Common skin problems

In certain breeds, and in certain areas, dogs can be especially susceptible to problems of the skin. However, all dogs are at risk of developing a skin condition sometime in their lives. There are many possible causes, one being a hereditary condition which makes the dog easily prone to such problems. Other common causes include parasites, including fleas, ticks, mites, and mange. In many cases skin problems are caused as a result of allergens which adversely affect the dog.

Dogs are always rolling around, running through, or simply just coming into contact with habitats that are filled with the responsible organisms for the majority of skin conditions. It is for this reason that owners should be aware of the more common skin problems their dogs can acquire. The treatment of skin conditions usually rely on discovering the cause. Once this is identified, the correct medication or care can be given.


Parasites are living organisms which live on another living organism, called the host, in order to survive. Parasites will usually lead to adverse health implications of the host but generally should not kill it. This is because it requires the host to live in order to survive. Parasites which can affect dogs include fleas, ticks and mites. It is often these parasites which are responsible for a great number of skin disorders in dogs. In most cases, parasites are very small and generally only easy to spot when they infest the host in large numbers.

Careful grooming and checking of the skin and coat condition of the dog can help to detect the possibility of external parasites.  Prevention is better than cure. Therefore in the case of fleas and ticks, preventative medication can be bought from the vets in order to greatly reduce the risk of parasitic skin conditions. As soon as any parasites are seen on the dog, treatment should be sought in order to prevent further problems from occurring.


Fleas themselves can be easily spotted on most dogs. The affected dog will scratch or chew itself constantly and will appear uncomfortable. If you run your hand through the fur, flea dirt can be seen attached to the fur and this is indicative of fleas. Additionally, a flea comb can be used. In order to remove fleas, veterinary products can be acquired and are usually very effective. The effectiveness may be non-existent if they are bought from the internet and the safest bet is to buy them form the vets. If an animal in your home is affected with fleas then other animals should also be treated which may live there. Additionally furniture and carpet sprays may be required to prevent a re-infestation.


Ticks have been included in this article since they can be found on the surface of the skin. These organisms feed off of the blood of the animal by embedding their heads under the skin, leaving their body visible. Incorrectly removing these ticks may leave the head to stay under the skin. As a result, infections can occur. Other side effects of ticks can include anaemia and, although this is specific to a certain type of tick, paralysis. A high infestation of ticks can often lead to the dog attempting to scratch them off.  Special tools resembling tweezers can be bought at the veterinary practice which can be used to correctly extract the entire tick from the dog, including the head.  

Mange and Mites

There are two types of mange which commonly affect dogs; demodex mange and sarcoptic mange. They are both cause by mites which attach themselves into the skin or follicles.  The signs and symptoms include scratching the affected areas or even chewing and licking them. Typically there is a resultant hair loss and the skin can become inflamed. If the dog is suspected of mange a trip to the vets is necessary. Here, advise may be given on as to whether all that is needed is some specially formulated sample or if medication is required, either administered in the form of injections or orally. Sarcoptic mange is much more contagious than demodex mange. In some cases, mange can prove to be fatal and so treatment should be sought immediately.

Another type of mite can affect the dog’s ears. Dogs with apparent skin irritation at the back of the ears are often affected by ear mites. The dog may shake its head, rubs its face along the floor and scratch the affected area. Treatment can include washing out the ears at the vets as well as certain medications.

 Prevention of ear mites requires high levels of hygiene and not allowing the ears to become too moist as this is the most favourable condition for the ear mites.



Dogs can be allergic to practically anything and one of the common reactions is the irritation of the skin. Allergens can include certain foods, pollen, dust, grass and cleaning products.  The skin will become irritated in that it may be red, swollen, hot and the dog may chew or scratch the affected area. Allergy tests are available and recommended in order to identify the cause of the allergic reactions and encourage their discontinuation.


Pyoderma is the name given for an infection which can affect the dog all over its body. Pus is produced from the affected areas, and if the chin is affected then this is usually a bacterial infection. Medication can be acquired from the vets and must be done so immediately. This is not a contagious disease.

Hormone Imbalance

Problems of too much or too little of specific hormones can lead to poor skin conditions. Dogs that produce too much oestrogen may end up with areas with a loss of fur. This is called hyper-oestrogenism. One form of skin problems which can occur as a result of a hormone imbalance can include Canine Black Skin Disease. Identification of hormone imbalances can sometimes be acquired by testing blood samples from the affected dog.  Hyperthyroidism is another form of hormone imbalance.


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