It’s normal for dogs to scratch or lick their fur, but it could be a sign of something more serious when it becomes excessive or is combined with other symptoms. Dog dermatology is a branch of veterinary medicine that focuses on the skin, fur, and nails of our beloved canine companions. In this article, we will discuss the signs and symptoms of common skin problems in dogs, what tests may be performed to diagnose them, and the available treatments.

Pug face and muzzle with severe dermatitis.

Are Dermatology Issues Painful for My Dog?

Skin conditions can range from mildly irritating to painful for your canine. Some skin issues, such as atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis, cause intense itching and inflammation that can be very uncomfortable for your dog. Other issues, like bacterial or fungal infections, may cause pain when touched or make your dog’s skin feel raw and inflamed. If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to take your dog to the veterinarian for an evaluation.

What Are the Symptoms and Signs of Skin Conditions in Dogs?

There are a variety of symptoms and signs that may indicate that your dog is experiencing a skin condition. Common signs include excessive licking or scratching, redness or discoloration, inflammation, lesions or scabs, scaly patches, rashes, dry or flaky skin, bald patches, swelling, or lumps. If you notice any of these symptoms in your dog, make sure they are evaluated by a veterinarian.

What Diagnostic Tests Are Used for Skin Conditions in Dogs?

A variety of tests are used to help diagnose skin conditions in dogs. Common diagnostic tests include cytology, skin scrapings, trichograms, and skin biopsies. We may also recommend blood and urine tests or allergy tests to identify potential underlying causes or allergens that may be contributing to your dog’s skin condition. These tests help us provide an accurate diagnosis and the most effective treatment plan.

What Are the Most Common Skin Problems in Dogs and Their Treatments?

There are a variety of common skin problems that can affect dogs, including allergic dermatitis, parasitic infections, bacterial and fungal infections.

Allergic dermatitis is an allergic reaction to environmental irritants like tree and grass pollen, dust, mold, mites, and cat dander. Symptoms include redness, itchy rashes (especially on the face, feet, chest, and stomach), and secondary bacterial and fungal infections of the skin and ears. Treatment for allergic dermatitis may include topical treatments such as antibiotics ointments or corticosteroid preparations; systemic treatments such as whole-body antibiotics or antifungals; natural remedies such as oatmeal baths; or steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone.

Parasitic infections like mange (caused by mites) can result in sores and lesions on the skin, severe scabbing, hair loss, and itchiness. Sarcoptic mange (canine scabies) is highly contagious to both dogs and humans, while demodectic mange is usually seen in dogs with compromised immune systems. Treatment includes topical treatments such as medicated shampoos or topical insecticides; systemic treatments such as antiparasitics; natural remedies like oatmeal baths; or steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone.

Bacterial and fungal infections often require specific treatments like antibiotics or antifungal medications. Depending on your dog’s condition, treatment may include topical treatments such as antibiotic ointments; systemic treatments like whole-body antibiotics or antifungals; natural remedies such as oatmeal baths; or steroids like prednisone or dexamethasone.

English Bulldog getting wrinkles wiped due to yeast in folds.

What Are the Potential Consequences of Leaving a Dog’s Skin Condition Untreated?

Leaving a dog’s skin condition untreated can lead to serious complications. For instance, an allergic reaction may become secondarily infected with bacteria, or a bacterial infection may also become infected with yeast. Over time, these conditions can become significantly more severe, resulting in further discomfort or pain and potentially leading to more serious health problems.

The importance of treating dog skin conditions extends beyond the immediate physical well-being of the pet. Pets with a dry, flaky, or unkempt coat may be suffering from conditions such as thyroid disease, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), kidney or liver disease, or nutritional disorders. The skin and coat form the largest organ in dogs and cats, comprising around 10% to 15% of their total body weight. The skin and coat play vital roles in their health, functioning as an important part of the immune system and critical to maintaining proper hydration.

What is the Difference Between Atopic Dermatitis and Contact Dermatitis?

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) and Contact Dermatitis are two common types of dermatitis that can affect pets, particularly dogs. Atopic Dermatitis is a genetically predisposed inflammatory and pruritic allergic skin disease with characteristic clinical features. It typically affects dogs between 6 months and 3 years of age. Symptoms may include pruritus (itching), which often has a characteristic distribution such as the face, ears, feet, and groin; secondary bacterial infections due to self-trauma and secondary infections; scaling, crusting, reddening of the skin; and hair loss.

  • Contact Dermatitis is caused by direct contact with an irritant or allergen. This can include things like certain types of grass, plants, carpets, cleaning products, and more. Unlike Atopic Dermatitis, Contact Dermatitis is not a result of a genetic predisposition but rather an environmental factor to which the pet has been exposed.
  • Atopic Dermatitis is typically treated with medications such as steroids, antifungal medications, and antihistamines. It can also be managed with medicated baths that help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation. Treatment for Contact Dermatitis usually involves identifying and removing the irritant or allergen causing the condition.

Yellow labrador, shepherd mix with severe skin and dermatology ailments.

What Are Curable Versus Incurable Skin Problems in Dogs?

The good news is that many skin problems in dogs are curable. These include bacterial and fungal infections, allergies, parasitic infections such as mange, and other skin conditions. It’s important to consult with your vet as soon as possible to ensure prompt diagnosis and treatment of these conditions.

On the other hand, some skin disorders in dogs are incurable. Chronic Dermatitis is an example of an incurable skin disorder that can persist for a certain period and can be aggravated by a food allergy or flea saliva. While it cannot be cured, it can be managed with regular veterinary care which may involve sensitivity tests followed by a course of antibiotics lasting two to three months or longer in severe cases.


At Urban Veterinary Associates, we understand the importance of proper veterinary care for pets, including their skin. We strive to provide the highest-quality service and best care to pet owners and their beloved canine companions. The information provided in this article is intended to help pet owners better understand skin problems in dogs as well as the signs and symptoms, diagnostic tests, treatments, and potential consequences of leaving a skin condition untreated. For additional information about common dog skin issues, visit the ASPCA.

If you live in or near Westmont, IL, contact us today at (630) 541-8088 to set an appointment or if you have any questions about dog dermatology.