Dog Skin Problems and Itching

Dog Skin Problems and Itching

A glossy, full coat of fur is a sign of good health in your dog. Dull, brittle, dry fur or flaking skin can be a sign of a simple problem or a more serious concern. But you know something has to be done, as your dog is  constantly scratching or licking. The longer it goes on, the worse the problem becomes, making your dog miserable and driving you crazy in the process.

So what can it be?  Most likely the culprit is going to be one of these 17 causes:

Allergic Dermatitis
The skin becomes red, itchy, and rashy – sometimes even between toes. The reaction could be to grooming products, food, and environmental irritants like new carpets, or cleaners, even pollen or insect bites that are not fleas. Cortisone steroids can help alleviate the symptoms, but in the case of a skin allergy, identifying the source and eliminating it from the pet’s contact is the best course of action. Most dogs react to their environmental or food allergies through their skin, so if you can eliminate the major cause, this will probably help out to a significant degree. While researching this article, I found that dog owners who were having severe skin allergic reactions took all wheat, gluten and soy out of their dog’s diet and things began to improve.

Yeast Infection
Your dog has itchy, irritated ears or toes. Ears or paws will have a funny fermenting smell and the ears will get a brown discharge or waxy build up.   I checked out one website that recommended using over the counter vaginal yeast medications like Monistat, but please consult your Vet first. Something specific to dogs is probably better.   A link to the article: Medicine Net
and then I found this link  – seems very helpful it’s about Apple Cider Vinegar:
Earth Clinic: Dogs and Yeast

Sores, bumps and scabs on the skin, may indicate this topical bacterial infection. Often easier to see in short haired dogs, this skin problem will probably appear to be a dull coat, shedding and scaly skin in dogs with long hair.  Folliculitis is often the secondary condition caused by an injury, allergic reaction or mange. It’s important to get this treated with antibiotics right away – either oral or topical as per the severity.

A bacterial skin infection that causes puss filled blisters that can break and crust over. Impetigo is more common in puppies than in adult dogs and appear usually on the hairless portion of the abdomen.

A dermatitis that can develop as greasy, flaking skin. Often caused by stress, hormone changes, or even allergies. It’s interesting to note that dogs often react to environmental or food allergies through their skin. Since the condition can drive you and your dog to distraction, it’s important to get the underlying cause treated so that the symptoms do not come back.

A fungus rather than an actual worm, ring worm often presents as a circular patch that spreads out and has a distinctive red ring at the edges. A compromised immune system or cramped, unclean living conditions can bring on ringworm and this skin fungus can spread very quickly from one dog to another. Anti-fungal treatments need to be used right away. It’s also important to clean all bedding, and living areas.

Alopecia : Shedding and Hair Loss
Dogs shed, and they do it all year, and in certain seasons, they shed more, but what if you start noticing their skin showing in patches through their fur? This can be a sign of Alopecia, but will need to be diagnosed by a Vet in order to rule out other factors and to get the cause under control. A dog needs their fur for protection and warmth – it’s much more important than cosmetics.

What causes Alopecia? Stress, poor nutrition, illness, or topical irritants like certain kinds of flea treatments. We noticed a patch develop on the back of the neck of our female cat after we applied Frontline ( this was the third application in 3 months) . The patch widened out to the size of a quarter and then in three weeks filled in.

Mange comes in several different types: Sarcoptic, Demodectic and Cheylatiella. It spreads quickly on the dog, and to other pets, even to people, though thankfully the mange that lives on animals does not survive on us. Depending on the type of Mange, treatments can be pretty straightforward or intense. Mange causes intense itching, red scaly, rashy skin, and fur loss ( sometimes permanently). The mange mite burrows in at the base of the hair follicle and then starts feeding off the root, causing severe damage and often secondary skin problems like bacterial infections. In bad cases, mange can cause permanent scaring and health problems. Sometimes only a biopsy can properly diagnose mange, and since treatments can take a month, it’s very important to get your dog into the vet right away if you suspect this problem.

One of the most common causes of itchy, flaky skin in dogs and cats for that matter. Flea bites can cause red spots, scabs and hot spots, even flaking skin like dandruff. Fleas are often hard to spot themselves as they are tiny and hide in the thickest part of the coat or in out of the way places on your pet. Usually there will be flea dirt ( flea excrement ) around the base of the tail, and white larvae eggs. A flea comb is a great way to make a determination if your pet has fleas. Your dog or cat will also leave flea dirt on what ever they are sleeping on along with eggs, and sometimes even the larvae. The larvae looks like an eighth of an inch sized “worm” that is mostly white or translucent with a dark patch or section in the middle. Allowed to get out of control and fleas will make your pet miserable and can cause anemia through too much blood loss. Fleas also carry parasites such as tapeworms, so it’s important to get a flea shampoo, powder or a topical ointment applied right away. It’s also important to wash all pet bedding, and thoroughly clean and vacuum the living area.

With warmer winters  in parts of the country this season, ticks are going to be a problem this year. If you take your dog through parks or outside wild grassy areas, it will be a very good idea to be proactive with a flea and tick topical agent like Front Line or Advantix. If you spot a tick on your pet, take a pair of tweezers ( please don’t use the burnt match method – it does not work)  and grip the tick, firmly, at the head – (the part that is closest in next to the skin). Pull firmly and slowly straight, back out. Do not twist, or yank as you will loose the head in the skin. One demonstration I watched, showed the tick puller lifting the tick straight back with the skin being drawn up to it, and then very slowly kept increasing the distance, the natural tension of the skin caused the tick to release.  Once out, crush the tick in a tissue ( no bare hands) and or flush it down a toilet. Ticks carry serious diseases like Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other bad bacterial infections. Finding a tick on a dog, or cat is very difficult, until a lot of time has gone by and the tick is completely engorged, so prevention is probably the best strategy.

Color or Texture Changes
Dark or black bumpy skin areas that appear under the armpits or in the belly area. It is itchy, and looks bad. Metabolic or hormone problems are usually suspected as the culprit, but treatments for this typically involve steroids to suppress the response.  This can be hard on the liver and some pet parents find they are on a constant round of steroids and then resting from it.  Sometimes a yeast infection will look like this problem – so it’s best to have a Vet check it out.
Earth Clinic: Dogs and Yeast    on a very easy solution to dealing with yeast on the skin area.
Also don’t rule out the allergic reaction problem to diet. The main thread that I found doing this research was removing: gluten, wheat and soy from the diet.

Dry, Flaky Skin
Here we are, with just the general dry, flaky skin symptom. As you probably know by now, this can be an indication of a host of other problems, but if you are pretty sure that the other issues are ruled out, dry flaky skin in dogs is easy to fix. Most recommend that if you shampoo your dog, use a sensitive oatmeal formula. The second thing to do is to brush out your dog so that the natural oils get distributed and the flaky skin gets taken away. Some of our pets, might be a little overweight so it’s hard for them to clean themselves correctly. The third thing to do is just add some Omega 3 to their diet and it’s important to note here, that a Fish Oil Omega 3 is what you want as the plant sources do not have the proper fatty acid chain that dogs and cats can use. Also – stay away from the Omega 3-6-9 versions. It’s like one step forward and two steps back. Omega 6 and Omega 9 are plenty available in commercial pet foods and are often linked to inflammation problems. Omega 3 is the Omega that most often does not survive the processing very well and it’s also the Omega that reduces inflammation.
If you have a small dog – consider the Packenzie Petite Omega 3. It’s very easy for small dogs to swallow whole and most take it like a treat.

Acral Lick Granuloma
A condition where a dog will lick and lick and bite a single area that will cause it to become an open sore. It’s compulsive behavior and once started, it’s hard to stop as the the open sore, will get itchy and hurt and the dog will keep licking it, making the condition worse and it will not heal. Special bad tasting topical solutions are used to discourage the licking or an Elizabethan collar ( the famous e-collar).

Skin Tumor
Every once in a while a dog owner will notice a hard lump on their dog’s skin. It’s at the surface or just below the surface. If you detect this, point it out as soon as possible to your vet,  if it’s small enough. they can biopsy and remove the tumor all in one procedure. Some skin tumors can become cancerous, so it’s important to act on this immediately.

Hot Spot
Interestingly, hot spots can be caused by excessive licking or chewing, an infection, allergies, or insect bites. It’s an acute and moist localized section of dermatitis and appears mainly on the head, hips, or chest and can feel hot to the touch. Treatments often follow cleansing the hot spot and then applying a topical solution, that can be found at the pet store for “Hot Spots”. It’s important to determine the underlying cause of the hotspot first, just to rule out a more serious concern.

Immune Disorders
Sometimes a skin sore or infection will not heal – no matter what you try. This might indicate an immune system disorder like Lupus. Lupus causes the body to attack it’s own cells and can leave the skin with abnormalities and unfortunately, kidney problems. Lupus can be fatal if untreated, so it’s important to see the Vet and get professional advise. Other immunodeficiency diseases include: XSCID, IgA, CLAD and Pelger-Huet.  Here is a link to an article that explains these more thoroughly:  Immune system and dogs: eHow.

Anal Sac Diseases
Have you witnessed your dog doing the Butt Scoot? They plant their rumps down on the carpet or grass and then using their front legs, drag their butt on the surface for a few feet. Once you see this, it probably means you have an anal sac issue going on with your dog ( or cat too). The dog may even have a smelly back end and they try and lick and bite that area too. Anal sacs are located at the 4 and 8 o’clock positions on either side of the anus and normally excrete their contents on feces as the dog does his or her business. This “marks” the territory with that dogs scent and warns other competitors to stay away. Sometimes with the new formulas of dog food, there is not enough firmness to the stool to express the anal glands sufficiently so they have to be expressed manually. Dog groomers can do this, even dog owners, but your Vet can also check this out to make sure the problem has not progressed to something more serious. Anal glands can become completely blocked and swollen and this can be very painful and stressful for your dog and may need need surgery.

This wraps up our series on Skin Problems in Dogs. We hope you have found this informative. We also know that having accelerating skin problems that don’t seem to go away can be very frustrating. One thing I discovered while doing my research was that many problems seemed to stem from food allergies and once owners put their dog on a gluten, wheat and soy free diet, things improved dramatically. As has been noted, dogs tend to express their allergic symptoms through their skin. Look at your food labels and choose the higher end products that have very little grain filler, or none at all. There are many boutique dog food businesses emerging just for this problem, so there is a solution out there.

Good luck and best wishes and if you wish to share your discovery – please post a comment.

dog skin problems

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