Guide to Dog Skin Diagnosis, Symptoms Treatment and Disease Prevention

Like humans, our canine friends are susceptible to a variety of dog skin problems that can result in signs and symptoms ranging from mild dryness or irritated skin to powerful scratching and pain and even infection. In fact, skin allergies and fleas are the leading causes for a trip to the veterinarian. The skin is the body’s largest and most visible organ, and given it’s role in protecting the body and preventing disease, it’s no wonder that it is a common concern for dog owners.

The purpose of this site it to help dog owners determine what to do when you notice any type of dog skin problem. The answer to this concern of course depends on the severity and kind of problem you have noticed.

Symptoms provide a clue regarding that nature of the problem.  While symptoms such as dog skin itch are common to many problems, it helps to investigate and eliminate the most common causes first. Just know that if you observe a combination of dog symptoms such as extremely itchy skin, red pus filled lesions or hair loss, see a veterinarian as soon as possible. Extreme dog symptoms are impossible to treat at home without a specific diagnosis and treatment plan.

If your dog has a mild itch or has mild shedding or flaking of the skin such as dandruff, there are a few actions you can take in your home to get a handle on the issue before it becomes much more serious.

Check Dog Skin for Fleas First

The very first thing you should do whenever you see your dog is scratching or losing hair is to evaluate the likelihood of a small flea problem. A number of people make the mistake of presuming that if they don’t see any fleas on the dog or in the home that the household pets are free of fleas. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Fleas are sneaky and hard to find. It only takes a few fleas to cause major skin issues. They affect pets year-round (not just in the summer as some individuals wrongly believe).

To check your dog for fleas, start by buying and using a flea comb to thoroughly check your dog’s coat for fleas. In a well-lit room, have someone hold your pet while working the flea comb through the dog’s hair. Pay special attention to the rump, just above the tail as well as the backs of the thighs. If you observe even one flea, then fleas are probably the problem and you must start your pets on a flea preventative without delay. Not all flea preventives are created equal, so speak to your vet’s office for a product suggestion. The office should be able to recommend something that is over-the-counter and doesn’t necessarily require an office visit.

Consider Dog Allergy Next

If fleas are eliminated as the cause, then the next step is to consider some type of allergy. The top causes of a dog skin allergy are  contact allergy, environmental allergy, or food allergy. These types of allergies are typically not easy to diagnose. In general, if a dog is suffering from moderate itch, an owner can address the symptoms at home with a  dog antihistamine that contains diphenhydramine as the active ingredient. Vets will suggest a dosage of 1 milligram per pound, but be sure to contact your vet for a recommendation that makes sense for your specific dog. It can also help to wash your dog with a colloidal oatmeal shampoo once or twice every week for some mild anti-itching benefit. Be cautious with any over-the-counter sprays or medicated skin solutions – some of them can be irritating.

Dog Skin Home Remedies

For mild dog skin conditions such as dry skin, itch, flaking or dandruff, you dog can find some relief with something as simple as the use of a shampoo that contains colloidal oatmeal. Moisture can also be restored with a humectant spray.  If you know the underlying cause of your dog’s condition, then various types of shampoo therapy may be appropriate, such as the use of a medicated shampoo.

Supplements such as those that contain Fatty Acids or Zinc can also be of benefit in restoring skin condition.

When to See the Veterinarian

If you notice at any point that your dog’s skin condition is getting worse despite your efforts at home, call your vet and make an appointment. Hair loss, red or inflamed skin, and oozing of skin lesions are all symptoms that indicate that more care and a specific diagnosis is required. Also see your veterinarian if any dog skin scratching or itch is causing hair loss, inflammation and redness.  Puppy skin problems should always be shown to a vet since they have problems such as worms and mange which can cause a range of canine skin conditions.

Pictures: Washington State University, Dog Skin Allergies