Table of Contents
Causes of Dog Skin Sores by Body Location
What You Need to Know About Sores on Dogs:
"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. To help with the diagnosis, the table below details canine sores by body location, 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"
Video: Dog Skin Sores, Lesions and Skin Infection
Video review of the causes and treatment of a dog hot spot sore on the back. These types of dog skin sores are caused by self trauma, allergic reaction, fleas, grasses, pollens or even an insect bite. Treatment starts by cleaning any sores on the dog with soap and water. Then apply an antibiotic ointment and cortisone ointment. If the condition worsens see a veterinarian to learn more about the condition.
Hot spots are 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 usually occur during 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, the chance that there is some type of underlying problem, 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.
Source: Washington State University, Dr. Candace Sousa, Veterinary Specialist
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.
There are two types of mange, demodectic and sarcoptic.
Demodectic dog mange is usually seen in puppies from mites that spread to the puppy from the mother.
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.
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.
Mange Diagnosis and Treatment
To diagnose demodectic and sarcoptic 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.
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 Curaseb.
The condition cannot be passed from dog to human or human to human.
Histoplasmosis is a less common fungal infection. Like blastomycosis, it is a systemic infection that causes weight loss, cough, fever and diarrhea. It can also cause dog skin sores. It is diagnosed and treated the same way as blastomycosis.
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 Ulcers (erosive or ulcerative dermatoses)
A skin ulcer in dogs refers to a loss of skin or an open sore on the skin's surface. This can occur due to various reasons, such as an injury, prolonged pressure, infection, or a chronic health condition. Skin ulcers can be painful and may produce discharge.
Skin ulcers are often classified into the following types based on their causes:
- Traumatic ulcers: These are caused by an injury or trauma to the skin, such as a scrape, cut, or bite wound.
- Pressure ulcers: Also known as bedsores, these are caused by constant pressure on a specific area of the skin, usually when a dog is immobile for extended periods.
- Vascular ulcers: These can be caused by issues with blood flow, such as venous insufficiency or arterial ulcers.
- Neuropathic ulcers: These can be caused by nerve damage, often in conjunction with diabetes.
- Pyoderma ulcers: These are caused by a bacterial infection, often associated with a compromised immune system.
Some diseases characterized by erosions or ulcers of the skin are likely inherited since they tend to occur in certain breeds; however, no genetic screening tests are available (such as lupoid disorders, familial dermatomyositis, zinc-responsive dermatoses)
Treatment for skin ulcers depends on the underlying cause and may include cleaning and dressing the wound, antibiotics to treat or prevent infection, pain management, and potentially surgery. It's crucial to get any skin ulcer examined by a vet to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.
Causes of a Skin Ulcer on a Dog
There are several potential causes of skin ulcers in dogs. Several dog ulcer pictures are also below.
A decubital ulcer is a localized injury to underlying tissue or the skin. It is often over a bony prominence and is the result of unrelieved pressure. (9)
Fungal infection that causes skin lesions and ulceration. Can be accompanied by digestive system and breathing problems. Diagnosed with a biopsy.
A hygroma is a fluid-filled swelling surrounded by a thick capsule of fibrous tissue that develops under the skin of a dog1. They are typically not painful and can form over any bony prominence on the dog’s body, such as the side of the hock (ankle) joint or over the side of the hip, but they are most commonly found over the elbow.(1)
Can cause dog nose ulcers. Also found on the ears Caused by a blood cell parasite. Considered to require Euthanasia.
Cancer in dogs that can cause ulcers along with itching and redness. Diagnosed via a biopsy. Treated with surgical removal and possibly radiation or chemotherapy.
Tumor found on the skin of older dogs. Appears like a dark colored nodule. Diagnosed with a skin biopsy. Treated with surgical removal.
Panniculitis is usually caused by a skin injury or when a foreign body enters the skin. It can also have an autoimmune or unknown cause. Nodules form on the skin surface that can become ulcerated. A veterinarian will drain the lesion and remove surgically if necessary.
Condition caused by the fungal contamination of a wound. It is found in a single ulcer, nodule or sores on dog legs. Treated with surgical removal.
Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection. It can result in ulcerated skin pustules or nodules. The condition is diagnosed with a biopsy, culture or skin scraping. Treatment is with antibiotics.
Pythiosis is a condition where aquatic mold causes skin sores on a dogs legs. It can also occur on the tail base. Related symptoms are digestive problems and itch. The condition is diagnosed with a biopsy and examination under a microscope of any drainage. It can be fatal to the dog.
Sebaceous Gland Tumors
These tumors form into nodules which can become skin ulcers. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment involves surgical removal or by leaving the lesion in place depending on the location, discomfort of the dog and if the tumor if malignant.
Spider bites contain toxin that can cause skin swelling that can become ulcers. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment includes the use of Corticosteroids. A dog may paw at affected areas causing additional skin sores and damage.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
Causes crusted ulcers to form on dog legs or the body. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment for these types of canine skin lesions involves surgical removal.
Dog Sores by Body Location
Like most canine diseases, there are multiple causes for dog skin sores on different areas of the body as outlined in the table below.
Causes Dog Sores on the Paws, Legs, Ears and Face
|Body Location|| Common Causes of Dog Skin Sores
|Dog sores on Legs||Canine
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 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
Canine Ear Sores Caused by Atopy
Source: Dog Health Guide
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
Atopy: Sensitivity to environmental allergies
Canine Sores on Face From Atopy (Seasonal Allergy)
Source: Washington State University
Diet: Food intolerance or allergic response to a food component or ingredient
Dog Food Allergy Sores on Face and Ear
Source: Washington State University
Ringworm: Caused by the dermatophyte that triggers ringworm in dogs (Microsporum gypseum)
Ringworm Can Cause Dog Skin Sores on Face as Shown Above
Source: Washington State University
Allergies to Insects: Reactions to mites, fleas and other parasites
sores on paws
||Demodicosis (Demodectic Pododermatitis):
mange mites that
cause localized lesions on the paws. IT is common in young dogs (under age 1) and rarely seen in older dogs. The disease is frequently seen with bacterial infection on the paws. Paw areas see hair loss.
Parasites do not affect claws and footpads.
Sores on Dog Paws Caused by Demodectic pododermatitis in a male terrier.
Source: Alexander Werner, VMD, DACVD, Animal Dermatology Center
Digital Hyperkeratosis: This dog skin disorder affects the nose and footpads. Breeds susceptible to this problem include English bulldogs, Basset hounds, Beagles English springer spaniels and Cocker spaniels. The condition is caused by debris with collects on the footpads. Areas that bear weight cause the keratin to wear off. It is usually seen in older or middle-aged dogs. Other symptoms include leathery skin, oozing from the skin and crusting. Diagnosis is based on the condition being limited to the paws and the absence of the condition in other skin areas. The condition can be improved by improving the dog's hydration and the use of topicals that help with seborrhea.
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 as well as contact allergies.
Ringworm: This fungus can cause sores on the paws
Pemphigus Foliaceous (PF): 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. The lesion ruptures, causing crusts to form over the skin lesions on dogs. 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.
Skin Lesions on Dog Paws Caused by Pemphigus
Source: Animal Dermatology Center
Superficial Necrolytic Dermatitis (SND): The condition is caused by a liver disease. It is seen in older and smaller dogs. Symptoms are the accumulation of crust on paw pressure points.
Superficial Necrolytic Dermatitis causes sores on the paw pads
Source: Alexander Werner, VMD, DACVD, Animal Dermatology Center
Dog Mouth Sores and Tumors
Dog skin sores in a dog's mouth are called tumors. There are many types that can form in the oral tissues. Causes include:
- Gingival Enlargement: A non-cancerous growth that is triggered by periodontal disease. It can be removed by a veterinary dentist (top right above).
- Peripheral Odontogenic Fibroma: a type of tumor that is a benign (not cancerous) tumor (top left).
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma: A cancerous tumor that requires a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis (bottom right).
- Oral Malignant Melanoma (OMM): Forms in the soft tissues that line the tongue (bottom left).
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References for Dog Skin Sores
(1) Hygroma in Dogs | VCA Animal Hospitals (vcahospitals.com)
(2) Washington State University, Carmichael, L., Recent Advances In Canine Infectious Diseases
(3) Management Challenges in Canine Pyoderma, Peter J. Ihrke, VMD, Diplomate ACVD
(4) School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, David Scott, D. W., Miller, W. H., Griffin, C. E.Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology
(5) Canine and Feline Demodicosis, Didler-Noel Carlotti Dr. vet DIP ECVD, Eysines (Bordeaux), France EU
(6) Canine Osteosarcomas, Alfred M. Legendre, DVM, MS DACVIM, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennesse, Knoxville, TN
(7) Wandering Through the Autoimmune Dermatosis: Pemphigus Complex, Carlos Eduardo Larsson
(8) Sun-Induced Skin Lesions in Dogs, Alexander Werner, VMD, DACVD Animal Dermatology Center
(9) Skin: decubital ulcers in dogs | Vetlexicon Canis from Vetlexicon | Definitive Veterinary Intelligence