If your child gets a bad rash, she’ll understand the words “Don’t itch.” (Whether she listens is a whole different story!) Unfortunately, it’s not like that with pets. They hurt, they itch, they whimper, they scratch, and before you know the situation’s worlds worse.
Dogs can be afflicted by a vast array of skin problems, including:
1. Canine atopy: allergies to seasonal pollens occurring in dogs 1-5 years old, starting in the late summer and fall. Symptoms include itching around the face and paws which might spread to the ears, armpits, elbows, and groin. Up to 75 percent of dogs diagnosed with atopy experience recurrent ear infections. Immunotherapy is the most effective treatment, sometimes in collaboration with antihistamine treatment or an essential fatty acid dietary supplement.
2. Chiggers (aka Trombiculiasis): Common skin parasites found in the central United States which cause itching and severe skin irritation around the legs, head, and abdomen. Chiggers are usually found in high numbers during the spring and fall in grassy areas. These mites look reddish-orange, and although you often won’t be able to see them, you’ll notice a small welt. Treatment involves either a couple of pyrethrin-based dips spaced a couple weeks apart, or the application of a topical anti-parasite drug.
3. Dermatitis: inflammatory allergic skin conditions, including: pyotraumatic dermatitis, which shows as a red, moist, hairless sore; acral lick dermatitis, which yields a wound that your dog will probably lick all day; contact dermatitis, caused by direct contact with an irritant, like fertilizer or bleach; and flea allergy dermatitis, caused by a sensitivity to saliva or fleas. Your vet may recommend an oral antibiotic or an injection to treat dermatitis.
4. Ear mites: tiny, crab-like parasites that live in dogs’ ear canals. They’re highly contagious and common in puppies. Although they live on the surface of the skin in the ear, they can spread to your dog’s back, neck, and tail. If you notice your dog excessively shaking his head or scratching around his ears-or if you see dark debris in his ears or notice a bad odor-mites might be to blame. Several over-the-counter medications treat them effectively.
5. Flea allergies: proteins in the flea saliva cause severe itching. A single bite can cause a reaction for 5-7 days. Injections to desensitize are not generally effective because it’s hard to collect enough flea saliva to make a serum. Consult your vet for a flea control program that won’t further irritate your dog’s skin.
6. Impetigo: An inflammatory skin condition characterized by shallow blisters that break easily. In younger animals, you’ll notice inflamed white pimples on the stomach. They’ll ooze pus, dry, and then form scabs. You can treat impetigo with daily applications of antiseptic powder, such as BFI.
7. Puppy Strangles (juvenile cellulitis): a skin irritation that affects the face, ears, and lymph nodes of puppies less than four-months old. Pimples develop and break open, and then crusts and small ulcers form. Your puppy may have difficulty eating or swallowing, and he may become depressed or develop a fever. Strangles can be treated with antibiotics.
8. Ringworm: a skin disease that has the appearance of a round sore with crusts or scabs, caused by a fungus. As the disease progresses, you’ll notice more of these sores. Treatment involves cleaning the infected spots, applying a fungicide regularly, keeping lesions clean to avoid infection, and maintaining proper hygiene to avoid spreading.
9. Scabies (Sarcoptic Mange): A condition caused by mites which results in hair loss, itching, and lesions. Mites burrow in the dogs skin surface, often in the abdomen, chest, legs, and ears, storing their eggs in a trail behind them. You’ll only notice a few scabs and perhaps some hairless patches. The most effective treatment involves the application of topical solutions, like Salamectin.
10. Ticks: large parasites that attach to the skin. They’re commonly found beneath the ear flap and where hair is thin. Ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, including tick paralysis, Lyme disease, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
Now that you know some common skin problems that affect dogs you’ll be better equipped to identify them.