Guide To Canine Skin Diseases and Conditions
Table of Contents for Dog Skin Issues
" There is a long list of diseases and conditions canine skin conditions to review before diagnosing any problem (see below for pictures and descriptions). If your dog is suffering from mild discomfort, then home treatment such as shampoo therapy to eliminate itch and scratching is worth a try. If dog skin itch or scratching causes redness, hair loss or an interruption of your dog's normal routine, such as stopping in the middle of play to chew on the skin, then it's smart to visit a veterinarian for a prescription medication. Puppies should just about always be diagnosed by a veterinarian since a dull coat and hair indicates a case of dog worms. Demodicosis mange is also seen in puppies just after being born. For adult dogs, diagnosis of dog skin diseases are based on the appearance of the skin and if any other symptoms exist."
A veterinarian will attempt to narrow the list of possible causes by taking a thorough history, with a physical exam, and diagnostic lab tests. Dog flea allergy is the leading cause, followed by other types of allergies such as environmental dog allergies (atopy) and dog food allergy. Mange causes patches of baldness, is the next leading cause and is primarily seen in puppies. Your vet will try and determine if a condition caused the skin problem, or if the problem was the result of related symptoms such as itching and scratching, which are common reactions to a dog skin allergy. Other symptoms which accompany the dog skin problems such as severe hair loss and excessive panting could indicate an underlying disorder like an endocrine disease such as hyperadrenocorticism or Cushings Disease. Treatment for dog skin conditions involve keeping the skin clean and treating the underlying cause such as bacterial infection, parasites or lump removal.
Identifying diseases and conditions canine skin can be difficult to diagnose since there are many causes. The key to understanding which condition your dog is suffering from is to do your best to match the characteristics of each cause with the symptoms exhibited by your dog. Dog skin disorders are difficult to diagnose requiring diagnosis of any underlying cause in order to cure any visible clinical symptoms.
If you see a dog skin lump do not automatically assume that is skin cancer. There are many "benign" causes of lumps or bumps such as an insect bite, an abscess or a benign lipoma (fat that collects under the skin.)
Dog skin tags can look like a tumor, but usually are benign will not cause any harm. The tag itself differs from a wart is that they are connected to the skin with a thin base. They are often similar in color to the skin and can sometimes be moved a bit with the fingers. In most cases dog skin tags can be left alone unless there is a cosmetic reason to remove the tag. Another reason for removal is when you have a dog that licks or scratches the area, allowing irritation and infection to take hold.
Signs of cancer include:
In general, if your dog is suffering from skin itch, and if skin lesions are red in color and oozing pus, and is accompanied by hair loss, a trip to the veterinarian is needed as the condition is probably beyond your ability to control the problem with over the counter medications. In this case a dog skin infection has probably taken hold, requiring antibiotics and possibly short term steroid use for inflammation.
If the skin condition is limited to dog skin itch and scratching, then the first step is to suspect the beginning of a flea infestation. It's easy to miss fleas when inspecting your dog's hair, so don't be surprised if this is the cause.
If fleas are not found after combing your dog with a flea comb, consider allergy as a possible cause. For mild conditions, ask your vet about using an antihistamine (diphenhydramine). You can also bring your dog some relief with a dog colloidal oatmeal shampoo. Avoid any product that is medicated at first, since these may cause additional irritation.
Other possible causes of diseases and conditions canine skin problems after fleas allergy are environmental allergies (referred to as canine atopy), food allergy and demodectic dog mange. Mange is caused by mites and is usually seen in young puppies with symptoms such as bald patches and secondary illnesses that are the result of the condition. To diagnose mange, your vet will need to test a skin scraping.
For advice specific to a wide range of canine skin conditions,
review the symptoms, pictures and other information below. If you
have a question on any Diseases and Conditions Canine Skin, fill out the form with your
question at the
bottom of this page.
skin conditions tend to vary based on shape, of any lesions,
condition of the skin such as crusts, scars, ulcers or scales and the
dogs behavior such as itching. Specifically:
If you keep your dog clean and it continues to smell or have a greasy coat then your pet is probably suffering from parasites, seborrhea or a skin infection.
The probable cause of diseases and conditions canine skin problems is often associated with the age of the dog.
|Dog Age||Common cause of Dog Skin Disorders|
|Under 6 months|| Dog Mange
Juvenile Pyoderma (puss filled dog skin lumps)
|Middle age dogs and young adults|| Dog skin
Canine seborrhea (oily coat, crusts and scabs)
|Older Senior Dogs|| Hair loss
Dog Skin Tumors (neoplasms, cancer)
Dog skin conditions are also often related to specific dog breeds. For example, the Shar Pei is know for have the most diseases and conditions canine skin problems, with allergy being the cause 67% of the time.
The location on the dog's body also provides clues as to the
underlying cause of the diseases and conditions canine skin as outlined
in the table below.
Location on Dog Body Affected and Symptoms
Dog Skin Disease that could be causing the problem and related treatment options
Papules on the Small of the back, middle of the back thighs, groin, belly, tail base
Dog Flea Bite Hypersensitivity By:Washington State University
Dog Flea Allergy PictureBy:Washington State University
Flea bite hypersensitivity which is treated for itch and flea prevention. Kill fleas with a product such as a Herbal Flea Dip.
Skin redness, hair loss, papules, skin crusts, all over body or in one area
Dog Bacterial Skin Infection PictureBy:Washington State University
Dog Skin Infection (try anti-bacterial dog shampoo therapy), antibiotics
Localized Demodicosis (dog mange) Skin redness, hair loss and
skin scaling on the dog face in less than 4 spots.
Mange on DogBy:Washington State University
Condition is caused by mites and is commonly referred to as dog mange. If in one area, may heal on tis own. For generalized mange consider a lime-sulfur dip such as Naturasil.
Skin papule (raised area) on the ears, elbows, abdomen
Sarcoptes mange or scabies using a lime-sulfur dip such as Naturasil.
Papules on the face, ears and dog paws
Picture of Dog Skin Fungus By:Washington State University
Fungal condition called Dermatophytosis treated with prescription medications that contain Grisseofulvin or Ketoconazole. Can benefit from anti-fungal dog shampoo therapy.
Dog skin redness, discolored skin spot (called a macule), papules in areas where little or no hair is found, including fluid filled bumps in those areas, particularly in the dog's scrotum, chin, pelvis, paws, back of the abdomen
Dog Skin Allergy Picture By:WSU Veterinary
Dog skin allergies or hypersensitivity treated with anti-inflammatory steroids or identification and avoidance of the environmental allergen (if possible)
Uncontrolled cell growth resulting in a skin tumor or neoplasm
- referred to as a dog mast cell tumor
Dog Mast Cell TumorBy:WSU Veterinary
Removal with surgery
Dog breed can also provide some clues when it comes to skin
conditions, particularly in purebred dogs. Since these dogs are bred
for certain traits, they also tend to pass on the same undesirable
traits, including skin disease. Disease is also passed on genetically
through line or in-breeding when a small stud population is used for
breeding. Dog skin problems can be limited to one litter, one breed, or
could be seen across certain breeds. Some of the more common breed
specific canine skin diseases and conditions are described below:
Dog Skin Disease
Belgian shepherd dogs
Canine Sebaceous adenitis:
This disease is characterized by follicular casts. The casts are skin
cell debris (keratinous debris) around the base of the hair shaft.
Other symptoms include dog hair loss (alopecia) on the top of the head,
back of the ears, at the tail and on the fore limbs.
The condition is diagnosed by examining a skin biopsy. Any diagnosis needs to differentiate (confirm the presence of this condition) vs. conditions that have similar symptoms such as leishmaniasis (infection caused by protozoa), demodicosis (a type of mange) and superficial pyoderma (dog skin infection).
Note that in the Vizsla only, a form of sebaceous adenitis, granulomatous sebaceous adenitis is found. Symptoms include localized hair loss (in a specific area on the body) and raised skin lesions,
Canine Sebaceous Adenititis
By:Washington State Unviversity
Prescription medications such as cyclosporine used and then decreased in dose as healing begins. In chronic cases, steroid therapy can help.
Antibiotics are used to treat any skin infection (pyoderma)
Large breed dogs
Canine Symmetrical lupoid
onychodystrophy: This dog skin condition is characterized by the
loosening or shedding of the nails. The cause is unknown.
Other symptoms include:
Diagnosis of canine symmetrical lupoid onychodystrophy is via a biopsy, skin culture and x-rays. The x-rays can also help to determine if the condition has caused any skin infections.
Canine Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy
Washington State University
It is possible that on rare occasions the condition will heal
on its own. Treatment involves removing affected nails (anesthesia
required) and then bandaging the feet for 48 hours. Long term use
of antibiotics (doxycycline or cefalexin, niacinamide) are used to
American bull terrier
Staffordshire bull terriers
Interdigital cystic folliculitis/furunculosis: Symptoms of
this dog skin problem are comedomes (keratin and sebum located
within the dilated orifice of a hair follicle) and
As weight is placed on the paws, overgrowths occur.
Dog Interdigital Cystic Folliculitis
By: Washington State University
The condition is treated with antibiotics and possibly topical
steroids. Most dogs with the condition require long term use of
Solar induced canine actinic dermatitis and squamous cell carcinoma: this condition occurs in dogs from sun exposure. As you could expect, dogs that live in sunny climates have a higher incidence of the disease.
Symptoms of actinic dermatitis appear in dog skin areas that are not protected by hair such as the abdomen and groin. Dog skin symptoms include:
Canine Solar induced actinic dermatitis
By: Dog Health Guide
Treatment involves the use of retinoids (vitamin A derivative), but only of some benefit.
Some veterinarians see potential in the use of the topical
medication immune modulator imiquimod and the
There is a risk of a dog relapsing if there is continued sun exposure. Dogs need to be re-examined every 6 months.
If a lesion becomes cancerous (squamous cell carcinoma) then
surgical removal is required.
The treatment of the diseases and conditions canine skin depends on the exact disease or condition. Treatment may involve oral or topical medication. It may also involve removal of any lumps or bumps from your dog's skin. If your pet's skin is affected by poor nutrition, treatment will involve making a correction in the diet.
There is a myth that baths are not good for diseases and conditions canine skin. This is not correct as bathing is an important part of just about every skin treatment. Shampoos are particularly effective on bacterial infections with a medicated bath 1 - 2 times per week. They also help to remove any allergens that are caught in the dog's coat.
In terms of dog skin yeast infections, a gentle herbal shampoos combined with a lime sulfur dip, both offered by Naturasil works to eliminate yeast infections and ringworm.
If the bacterial infection has progressed deep into the skin then
antibiotics are needed. You should also carefully look at your dogs
diet and if it is
causing any of the diseases and conditions canine skin problems. Follow
this link to understand Dog Food
for skin. or sensitive
skin dog food.
If all other causes are ruled out, then you might want to consider using oil for dry dog skin and this advice on finding a cure dog dry skin. You can also fill out the form below with your specific diseases and conditions canine skin question.
Do you have a question or comment? Share it!
Our editors will pick 1 question to answer each week. Please include your dog's age, breed, medical history, medications and if possible, a picture of the condition.
We will do our best to get back to you quickly (it depends on how many questions we receive each day). If you do require an immediate response we suggest using this online dog veterinary service that is available now.
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References Diseases and Conditions Canine Skin
Carter, G.R., Wise, D.J., and Flores, E.F. (Eds)
A Concise Review of Veterinary Virology
Recent Advances In Canine Infectious Diseases
Melman, Dr. Steven A.
Skin Diseases of Dogs and Cats
The Role of Breed in Skin Disease
Power, Helen; Prelaud, Pascal;