The Dog Owner’s Guide to Common Skin Problems

Licking, sniffing, scratching, running around, playing in mud, and rolling in the grass are just some of the fun things our dogs love doing on a daily basis. With all of the physical activities they engage in, it is no wonder that things can often get snagged in their coat, fur gets knotted and matted, and skin problems arise.

Skin disorders in dogs, although alarming, should not be something to panic about. Like with any other health-related problem with your pooch, it is best to consult with a veterinarian should you notice anything wrong or abnormal with your dog’s skin. However, as dog owners, it also helps to know about common canine skin problems and what causes them.

Dog Acne

Can dogs get pimples like we do? The answer is yes and no.

Yes, dogs can get these annoying, tiny red bumps or pustules mostly on their lips, chin, and muzzle area. But unlike human’s acne that is largely caused by hormonal imbalance, the cause behind canine acne is believed to be different and might be a less straightforward answer, one that is not yet fully understood.

Some breeds, such as English Bulldogs, Great Danes, and Boxers may be more prone to pimple problems than others, and friction or physical trauma causing breakage of the skin and hair follicle may also trigger the development of acne. Pimples can worsen and develop into pustules when they become infected with bacteria.

Canine acne can be avoided by keeping your dog’s mouth and muzzle area clean and free from objects and activities that may induce trauma, such as scratching, digging or rooting around, and rubbing against surfaces. 

Hot Spots and Folliculitis

Bacterial infection is a major culprit behind skin problems among dogs, and some of the most common conditions that it causes are hot spots and folliculitis.

Some dogs have a bad habit of constantly licking and scratching over a certain area of their body, so much that the friction causes a break or opening in the skin, making it prone to infection.

This is how hot spots, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis, form. They are red, inflamed, and appear wet or even pustular. Hot spots can easily grow in size and worsen the more your dog continues to lick, scratch, and chew on them.

Your vet will prescribe topical medicine to treat your pup’s hot spots and help you identify the underlying cause to their skin irritation, which can range from flea or food allergies to behavioral issues. You can also keep your dog from obsessing over their hot spots by letting them wear an Elizabethan collar.

When bacterial infection occurs in the hair follicles, swelling, redness, itching, and hair loss may occur on your dog’s skin, causing bacterial folliculitis. Like hot spots, there may be various underlying conditions that can cause and further exacerbate bacterial folliculitis in dogs. Problems with the immune system and hormonal disorders such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are just some examples of systemic disorders that can lead to skin issues. As such, the treatment approach to bacterial folliculitis will also vary depending on what’s actually causing the flare-up.


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Dandruffs or Flea Eggs?

We neither want dandruff nor flea eggs to reside in our dog’s fur, but it can be pretty tricky to distinguish between the two.

Dandruff are flakes of dead skin cells being shed from your dog’s coat, and may be a product of seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis, a disorder of the sebaceous glands that leads to an excessive production of sebum. The result is red, itchy, and flaky skin with a lot of dandruff shedding.

Flea eggs, on the other hand, may be suggestive of a flea infestation on your dog’s skin. While both are small and white specks that can be seen on your dog’s coat, dandruff is thin and irregularly shaped that sticks more to the fur causing buildup over time, while flea eggs are more uniformly shaped and less sticky, so they come off the fur quite easily.

Dandruff and flea eggs can be prevented by regular grooming and frequent baths. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids are good for regulating sebum production. Anti-flea spot-on and oral medications can also be given as preventives.  

Other Creepy Crawlies and Causes for Concern

There are many other small creatures that can live on your dog’s skin, from six-legged mites to eight-legged ticks. It is important to keep your dogs away from ectoparasitic infestation by regularly giving preventive medication, because these parasites bring not just skin problems, but can also introduce blood parasites to your dogs and make them very sick.

Other causes for concern include fungal infections, the most common one being ringworm infection that can also affect owners, giving both you and your pup a hard, itchy time. Maintaining proper pet hygiene and keeping your house clean, including the places and things they usually stay in, can go a long way in preventing skin issues.

With your vet’s help, skin problems can be easily identified, addressed, and treated to help get your dog back to their shiniest, fluffiest, best-looking state.

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