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Common Skin Problems on your Dog

Author: Chris Chamberlin

There are a number of reasons for skin problems on your dog. Deciding which problem it is may require veterinarian help, but there are a few things to help you know when that is necessary.

If he scratches at himself all the time, or if he licks and chews at his skin to relieve a discomfort, then he could have an itching skin disorder needing attention. Some conditions cause no discomfort at all but telltale signs will include hair loss or patches of hair loss, and a dull, dry-looking coat.

Then there are other conditions that are painful and not necessarily itchy. You will notice pus and other signs of infection that can look like a rash on and beneath the skin surface.

While grooming your dog or just handling him, you may notice a bump or lump . Some require a diagnosis from the vet. His age ,sex, breed and any changes in lifestyle will be important things to consider in determining what the problem is.

Itching Skin Disorders

The most common cause for itching is parasites. Fleas,ticks and mange or lice can cause great discomfort and make your dog scratch and rub to gain relief, mange being the most irritating. You will notice scabs and crusts and even hair loss, primarily by his ears, face and elbows. Rubbing your dog's ear leather will usually cause him to scratch himself on that side. Treatment includes dipping the dog with something like a lime-sulphur treatment. Many preparations are available through the vet. Some cases will require a skin scraping and microscopic diagnosis.

Fleas are perhaps the most common of the parasites to cause your dog problems. Fleas can be the cause of major skin discomfort, especially if they are allergic to flea saliva. However, fleas can cause internal problems as well. Fleas are hosts for tape and round worms. There are a number of treatments available today, from dips and shampoos, to pills and spot skin-absorbed ointment from the vet.

Ticks are usually found on the ears or head and between toes. If you see a puffed-up female tick that is engorged in your dog, look for its male mate. Tips can cause serious diseases such as encephalitis and Rocky Mountain fever and should be dealt with immediately. First, kill the tick by applying alcohol or nail polish remover on a cotton swab. Then, grasp the tick with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently twist and pull, causing the tick to release. If the head remains fixed, there is no cause for alarm, rarely will it become infected. Follow with a good flea and tick dip, being careful to follow directions.

Boredom is the chief cause of a dog who is constantly licking himself on the feet or ankles. Mostly middle-aged dogs that are left home alone and become less active take up the bad habit. Take your bored pet for a walk daily or get him a companion to keep him company and it should subside. Cortisone will help ease any irritated sores that have occurred due to the constant licking.

Non Itching Disorders

Usually, these types of problems are cause by a hormone imbalance and are best treated by a vet. Symptoms can be hair loss, thickening of the skin, darkening of the skin, excessive oily skin (seborrhea), and calluses. There are many drug therapies your vet will prescribe once diagnosis is complete. Be prepared for blood workups and patience, as it can take time to discover the cause.


Puppies can get a type of impetigo and acne. Impetigo can be recognized by finding pus-filled blisters on the abdomen. Acne is usually found on the chin and lower lip and looks like black heads or pimples. Both can be treated by cleaning with hydrogen peroxide and soap like phisoHex, followed by a topical antibiotic like Panalog.

Hot spots are common to dogs with heavy coats just before shedding seasons. They are foul smelling, warm, sore patches that can lose hair rapidly. Dog should be prevented from licking the spot and steroid/antibiotic cream applied.

Lumps and Bumps

What is a lump or bump? It is a tumor, and a tumor means any swelling beneath the skin. It is best to have it diagnosed by a vet to see if it is benign or malignant.

Fatty cysts are common, so not all lumps mean cancer. They can safely be removed. Age warts are a type of virus that are common in older dogs and pop up everywhere. They can also be removed safely but tend to re-grow. Cancer will enlarge rapidly (within a month). Large hard masses that seem to invade tissue or attach to bone should be suspicious and seek aid from your vet for treatment.

If you have any comments or questions just email me :) Chris