massaged into its skin in order to penetrate deeper layers of its epidermis. Also, if the dog’s skin is severely affected, vitamin E tablets can be administered orally or other supplements with vitamin E.
Remember not to wait too long before taking your dog to the vet as soon as you see that something is wrong with its skin. A lesion will probably not heal if you do nothing about it, especially when it comes to hot spots. Therefore, shorten the waiting time and immediately care for your dog’s skin diseases. Keep it away from allergens if those are the ones causing it trouble or make sure to feed it correctly in order to build up a stronger immune system that can protect it from any disease, not just a skin disease.