Symptoms and Treatment of
Dog Skin Sores


There are multiple underlying causes for dog skin sores including parasites (fleas, mites), poor grooming, dog skin infection (bacterial pyoderma, fungal), endocrine diseases, skin or hair follicle disorders disorders such as seborrhea, medication side effects (from corticosteroids) and allergy. It is rare for a sore or lesion to appear without another underlying condition such as allergy. In this case allergy would be the real trigger or cause. The table below details canine sores by body location for additional diagnostic clues, including lesions found on the paws, legs, ears and face.

Treatment involves addressing any symptoms such as itch, the use of antibiotics for infections and identification and removal of any underlying cause. Homeopathic products can provide added support.

Causes, Types and Treatment of Common Canine Skin Sores

There are many possible causes for dog skin sores. The treatment depends on the type and cause of the sore. Anytime your dog has a sore that doesn’t go away in a few days or that oozes yellow or green-colored puss, see your vet.

Acute moist dermatitis, or “hot spots”

Round, raw lesions that occur most often on the head, hips, and sides of the chest. Hot spots are most common on dogs with long, dense hair, and occur most often during times of hot weather. Hair usually falls out in these areas. The skin becomes very irritated and dogs will often lick and bite at the area.

Hot spots can be caused by a number of things, including flea bites, mites, poor grooming, and allergies. Treatment depends on the cause. Clipping the hair around the lesions makes it easier to clean and treat the dog skin sores. If they are infected, oral antibiotics will be prescribed. Treatment will be prescribed for fleas or other parasites, and your vet can instruct you on proper grooming techniques.

Bacterial Pyoderma (dog bacterial skin infection)

Canine pyoderma refers to any dog skin sore or lesion that is pus-producing. It is the second most common cause of skin disease in dogs. The condition can involve a single occurrence or a problem that reoccurs. There are many causes with the condition classified by on the type of bacteria causes the problem, the chance that there is some type of underlying cause, disease prognosis (projected outcome) and if the infection will respond to available therapies. The infection might exist only on the skin surface or in more chronic cases, infection can result in dog skin sores that reach into the fatty tissue just below the skin.  Most cases are only on the skin surface and can be easily treated with an antibiotic selected to address the specific bacteria identified. Antibiotics are usually prescribed for 3 weeks for surface skin infections and 6 weeks for deeper infections.

Canine Pyoderma
Dog Sores from Deep Pyoderma
German Shepard Dog Sores from Deep Pyoderma

Certain breeds such as Standard Poodles, Vizslas, Akitas and Samoyeds suffer from deep pyoderma or infection as a result of the condition sebaceous adenitis. Deep infections can also be helped by antibacterial benzoyl peroxide shampoo. The shampoo works by decreasing bacteria on the skin surface and by reducing the likelihood that an infection will return. Shampoos are used 2x per week.

All dogs suffering from skin infection will need to be re-evaluated for progress.

Dog Mange

There are two types of mange, demodectic and sarcoptic. Demodectic is usually seen in puppies from mites that spread to the puppy from the mother. Sarcoptic dog mange is from mites that spread from dog to dog or dog to wild animal contact. Mange dog skin sores ooze and crust over along with hair loss and itch. This may occur in one small area or may occur all over the body.

The demodex canis (demodectic mange) causes both localized (specific areas) and generalized symptoms (all over the body). If a puppy have a small number of mites, no treatment is usually necessary as the condition will clear by itself. If there are moderate numbers of mites, then dog sores on legs and other areas could appear. It is possible that dogs with mange have a  compromised immune system that was unable to fight off the parasites.  In adults, dog sores are commonly seen on the face, legs, abdomen and hind legs.

To diagnose mange, your vet will do a scraping of the affected skin and examine it under a microscope. Mites are not always found when a small number are causing the condition. In this case, the Vet will initiate treatment, and confirm the diagnosis if your dog responds to treatment.  If your dog has this condition, it is usually treated with an over the counter topical lime-sulfur dip such as Naturasil for Pet Mange.

If the skin area is infected your veterinarian might prescribe a prescription medication. Since mange is difficult to diagnose, sometimes its better just to start treatment and see if there is some improvement.

Picture of Demodectic Mange in Dog

Picture of Demodectic Mange in Dog

Picture of Dog Scabies and Sarcoptic Mange

Picture of Dog Mange - Sarcoptic Mange - Scabies

Dog Fungal Skin Infections

Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that causes dog skin sores. It is a systemic infection that causes respiratory problems, a reluctance to walk, generalized weakness, a poor appetite, and even blindness. One of the first signs of the illness, however, is round, oozing sores on the skin. The sores may later crust over. This condition usually occurs in the fall and is caused by breathing in spores that are released when your dog digs into the ground.

The fungus occurs most often in areas near river valleys or lakes. Blastomycosis in dogs can spread to multiple parts of your dog's body through the blood stream.

To diagnosis Blastomycosis, your vet will examine secretions from the sores under a microscope. Blastomycosis is treated with oral anti-fungal medication such as itraconazole (Sporanox) for a period of 6 months and with an anti-fungal medicated shampoo such as Malaseb.

The condition cannot be passed from dog to human or human to human.

Picture of Dog with Blastomycosis
Picture of Dog with Blastomycosis

Histoplasmosis is a less common fungal infection. Like blastomycosis, it is a systemic infection and causes weight loss, cough, fever and diarrhea. It can also cause dog skin sores. It is diagnosed and treated the same way blastomycosis is.

Dog Allergies

Flea allergy dermatitis, environmental and food allergies can lead to dog skin sores. Even if you don't find any fleas on your dog, they are skilled at hiding, with even a few able to cause a problem in allergic dogs. Symptoms are usually in the form of raised red bumps known as hives. They are itchy and will cause your dog to scratch. Excessive scratching may break the skin, leading to infection.

If no infection occurs, hives will usually go away on their own once exposure to the allergen is removed. If infection develops, however, medical treatment will be needed. See your vet if your dog has sores that don’t go away in a few days, or sores that ooze anything yellowish in color. He may need antibiotics.

dog skin sores
Lhasa apso with Atopic Dermatitis

Dog Sores by Body Location

Like most canine diseases, there are multiple causes for dog skin sores on different areas of the body including:

Causes Dog Sores on the Paws, Legs, Ears and Face

Body Location Common Causes of Dog Skin Sores
Dog sores on Legs Canine Osteosarcoma: An osteosarcoma occurs in giant breeds that are middle age to seniors including Rottweilers and Scottish Deerhounds. The condition causes lesions on the front dog legs 75% of the time. The condition starts in the medullary bone cavity and breaks through the bone, ultimately causing a skin lesion. It is common for osteosarcoma to form at sites where bone fractures have been repaired with metal implants. Diagnosis is made with a biopsy. Fortunately only 10% of dogs diagnosed have cancer cells that spread from the original site.

After diagnosis, a veterinarian will determine if the dog is in pain and if the pet can maintain a good quality of life after amputation. He or she might test the dog with a sling on one leg to simulate the experience of having 3 legs. Survival time after amputation with no other treatment has a median survival of 135 days with 11.5% surviving 1 year, and 2% for 2 years. When chemotherapy is used along with amputation, survival times jump to 200 to 400 days, with 1 year survival at 30% to 40%. Two year survival jumps to 20%. Typical treatment is the use of cisplatin for 3 to 4 weeks after amputation.

Demodicosis: This is a form of mange that primarily affects young dogs (see above)

dog sores on legs
Dog Sores on Legs such as shown here could be caused by a contact allergy, skin infection, mites (demodicosis) or Even Ringworm
Source: Dog Health Handbook
Ear Flap (Pinnae) Atopy: Environmental allergens cause a skin reaction

dog sores ear
Canine Ear Sores Caused by Atopy

Diet: A reaction to food including allergy or intolerance

Scabies: Mites can cause lesions to form

Vasculitis: blood vessel inflammation

Dog head and face sores

Demodicosis: As indicated above, a form of dog mange

Atopy: Sensitivity to environmental allergies

dog face atopy
Canine Sores on Face From Atopy (Seasonal Allergy)

Diet: Food intolerance or allergic response to a food component or ingredient

dog food allergy sores on face
Dog Food Allergy Sores on Face and Ear

Ringworm: Caused by the dermatophyte that triggers ringworm in dogs (Microsporum gypseum)

dog ringworm symptoms on face
Ringworm Can Cause Dog Skin Sores on Face as Shown Above

Allergies to Insects: Reactions to mites, fleas and other parasites

Dog sores on paws
Demodicosis: mange mites that cause localized lesions on the paws

Atopy: Paws that come in contact with allergens in the environment such as pollen

Diet: Food reactions can result in an allergic response on the paws

Ringworm: This fungus can cause sores on the paws

Pemphigus: A dog skin autoimmune disease in which the canine immune system directs its efforts against the patient itself. Occurs in approximately .6 to 1.4% of all dogs. The disease causes skin bumps or pustules to suddenly appear on the paws. Other symptoms can include lameness, pain and appetite loss. Treatment depends on the type of canine pemphigus diagnosed. Topicals are used for Pemphigus erythematous. Prednisone and other therapies are available for other types.

Natural Remedies

There are several herbal remedies on the market such as Skin and Coat Tonic that can help to reduce the severity of symptoms and with long term use, contribute to a healthy skin and coat, including the healing of dog skin sores.  These are not a cure, and are used along with specific treatment recommended by a veterinarian.  they work by strengthening the body's natural ability to support healthy dog skin and hair.

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References for Dog Skin Sores

Washington State University

Carmichael, L.
Recent Advances In Canine Infectious Diseases

Management Challenges in Canine Pyoderma
Peter J. Ihrke, VMD, Diplomate ACVD

School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, David Scott, D. W., Miller, W. H., Griffin, C. E.
Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology

Canine and Feline Demodicosis
Didler-Noel Carlotti Dr. vet DIP ECVD
Eysines (Bordeaux), France EU

Canine osteosarcomas
Alfred M. Legendre, DVM, MS DACVIM
College of Veterinary Medicine
University of Tennesse, Knoxville, TN

Wandering Through the Autoimmune Dermatosis: Pemphigus Complex
Carlos Eduardo Larsson

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