Dog Skin Diseases and Their Triggers

If the eyes are the mirror of the soul, then the skin is the mirror of health – this also applies to dogs. If your four-legged friend scratches itself or you discover hair loss, reddening, or dandruff in its fur, you should get to the bottom of the cause – preferably with a veterinarian. Because there are many diseases that can trigger skin symptoms in dogs.


Allergies can have many different triggers in dogs and are therefore sometimes tricky when it comes to diagnosis. In addition to effects on the gastrointestinal tract, allergies in dogs often manifest themselves in symptoms of the skin. Which includes:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Flaking
  • Hair loss
  • Hyperpigmentation
  • Skin thickening
  • Secondary skin infections

Environmental allergies, contact allergies, but also flea allergies are possible causes. As you can see, there is a wide range of allergies in dogs. In addition, they often occur together with other skin diseases. Because the skin is unbalanced by an allergy, viruses or skin fungi have an easy time of it. Precise diagnoses, therefore, require patience in the case of allergies. If the allergy trigger is found and if you do without it, the symptoms improve quickly.

Skin Infections

Experts differentiate between primary and secondary skin infections. Primary skin infections are caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Secondary yeast infections are associated with other canine skin conditions. Then, for example, bacteria can spread to previously damaged skin. In this case, it is important to treat both the causative disease and the bacterial infection with antibiotics. Here are some examples of typical canine skin infections.

Hot Spots: Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

Hot spots are superficial skin infections that are mostly caused by bacteria. They are often associated with other skin diseases because the dog scratches or licks intensely. For example, together with itchy allergies or parasites. They are often found in the back of the back, but can also occur in the head and neck area. Symptoms include areas of oozing skin that later become crusty. They can be associated with severe pain. Therapy includes stopping scratching or licking. This is why some dogs have to wear a neck brace for the duration of the treatment. After carefully cleaning the area, anti-inflammatory ointments or sprays relieve the symptoms. Oral antibiotics are occasionally used. After consulting the veterinarian, cold chamomile compresses are a good addition to the therapy.

Wrinkle Dermatitis

Wrinkle dermatitis (also: intertrigo or wrinkle eczema) is a bacterial inflammation of the skin. It mainly occurs where moist skin rubs against each other. All dogs with a lot of loose skin and wrinkles such as pugs, Shar-Peis, and Molossians, as well as overweight dogs, are susceptible to wrinkle dermatitis. Dog owners should clean the wrinkles of their four-legged friends daily to prevent wrinkle eczema. Tip: Mild ear cleaning preparations for dogs are suitable for this. If wrinkle dermatitis is diagnosed, ointments or creams containing antibiotics can help.

Skin fungus in dogs

Fungal spores spread from animal to animal and can also affect humans. Symptoms include circular hair loss and reddened skin. However, skin fungus in dogs is not always “classic”. The veterinarian makes the diagnosis using microscopic examinations. Wood’s lamp, which represents the fluorescent glow of some types of mushrooms, can be used for this. In addition, it is possible to create a fungal culture to protect against dermatophytosis, i.e. skin fungus in dogs. The therapy of the skin fungus consists of oral antimycotics. Important: All other pets in the same household should be treated as well. Therapy can require patience and be made more difficult by additional bacterial infections.

Skin Parasites in Dogs

Ticks, fleas, and mites are common skin parasites in dogs. The uninvited guests can cause allergies and thus severe itching, for example from a flea bite allergy. A flea allergy prepares an ideal breeding ground for a bacterial infection. Mites can cause numerous skin symptoms such as itching, flaking, and redness. They also offer good conditions for bacterial and fungal infections and are the cause of mange.

Autoimmune Diseases

In autoimmune diseases, the dog’s immune system attacks its own body cells. Some canine autoimmune diseases target the skin. They are rare and difficult to diagnose. Symptoms include redness, blisters, crusts, or open ulcers. A first clue can be skin infections that do not respond to antibiotics. With mild local forms, the prospects of treatment with ointments and creams are good. But if the disease is widespread and also affects the mucous membranes, drugs that suppress the immune system are necessary. Autoimmune diseases usually require lifelong therapy.

Seborrhea in Dogs

Seborrhea is a disorder of cornification. Symptoms include dandruff, as well as greasy fur and an unpleasant odor. Ear infections can occur at the same time. Seborrhea can be hereditary and then requires lifelong therapy with medical care products. If parasites or infections have triggered the symptoms, the focus is on treating them.

Dog Ulcers and Lobes

Lie calluses usually only occur in XXL dogs. They form mainly on the sides of the elbows, but can also affect the hind legs. There the fur falls out, a callus forms. Subsequently, cracks can appear in the skin, which promotes infections. Painful pyoderma may develop. A soft bed and petroleum jelly prevent this. If the swelling is inflamed, the vet may prescribe oral antibiotics.

Dog Skin Tumors

Lumps or swellings on their dog’s skin are cause for concern for dog owners: Could a malignant skin tumor be behind it? Unfortunately yes. However, there are also many benign skin tumors. A visit to the vet creates clarity.

Benign tumors of the skin

  • Button tumor (histiocytoma): especially in young dogs, knots up to 3 cm in size, mostly spontaneous regression.
  • A fat tumor (lipoma): especially in older and overweight dogs. Soft and elastic swelling. Almost always benign.
  • Perianal tumors: mainly around the anus in males, hormone-dependent.
  • Viral papilloma: cauliflower-like and wart-like growth, caused by a virus and contagious to other members of the same species.

Malignant tumors of the skin

  • Mast cell tumor: mostly on the trunk or hind legs, different appearance, may itch.
  • Malignant melanoma: Often on the oral mucosa, scrotum, claw bed. Often darkly pigmented. Quickly metastasize.

Organ Diseases with Skin Symptoms

Skin changes such as hair loss or dandruff can be a sign that the body is out of balance. Thyroid or gastrointestinal disorders in the dog may show up on the skin. Internal tumors or Cushing’s syndrome, a disease of the adrenal gland, can also lead to skin problems in dogs. In addition to hair loss and recurring skin infections, symptoms include dark to black discoloration. Since there can be serious organ disorders behind supposedly harmless skin symptoms, a visit to the vet is always useful if dog owners notice skin changes on the skin of their four-legged friend.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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