Common Canine Skin Conditions
Posted July 15, 2016
Familiarizing yourself with common canine skin irritations and
diseases is important to your pet’s health. Certain skin problems
could be sign of a more serious underlying issue, such as physical
pain, discomfort, or infection.
“There are many different types of skin conditions in dogs. As
we try to figure out what type of condition may be affecting your
pet, we have to answer one question first, ‘Is your dog itchy?’”
said Dr. Alison Diesel, clinical assistant professor at the Texas
A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
“Itch in dogs can take on a number of different forms, including
scratching, rubbing, rolling, licking, chewing, head shaking, or
scooting. You may be bringing your dog in for hair loss or skin
sores, but if those signs are present with itchy behaviors, we will
be looking that direction first.”
Common reasons dogs have itchy skin include parasites, such as
fleas, lice, or microscopic mites; infections, such as those caused
by bacteria; and allergies.
“Fleas are extremely common in dogs, particularly in Texas where
fleas are endemic year-round. Not only are fleas a nuisance and can
carry disease, but they can also cause flea allergy dermatitis, an
allergic reaction from the flea’s bite that occurs in some dogs,”
Diesel explained. “Mites are another common reason for skin disease
in dogs, particularly Demodex; these non-contagious mites may be
found in young or older patients. Sarcoptes mites, also known as
scabies, are also rather common; these mites are contagious and
typically cause severe itch. Bacterial skin infections are also
prevalent in dogs; however they are typically due to a secondary
problem, such as parasites or allergies.”
Other skin conditions that occur in dogs include hormone
imbalances, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease; cancer,
which may be benign or malignant; and autoimmune skin diseases,
such as pemphigus or lupus. All of these typically come without
signs of itch unless secondary infections are present.
Sometimes dog owners may notice that their pets have a skin
lesion or that a part of the skin has an abnormal growth or
appearance compared to the skin around it. According to Diesel,
lesions should be evaluated by a veterinarian to determine the
cause. “As there are numerous causes of skin lesions in dogs, it is
important to determine the underlying cause to help guide treatment
recommendations,” she said.
In addition to monitoring your pet’s skin conditions, you should
also keep track of your dog’s shedding. Excessive shedding could
potentially be a sign of another health condition. First, it is
important to determine whether the hair is being scratched out, or
if it is falling out on its own. “If the hair is falling out
on its own and leaving obvious areas of baldness, this may be a
sign of internal illness, such as hormone imbalances, metabolic
changes, or even potentially cancer; it could also be a sign of
skin disease, such as ringworm,” Diesel said. It is also important
to remember that certain breeds may shed much more than others. If
there is no baldness seen along with the excessive shedding, this
may actually be normal for your dog. Seasonal variations may
additionally occur, although this is less noticeable in Texas where
seasonal variation is minimal compared to other regions of the
To keep your dog’s coat healthy and shiny and to minimize
unwanted excessive shedding, routinely brush and groom your pet.
Depending on the breed, some dogs may require periodic haircuts for
coat care, while others may need only a bath and brush.
Additionally, veterinarian-prescribed omega fatty acids such as
fish oil can help keep the skin and hair coat healthy in dogs.
If you notice any excessive scratching or shedding, lesions, or
any change in your dog’s normal hair coat appearance, you should
have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian to help determine any
underlying health conditions that may be a cause for the
Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine
& Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be
viewed on the web at vetmed.tamu.edu/pet-talk.
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