Skin conditions are very common for dogs of all breeds. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, skin problems can ultimately cause significant discomfort for your pet and could be an indicator of a serious underlying health issue. Knowing whether your dog is suffering from a skin condition requires paying close attention to their body and behavior. Keep an eye out for common symptoms such as itching, rashes, licking of skin, and loss of fur. Also, be sure to take note of when your dog displays these symptoms (such as after playing outside or during a particular season) as this can help your veterinarian better identify the allergy or issue.

Most skin conditions require professional treatment, so it is best to have your dog examined by your veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms. My Best Friend Veterinary Center in Olivette, MO is here to help! Below, our highly experienced team has compiled the most common skin conditions in dogs and how to identify them.

Environmental Allergies

Just like humans, dogs can develop reactions to environmental allergens like pollen, grass, and dust. Some breeds such as westies, pitbulls, and retrievers (labs, goldens, etc), are more prone to allergies than others.

One of the most common symptoms of environmental allergies is itching–particularly of the feet and ears. Look for redness and swelling between toes and inside ears. Also, check for discoloration of the fur on the feet as it’s an indication of licking to soothe itchy skin. Another common symptom is itchy, watery eyes, which results in discoloration of the fur around the eyes and muzzle. Constant scratching and licking of these areas causes inflammation and can cause a secondary bacterial infection. Oral, topical, and injectable options are available to help address allergies.

Dogs with environmental allergies often have food allergies too. Sometimes it is enough to treat one cause to minimize symptoms, but it may also require that both causes are treated in conjunction.

Food Allergies

Some dogs develop allergies to ingredients in their diet–with protein sources being the most common allergenic ingredient. These are common ingredients like beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb, soy, pork, rabbit, and fish. Most food-allergic dogs are usually allergic to more than one of these ingredients. Food allergies will typically result in increased itching and possibly GI symptoms. As part of diagnosing the cause of chronic skin issues, it will be important to rule out food allergies as well as environmental allergies. This usually involves a test diet of a hypoallergenic food; this is a prescription food with highly specific or processed protein sources that won’t cause an allergic reaction. If allergies subside while your pet is on this diet, then we can start ruling out specific sources next.

Dogs with food allergies often have environmental allergies too. Sometimes it is enough to treat one cause to minimize symptoms but it may also require that both causes are treated in conjunction.

Hotspots/Moist Dermatitis

Moist Dermatitis, often referred to as a “hotspot” or “lick-sore,” is a sore on the surface of the skin that is caused by aggressive licking or chewing of a concentrated area. The sore will be effusive–oozing a clear or blood-tinged fluid like a scrape or abrasion–but after time will often form a scab/crust over the area. These lesions can be initiated by many different events, such as an insect bite/sting, a scratch during grooming, or an allergy-related itch. No matter the cause, the lesion forms rapidly when the pet continually licks, often in a matter of hours or overnight. Your veterinarian can help choose the best course of treatment, which often involves oral or topical antibiotics, steroids, and measures to ensure your pet cannot continue to bother the area.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are parasites, which means they survive by feeding off their host’s blood supply (yuck!). Your dog may scratch, bite, or chew at their fur to relieve the itching caused by these bugs crawling and feeding on their skin. When these parasites bite your pet to feed, they secrete saliva that may cause an allergic response that further irritates the skin. In severe allergic responses, the skin can become inflamed and red over their entire body. Not to mention, these parasites can move on to biting other pets and humans in your home! These pests are also frequent carriers of other diseases.

We highly recommend that dogs in Missouri be on a flea and tick preventative year-round, such as NexGard or SimparicaTRIO. Our temperatures fluctuate so frequently that these parasites come out of dormancy even in the “cold” winter months.

Folliculitis in Dogs

Folliculitis is inflammation of hair follicles, usually caused by a bacterial infection. This condition often accompanies (is secondary to) other skin conditions, like allergies. This is because as dogs scratch from allergies, they will also cause hair follicles to become inflamed. Folliculitis may cause more severe itching, swelling, redness, pain, pustules/pimples, and patchy hair loss. Your veterinarian will need to treat the folliculitis as well as the underlying allergy to fully resolve this skin condition.

Yeast Infections in Dogs

Yeast is a type of fungi. Normally, yeast are naturally present on the skin and do not cause issues; however, yeast is opportunistic, so if the immune system is suppressed or if something affects the skin to prompt a change (such as moist and irritated skin), a yeast infection may develop. Yeast is attracted to warm, moist, hard-to-reach areas of a dog’s body, such as the ear canal, in between your dog’s toes, facial wrinkles, and groin. Yeast infections can cause your dog to itch and bite at the infected area, causing the fur to become discolored, and the infected areas to smell unpleasant. These infections often need to be treated with topical medications but in severe or widespread infections oral medications along with addressing underlying causes may be needed.

Contact My Best Friend Veterinary Center

My Best Friend Veterinary Center is dedicated to providing the highest quality care for your pet. We treat all types of skin conditions and can help ease your furry friend’s symptoms. Depending on the cause of the problem, treatment may include special shampoos, oral antibiotics, and antibacterial ointments. Contact our veterinarians in Olivette, MO today!