Types of Dog Skin Irritations

By Venice Kichura

A dog's health usually can be judged by its skin and coat. One of the most common health problems in dogs are those related to skin irritations. Just like humans, a dog's skin is susceptible to numerous skin diseases. However, because dogs can't talk, owners have to be aware of signs that signal a skin problem. What's more, owners have to protect dogs from threats of skin problems by providing good nutritional health, regular grooming and continual monitoring for abnormalities.


Dog with Mange

Parasites that afflict dogs the most are fleas and mites. Fleas, which are the most common canine skin problem, can be diagnosed by finding adult fleas and flea eggs---flea dirt---on your dog, most often on the rump and belly. Flea dirt looks black, although appears reddish brown when smeared on a white surface. Flea eggs resemble tiny white grains of sand, while adult fleas are tiny brown wingless parasites. You need to disrupt the flea's life cycle to get rid of them. Check with your vet for the best products and then regularly treat your dog for fleas. Untreated, a flea infestation can cause tapeworms and anemia. The mite is a parasite that causes mange. Sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange are the most severe types of mange. Scabies is a skin disease caused by the sarcoptic microscopic mite and be detected by the Pedal-Pinna Reflex Test. Sometimes the symptoms of scabies are mistaken for allergies, and owners spend wasted time and money when all they needed was a simple test for a scabies diagnosis. While scabies mites are hard to find, demodex mites are easier to locate and aren't as severe. Usually they eliminate themselves. Other parasites include lice, ticks and ear mites. Besides causing irritation, ticks, lice and fleas can carry other diseases. A dog affected with ear mites often scratches off hair on the back of its ears.


Allergies are the cause of many skin irritations in dogs. Most often, owners can detect an allergy in dogs by noting eye and nasal discharges, sneezing and itchy skin. Typically, allergies attack when a dog's immune system is weakened. Dogs develop food allergies, although they are not as common as seasonal allergies. One of the signs of a food allergy is a dog chewing on its feet.

Bacterial Skin Infections

Bacterial skin infections can also cause dogs to chew and scratch on their skin. Again, skin rashes or infections usually happen because of a weakened immune system. Small bumps on the skin's surface can be signs of a bacterial infection. Next to flea allergies, poderma ranks second as the most common inflammatory canine skin disease. Most cases are confined to the dog's trunk, although other body areas can be affected, such as the chin. Obese dogs such as pug-nosed breeds are often affected in the facial skin folds, lips and vulva. It's identified by an unpleasant odor, dry crusted areas and hair loss as the condition grows worse.

Fungal Skin Problems

Fungal infections are usually caused by two fungi species: Microsporum and Trichophyton. Ringworm is the most common skin disease resulting from these fungi. Most common in young dogs, ringworm usually affects the head and legs. Signs of ringworm are hair loss seen in circular patches of dry, crusty skin. Yeast skin infections have a bad smell and appear as brown, thick greasy paste, commonly seen in the ears. Besides smelling bad, yeast infections can cause extreme itching. By keeping your dog's paws clean you can reduce the odds of your dog getting yeast skin infections.

Hormonal Skin Diseases

Usually hormonal skin diseases are not itchy. Difficult to diagnose, hormonal skin disease pertain to either an overproduction or underproduction of hormones, resulting in changes in a dog's skin and coat. A few signs of hormonal skin disease include the skin appearing thicker or thinner than normal or changing color. Most hormonal skin diseases can be diagnosed by blood tests and treated effectively. Surgically neutering a dog can successfully treat skin changes linked to the sex hormones.


Often owners think they can't give human medications to dogs, but there are some medicines that work for both people and dogs. For example, over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can be given to dogs for itching. However, first check with your vet before giving any human medications.


A dog that licks its scratches can interrupt with the healing process besides causing an infection. After cleaning small scratches apply a preparation of aluminum hydroxide. Avoid using any products containing zinc as this can be dangerous if the dog licks it. To prevent infection apply antibiotic pomade. While brushing your dog's skin, look for fleas and mites, as well as the condition of the skin. Illness can be seen in dry skin and fur. Also, note the color the skin. If you dog's skin is yellow, there's a chance he may have jaundice. Blue skin can point to heart problems, while red skin can reveal allergies.