How to Diagnose Skin Problems in Dogs

By Kristie Massion

Many allergens, toxins and other conditions can cause a dog's skin to react. Skin problems in dogs may appear as dry, red, itchy, scabby or flaky skin, while more severe conditions may secrete liquid or bleed. Since skin conditions can be caused by any number of factors, you should visit a vet as soon as you notice a problem.

Diagnose Skin Problems in Dogs

Rule out parasites. Fleas, mites and ticks can cause itching, redness or lesions. When the dog scratches or licks the bites, more redness and irritation may occur, leading to a more severe problem. While you may not see a flea, look for black, gritty trails under your dog's fur.

Suspect allergies if the dog is otherwise in good health or if the skin condition recurs during a certain season. The most common allergy in dogs is to their food. Sometimes, something as simple as changing your dog's food or shampoo will clear up dry itchy skin.

Look for scaly or crusty skin to diagnose a skin condition like mange, infection or dermatitis. Often your dog will lose hair in the area where major crusting occurs.

Blame bacteria if your dog has oozing ulcers or erosions, which are commonly called hot spots. These may be as small as a pimple or a larger crater. Sometimes, the bacterial infection is caused by a less serious skin condition that caused your dog to scratch or lick incessantly. Antibiotics will usually clear up the infection and heal the sores.

Look at your dog's skin, under all the hair, to see if it has changed color. This may be caused by hormonal or thyroid problems, but could also point to a tumor or melanoma. You should take your dog to a vet whenever you notice a change in your dog's skin color.