Dog Skin Infections: Common Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment


A devoted pet parent, pet store manager and animal shelter volunteer. Read more about me here.

Is your dog feeling itchy or has crusty, flaky, or moist skin? If yes, you might have to visit a vet - soon.

Dog skin conditions, such as bacterial skin infections and fungal skin infections, are the most common causes of treatment at pet clinics. Skin issues do not only cause discomfort for your furry friend but can also open the door for more serious conditions.

Moreover, skin infections in dogs are often secondary infections that indicate some underlying health issues. For good therapeutic success, you have to treat both.

For this reason, it's imperative to pay attention to all the skin problems your dog has, especially during the warmer seasons - when such issues tend to prevail. Visit the vet as soon as you notice any unusual symptoms:

The sooner dog skin infections are diagnosed, the better is the prognosis!

What Are The Most Common Dog Skin Problems?

Your dog can suffer from mild to severe skin conditions, with the most common skin conditions in dogs being:

  • Bacterial skin infections
  • Yeast infections
  • Fungal skin infections
  • Environmental allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Parasite allergies

Do All Skin Infections In Dogs Require Professional Treatment?

Most of the above-listed conditions will require professional treatment if you want to avoid further complications. If you do not address the issues right away, they can become complicated and more serious.

For instance, a skin condition that is a manifestation allergic reaction could, if left untreated, develop into secondary bacteria or fungal skin infections. And the bacterial infection or fungal infection will be much more difficult to treat.

So, it's best to take your dog to the vet whenever you notice signs of skin diseases. The vet will perform a complete physical examination and required skin tests to determine what caused the problem - and how to treat it.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Dog Skin Conditions?

A puppy with inflamed skin

The only way to know whether your dog is healthy or not is to observe changes in their appearance and behavior. If you notice something out of the ordinary, consult a vet.

When it comes to skin conditions, it's best to check your pet every couple of days and look for obvious symptoms - such as your pet scratching more than usual.

You should be on your toes whenever you introduce a new food or during the allergy season so that you can notice the potential allergic reactions in time. Note down all the changes you see - and report them to your veterinarian.

The more information your vet has, the sooner they can get a complete and accurate diagnosis of your dog's skin infection or allergy.

So, what are the most common symptoms you should be on the lookout for here?

Here's a quick overview:

  • Itching
  • Dry skin
  • Redness or inflamed skin
  • Rashes
  • Skin sores
  • Bumps
  • Lumps
  • Dandruff
  • Hair loss

Of all the listed symptoms, itching is the most common - and the most difficult to spot. Your dog can have an occasional itch under normal circumstances - that's perfectly fine.

So, how can you know when something more serious is going on?

Frequent or prolonged itching are some of the most obvious symptoms of dog skin conditions that call for concern. If you notice your pet is often rubbing its head against an object, scratching with its paws, or licking paws, you should consult a vet.

Read More: Heart Murmurs In Dogs: What Does It Mean For Your Pet?

What Are The 11 Most Common Skin Infections In Dogs?

From allergies and fungal skin infections or yeast dermatitis to staph infections and skin parasites, here are some common causes of skin conditions in dogs.

1. Environmental Allergies

If your dog suddenly starts itching all around its face, chest, and stomach, it might be having an environmental allergy. The condition's called "atopy" or atopic dermatitis and manifests itself by irritated, itchy skin.

The most common dog allergens are:

  • Grass
  • Dust mites
  • Pollen

This type of skin condition is diagnosed by a blood test. The treatment of environmental allergies can be long and challenging and requires special shampoos, ointments, tablets - or even injections.

Read More: Dog Blepharitis: Is It An Allergic Reaction Or Something Else? How To Cure It?

2. Food Allergies

If your pet experiences itching in the area of their face, feet, ears, and anus, you might be dealing with a dog food allergy. The most common allergens are proteins - beef, chicken, eggs, and dairy - but some dogs can suffer from allergies to wheat, fruit, and veggies, too.

These food intolerances are best diagnosed by special diets that last around 8-12 weeks and help your vet rule out different causes. Once that is done, the vet will recommend the proper type of treatment.

The most important step of the treatment is to stop feeding your dog any of the suspected allergens. If you do not do that, you risk your dog going into anaphylactic shock.

3. Folliculitis

When the hair follicles become inflamed, your dog can experience skin problems such as sores, bumps, and scabs.

This condition is known as folliculitis and usually occurs when your dog already has an underlying skin condition - such as mange.

The inflamed follicles could easily get infected with yeast or bacteria, so it's imperative to treat them ASAP. The treatment consists of special dog shampoos, oral antibiotics, and antibiotic ointments.

4. Impetigo

Impetigo is a skin condition that generally affects puppies and often indicates some other underlying skin condition.

The most common clinical signs of impetigo are blisters on the pup's stomach which can burst and scab over. The treatment should begin as soon as possible and generally consists of antibiotics and specially-designed washes prescribed by the vet.

5. Ringworm

Ringworm is not really a worm - it's a highly-contagious fungus.

This fungal infection manifests itself in dogs by circular, crusty bald patches. These patches are usually located on the dog's head, ears, front legs, and paws. Other symptoms include skin redness - which is a result of continuous itching and scratching.

The ringworm spreads quickly, and it's crucial that you take your dog to the vet immediately. The vet will prescribe a topical treatment that kills the ringworm and prevents this fungal skin infection from spreading onto other animals.

6. Yeast Infections

Yeast infections are a common occurrence - in humans and dogs alike. They are attracted by warm and moist areas of our bodies, such as the toes, groin, and perineum.

Yeast dermatitis can be very unpleasant - and in dogs, it causes the skin to thicken and become itchy. The itching sensation can be so irritating that the dog starts to bite at the infected area.

Besides the already-mentioned itchiness and redness, the most common clinical symptoms of yeast dermatitis include:

  • “Elephant skin” (thickened skin)
  • Hyperpigmentation or discoloration of the affected skin area (including black spots on dog skin)
  • Crusty, flaky, or scaly skin
  • Musty odor

Since yeast infections thrive in hard-to-reach areas, they often affect the dog's ear canal, too. For this reason, recurring or chronic ear infections (otitis externa) could be a warning symptom.

Yeast dermatitis is usually treated with a topical cream, special washes, or tablets. But only your vet can tell you what's the best method to relieve your dog's symptoms and help cure the infected areas.

7. Ticks And Fleas

Ticks and fleas bite your dog and suck on their blood. Their saliva irritates the dog's skin - and causes redness and itching.

Dogs suffering from parasite allergy feel the need to scratch and chew at their fur. In the most severe cases, their fur can start falling out in patches.

Pet parents can try to prevent parasitic infections by regular vacuuming, washing your pet’s bedding, and using various preventative treatments that repel or kill fleas and ticks.

8. Mange

Mange is a canine skin condition caused by the mites that live on your pet's hair and skin. It's a severe skin disease that should be addressed as soon as possible.

That said, there are two types of mange:

  • Demodectic Mange - It's caused by the Demodex mite and is prevalent in puppies younger than one year, older dogs, and dogs with another underlying condition.
  • Sarcoptic Mange - It's caused by Sarcoptes mites and usually affects the dog's ears.

The most common symptoms of mange are:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Loss of fur in dogs (usually on the face and legs)

If your dog has mange, you need to regularly wash their bedding and avoid contact with other animals. Most importantly, take the dog to the vet. The vet will diagnose the condition by taking a sample of the skin and looking at it under the microscope.

The usual treatment combines oral medication and special shampoos that kill the mite and relieve the symptoms. You could ask your vet to recommend some flea and worm products that can protect your pup against mange, as well.

9. Dandruff

Yes, your dog can get dandruff, too.

It's usually a result of dry skin - but it could also indicate an underlying issue such as skin infection. The problem might be in your dog's diet, too, so making sure it includes high-quality proteins and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids can help maintain a healthy coat.

Dandruff can easily be treated with shampoos - but first, make sure that there's no underlying skin infection.

10. Lupus

Dogs that have issues with their immune system could suffer from a condition called Lupus. It's an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks its own cells.

The usual symptoms of this immune disorder include open, crusty skin sores around the dog's nose, eyes, and paws.

Lupus can be very dangerous - especially if not treated in a timely manner.

11. Staphylococcal Infection

Staph infections can affect dogs of any breed or age, but seniors are at slightly greater risk due to the weakened immune system.

The bacterial skin infection is caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus sp - but can also be the result of secondary infections, such as chronic debilitating diseases, fungal infections of the blood, and various allergies.

The common symptoms of a staph infection in dogs include:

  • Pain
  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Hot spots on dog skin
  • Pus-filled lesions on the skin
  • Excessive licking
  • Chewing at skin
  • Patchy fur
  • Peeling, moist or crusty skin

Just like all the other bacterial infections, staph infections in dogs should be treated with topical or oral antibiotics. A staph infection is a bacterial skin infection that can be transmitted to humans, too, so be careful!

Final Advice

Skin infections in dogs, even though common, could still endanger your pet. And as every dog parent knows, your pet's health must be your number one priority!

Oh, and just a quick disclaimer:

The advice I've provided here is purely informational and does not constitute medical advice. You must visit your vet for professional help and an accurate diagnosis.

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About the Author

A devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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