Dog Skin Rashes: Symptoms, Causes, and Cures

Rash

Dogs are quite similar to people, in terms of the need for good skincare.

The problems with skin depend on the breed, as some of them never have any skin problems, while the others have these issues throughout their lives.

The skin problems typically lead to excessive licking and scratching, thus causing secondary infections, such as bacterial or yeast infections.

If you have noticed that your dog is biting and scratching himself, we offer you some common reasons for red, scaly bumps and how you can treat them.

Causes and Symptoms of Dog Skin Rash

Causes Symptoms
Contact Dermatitis Contact Dermatitis can be noticed if your dog has red, inflamed skin on the belly or legs. Actually, what happens is that areas with thin hair or no hair come into contact with an allergen, such as grass, melting ice, poison ivy, soaps/shampoos, floor cleaners, carpet deodorizers, flea medication, insecticides, dyes, and materials such as rubber, wool, leather, plastic, or metals (nickel).
Puppy Impetigo Puppy Impetigo is actually acne-looking bumps on the dog’s skin. This can lead to blisters that may become scaly and crusted on the abdomens and groins of young dogs.
Food Allergy or Sensitivity Skin plaques, pustules, crusting or scaling, leathery skin, hyper-pigmentation, hives, and elongated marks on the skin. This issue may be accompanied by vomiting or diarrhea.
Environmental Allergy (Atopic Dermatitis) This problem happens seasonally and it is accompanied by itching on the feet and around the eyes and ears, as well as sneezing and watery eyes.
Fleas and Ticks Itchy spots, red bumps, and hair loss. It is worth noting that if the rash occurs on the feet or head, the cause would be something else, as fleas avoid the paws and face.
Mange Itchiness, scabs, sores, red skin, and hair loss often occur on the dog’s face, ears, and legs.
Hot Spots (Acute Moist Dermatitis) Itchy, inflamed skin that is hot to the touch, on the head, hip, or chest area.
Infection (Bacterial or Yeast Infection) Red, scaly skin, odor, and sticky discharge. Parts of the body where it often occurs are the ears, between the toes on the paws, in the underarm area, or on the neck (under the collar).
Heat Rash Red tender skin, scabs and sores, tiny red bumps, itchiness, and foul odor.
Genetic There are breeds that are more prone to rashes than others, such as Golden Retrievers that are susceptible to congenital ichthyosis, which causes scaling on the tummy. Arctic breeds are likely to develop zinc-responsive dermatosis, and Cocker Spaniels are prone to primary seborrhea (dandruff).
Hormonal Imbalances (Endocrine Disorders) This issue can be caused by a poor diet. Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease fall under this category. Some signs of this illness are changed coat quality, drinking, and urination habits, as well as rashes, hair loss, and dry or darkened skin.
Seborrhea (Dandruff) Dry, flaky skin, and hair loss.
Acral Lick Dermatitis (Lick Granuloma) This is compulsive licking of the paws which unfortunately results in inflammation. If it continues, your dog may develop hair loss and a rash. Acral Lick Dermatitis can appear due to an allergic reaction to something that your dog walks on like grass or floors/carpets cleaned with a chemical agent. There were cases when it was caused by boredom.
Folliculitis A bacterial skin condition that occurs along with other conditions, such as mange, allergies, or injury. It appears as red, scaly bumps, and accompanied by a lot of itching.

Does Your Dog Have a Rash on Its Belly?

Being that there are different places on your dog’s body where the rash can appear, you need to pay attention to whether your dog has a rash on the stomach, the scrotum/groin, and the legs.

If this is the case then the possible and typical causes are either contact dermatitis or impetigo. However, the more illness develops, the rash can appear all over the body.

The first thing you can do is to change your laundry detergent and check your cleaning supplies, as your dog can be allergic to these chemicals.

Contact Dermatitis

Noticing that your dog suddenly gets a rash and you did not record any history of sensitivity, then contact dermatitis can be the cause of the rash.

The symptoms of this illness develop after a period of constant physical contact and skin sensitization.

You will be able to notice that contact dermatitis typically occurs on the stomach, the scrotum, and/or the legs, as well as places whit thin hair or no hair at all.

Causes

The main cause of contact dermatitis can be poison ivy and poison oak, but the most common occurrence is that your dog develops a rash by coming into contact with topical antibiotics, flea collars, flea medication, metals like nickel, grasses, and pollens, soaps/shampoos, carpet deodorizers, insecticides, dyes, various materials including rubber, wool, leather, and plastic, road salt, detergents, solvents, acids and alkalis, and petroleum byproducts.

Yes, we have mentioned so many possible causes, but have in mind that dyes and perfumes are very common irritants.

So as to determine what is causing the itching, you have to see the body part that has the rash, and if the rash appears on the belly, he probably has a contact allergy caused by detergent on his blanket or bedding.

The best idea is to switch to non-perfumed, sensitive-skin detergents and cleansers.

How to Check

A dog owner has to be patient and careful, so as to be able to help his/her pet friend.

You will have to check all the possible reasons for this situation, as dogs that have been outside or in the woods could have got the rash from a plant irritant.

Then, you can check your own laundry and cleaning supplies to see whether you have changed your carpet cleanser or whether the laundry detergent is full of perfumes that affect your dog’s health.

Furthermore, it is necessary to check shampoos that can be causes of contact allergies.

There were instances when the dog’s shampoo or grooming rituals were causing the itching.

This means that the owner needs to switch products and use a sensitive skin shampoo, as well as avoid the perfumed powder and products.

Those who take their dog to a groomer has to ask him/her to use an unscented or medicated pet shampoo.

Medicated shampoos are great for relieving itching right away.

Treatment

The best solution for this issue as well as the only way to treat contact dermatitis is to determine and avoid the irritant.

Even though your veterinarian prescribes an antihistamine to get rid of the skin irritation, you will not win this battle if the irritant is still affecting your dog’s skin.

It is also very significant to keep your dog from licking the irritated area, being that it can cause new bacterial and yeast infections, thus making the problem even worse.

Impetigo

Impetigo is known as a staph infection and we have to mention that it is a highly contagious bacterial skin condition.

Usually, puppies suffer from it and it is caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria.

Sometimes, pet owners mistake Impetigo bumps for acne.

So, if you notice that your puppy has a belly rash or a scrotum rash, Impetigo can be the cause.

Treatment

Those dogs that suffer from mild cases of Impetigo typically recover from it on their own.

It is necessary to help your puppy by clearing up the itching and prevent the bacteria from coming back.

Firstly, you should prevent him/her from licking or biting at the affected area and clean his/her living area.

Then, it is important to give your pup a medicated bath using a shampoo with benzoyl peroxide at least two times a week for two to three weeks.

All the above-mentioned steps should be taken if your dog has only a mild irritation.

But, if the situation is more serious, it may need to be treated with oral antibiotics or a medicated ointment that your vet can prescribe.

People use hydrogen peroxide to kill the staph bacteria, but it is our suggestion to first contact your vet so as to make sure that this is safe.

Food Allergies

Pet owners need to have in mind that food allergies can also cause itchiness and irritating rashes so as not to give any kind of food to their pets.

Some of the accompanying symptoms can be loose bowel movements or stomach distress.

Common Food Allergens:

  • beef
  • dairy
  • wheat
  • egg
  • chicken
  • lamb
  • soy
  • pork
  • rabbit
  • fish
  • corn (very common)

What to Do?

Food allergies can be easily determined as your vet can do a test to pinpoint the exact trigger, so it is necessary to get in touch with him/her.

People sometimes do an elimination diet, meaning that they remove one ingredient at a time for a period of a week and once the symptoms disappear, they reintroduce the food.

Once you notice that symptoms reappeared, you can be sure what caused the rash.

Foods to Feed

We always suggest that your dog should be fed with premium and high-quality foods.

You can also choose those foods that are specifically created for sensitive stomachs.

Also, looking for top recommended hypoallergenic dog foods and treats can be of great help.

Our suggestion is to start with foods that say “limited ingredients” or you can give your dog foods with natural ingredients.

Definitely, products loaded with chemicals and preservatives should be avoided.

It is worth noting that corn, used as a filler in dry dog food, is the most common cause of allergies.

If you have enough time, try making your own food.

You can find some homemade dog food recipes on the web, but we suggest that you consult your vet before giving it to your pet.

Environmental Allergy (Atopic Dermatitis) Treatment

Just like humans, dogs can also have seasonal allergies.

The inhaled allergies cause the appearance of symptoms other than the rash, such as sneezing and watery eyes.

Owners who believe that their pet is allergic to irritants in the air can always check the pollen index through a website like weather.com.

So, your dog has the above-mentioned signs of allergy and pollen is high, then he may have hay fever.

How to Treat

The first thing you should do is to contact your vet who can prescribe antihistamines.

In the majority of cases, dogs are tolerant to over-the-counter medicines that have the active ingredient of Benadryl.

Actually, dogs can take .5 to 2 mg of Diphenhydramine for every pound they weigh and so as to get rid of the allergy, doses should be given every eight hours.

If you do not know the weight of your dog, you can take him/her to the vet’s office for a quick weigh-in, and that would be the chance to ask the vet for recommendations of what medication to take.

You can also give your dog a bath with a hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner and feed him/her fish oil which is full of the omega-3 fatty acids known to be helpful in reducing inflammation.

How to Prevent

There are a few ways you can prevent this issue, and the first one is to wipe your dog’s feet to remove pollen, dust mites, grass particles, and dander when coming home from a walk.

By doing this, you will prevent the spreading of allergens all over the living area.

You should also change furnace and air-conditioning filters, vacuum the house more often and, if you have possibilities, steam clean the carpets.

Also, you should keep windows closed during high-pollen seasons.

Fleas and Ticks Treatment

Regular baths and treatments do not protect dogs from getting fleas.

If you live in warmer areas of the country or places which mild winters, you may have issues with dog fleas.

We can suggest that you go for the best flea products to your vet’s office or to quality pet supply stores.

Of course, you should ask your vet for the best recommendation prior to buying any product.

Some dogs may develop a flea allergy and their condition may be severe, so a prescription drug may be needed.

The commonly prescribed products are Advantage and Revolution.

How to Check

The rash can be caused by many other things, as you already know, so you need to rule out fleas prior to looking for other possible reasons.

After bathing your pet, you can look for fleas in the bathwater or you can comb your dog’s hair using a flea comb to search for the bugs and eggs.

You need to be very careful, as there are dogs that are allergic to flea treatments.

After a flea treatment, they may develop a rash from the product, so we suggest using natural, non-toxic flea treatments.

Making a homemade flea collar to prevent fleas is a great idea as well.

Ticks

Lyme disease can be developed from a tick bite and symptoms may appear two or three months after being bitten.

You need to pay attention to possible signs, such as fever, rashes, loss of appetite, lethargy, lameness, stiffness, and swelling of joints, due to the fact that if this illness progresses, it can lead to fatal kidney disease.

Mange

There are two types of mange:

Demodectic Mange is a skin condition that is caused by cigar-shaped mites that live in the hair follicles. This issue appears when a dog has a weak immune system, unable to fight off the mites, meaning that it is the most common in puppies and older dogs.

Sarcoptic Mange is another skin condition which is known as “canine scabies”.  It can be transmitted from dog to dog.  The mites migrated from one skin to another, and then the female mite lays eggs causing even more problems.

Treatment

In some cases, the issue resolves itself, but dog owners can help their dogs by giving pups a bath, washing their bedding, and cleaning their living area with the aim to kill all of the mites.

People suggest some home remedies for dog mange that you can try but never use motor oil.

Hot Spots

Hot spots include all red, irritated spots on your dog’s skin which are caused by any of the above-mentioned conditions and which can lead to infection if not treated well, or not treated at all.

Make sure that your dog’s rash does not become inflamed, red, oozing, or an open sore.

Treatment

As in the majority of illnesses, first and foremost, you will need to find out the cause, and talking to your veterinarian can be useful.

We suggest that you ask him/her how to treat hot spots as they may prescribe hydrocortisone spray or hydrocortisone cream.

Furthermore, they can prescribe Gentamicin or Betamethasone spray, and oral antibiotics if necessary.

In some more serious cases, they give a cortisone injection so that the healing process starts immediately.

Heat Rash Treatment

Heat rashes can be caused by the staphylococcus pathogen, staphylococcus pseudintermedius, which gets irritated by humid and hot environmental conditions.

You may notice tiny red bumps or boils which turn into a red rash with a bad odor.

How to Treat It

Our suggestion is to wrap a cold compress or bag of ice around a towel and apply it to the affected area for 10 minutes.

Furthermore, you can use aloe vera, as a great treatment for sunburn.

Applying aloe vera will give instant cooling relief and help heal the skin.

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal skin disorders are alopecia and dermatosis and both of them are caused by genetics, diet, castration, female bodily changes, or hypothyroidism.

Alopecia is characterized as balding while dermatosis is a skin disorder.

Dogs with hormonal imbalance can have symptoms such as greasy skin, hair loss, dull-looking skin color.

Skin changes are not the only symptoms that you may notice.

Other signs, such as lethargy, high cholesterol levels, weight gain, excessive weight loss, difficulty sleeping, depression are also symptoms of Hormonal Imbalances.

Types of Hormonal Imbalance:

  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cushing’s disease
  • Diabetes

Treatment

Whether it will be easy to treat hormonal imbalance or not will highly depend on the cause.

A poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle can be changed with a nutritional, all-natural dog diet.

Vets suggest plenty of sunshine and exercise which are known to be very helpful in remedying the symptoms.

However, if the hormonal imbalance appears due to serious issues, like Cushing’s disease, or it is related to the female menstrual cycle, a vet is the only person who can help you find a cure.

Some of the possible treatments are hormone supplements, radiation therapy, or surgery.

Canine Seborrhea

Canine Seborrhea is characterized by oily, flaky skin, and hair loss.

Due to irritation, the dog will be scratching, thus further irritating the skin.

Once again dogs are quite similar to humans, as seborrhea is usually genetic.

Also, it can be caused by a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle.

Breeds Most Likely to Be Affected:

  • West Highland White Terriers
  • American Cocker Spaniels
  • English Springer Spaniels
  • Basset Hounds
  • Dachshunds
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Golden Retrievers
  • German Shepherds
  • Dobermans
  • Shar-Pei

Treatment

Unfortunately, there is no treatment that can cure dandruff.

It can only be put under control by bathing your dog with a shampoo that contains sulfur, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or coal tar.

You should also feed your dog omega-3 fatty acids and a nutritional diet that will make their skin and hair healthy.

Make sure you have consulted your vet if you can feed and apply coconut oil which is known to be antiviral, antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antiprotozoal.

Lick Granuloma

Having noticed that your dog is constantly licking his/her paws, you need to prevent him/her from doing so as it can lead to a skin infection and find the right cause of paw licking.

The causes can include environmental allergies and anxiety, as well as boredom.

Treatment

We suggest that you use the home remedies prescribed for each cause, once you determine it.

If the Bump Is Under the Skin

The bump under the skin is a more serious problem.

It could be a growth or lesion that needs to be biopsied.

These bumps can sometimes be only fatty tumors that are benign, but they still quite irritate the dog.

There is a risk of cancer, so the best solution is to take your dog to a vet who will check the bumps and tell you what the problem is.

All in all, the rash that does not show signs of infection can be treated at home, but in case the rash continues, the only and best possible way to help your dog is to seek veterinary advice and guidance.

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