What are some common dog skin conditions?

Long, short, smooth, thick, silky, curly, double and even wire, our canine friends are often recognised for their distinctive fur coats and the countless shapes and sizes they come in. But have you stopped to think about what’s under all that floof? Believe it or not, skin diseases and disorders are among the most common conditions dogs suffer from, but many go unnoticed and untreated. What are the causes? How do you tell the signs? Join us as we take you through some of the common skin conditions in dogs, how to treat them and if dogs can transfer skin conditions to humans.


Different Types of Common Skin Conditions in Dogs:

  1. Bacterial skin infections, or pyoderma, are one of the most common diseases in dogs. There are various types of pyoderma that affect the outer layer of the skin to the lower layers. Depending on the breed of dog, pyoderma is generally caused by allergies, skin infections, immune disorders or is secondary to another illness or disease.

The different types of bacterial infections in dogs include:

  • Hot spots, also called pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis, are skin lesions that are red, inflamed, moist and usually quite itchy. They appear quickly on the surface of the skin and can spread rapidly. The most common areas hot spots are found is on the head, legs and hips.

Hot spots often start as an itch; then, as the dog continues to scratch, lick and irritate the area, it creates an open wound causing bacterial infections. The initial itch can be triggered for a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Food allergies
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Parasites
  • Ear or skin infections
  • Poor grooming
  • Stress or boredom
  • Orthopaedic problems
  • Anal gland inflammation
  • Contact irritants
  • Trapped or excessive moisture from being in water

While hot spots are relatively common and easily treated, it is essential to find the underlying cause to prevent them from reoccurring in the future. Typical treatment of hot spots involves removing the fur from the area, keeping the wound clean, using topical or oral antibiotics or steroids and ensuring your dog does not irritate the wound any further.

  • Intertrigo or skin fold dermatitis is another type of surface pyoderma and is regularly found in dogs with skin folds. The friction between the two skins’ surfaces causes irritation, leading to abrasions. Lack of air, combined with bodily secretions and open wounds, ultimately results in bacterial and yeast infections. Controlling the moisture and friction in these areas is an important factor in managing intertrigo. Symptoms include pink or red skin, irritation, bad odour, hair loss and sores, pimples and scabs.
  • Bacterial overgrowth syndrome, or BOGS, is a condition of the small intestine where there are increased numbers of bowel bacteria. This bacteria damages the absorptive surface of the bowel. As a result, the body cannot absorb the digested food and thus causes malabsorption of nutrients. Signs of BOGS include smelly, itchy and greasy skin as well as weight loss and diarrhoea – though they won’t necessarily lose their appetite. You will also notice redness on the underside of their body.
  • Folliculitis is the inflammation of the hair follicles, typically caused by a bacterial infection – however, in some cases, it can also be caused by a viral or fungal infection. Symptoms of folliculitis include redness and swelling, itchiness, papules or pustules, hair loss, epidermal collarettes, hyperpigmentation, drainage tracts, sensitivity and pain and blackheads. Underlying diseases, trauma, other skin conditions or breed-specific issues can cause the hair follicle to become irritated, damaged or infected, resulting in folliculitis. Treatment is dependent on whether your dog suffers from bacterial, fungal, endocrine disorder or parasite-induced folliculitis.
  • Impetigo or puppy pyoderma is, as the name suggests, a skin infection prevalent in puppies due to their immature immune system. Developing red spots or puss-filled blisters on their stomach and other areas with little fur, puppy pyoderma is itchy but thankfully not contagious to humans or other animals. It’s usually mild and can be treated with a topical cream in healthy puppies.
  • Furunculosis, acne, acral lick granuloma and callus pyoderma are lower-layer skin conditions that develop if surface and superficial pyoderma goes untreated or skin follicles rupture.


  1. Fungal infections occur when a fungus overgrows and invades the skin tissue. It’s an inflammatory skin condition that can be contracted from other animals, the environment or the overproduction of naturally present fungi in the body. Fungal dog skin conditions are contagious, treatable and generally a long-term task to manage.
  • Ringworm or dermatophytes is caused by a collection of pathogenic fungi. Presenting itself as round, red rings on the body, this fungus grows and lives on the outermost layer of the skin and in the hair follicles. It’s extremely contagious and can be spread through direct contact, whether that be between dogs, dogs and humans or an animal or human that comes in contact with contaminated objects. If your dog is suffering from hair loss, itchiness, flaky or crusty skin, brittle nails or red rings on their skin, we recommend you seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible and isolate your dog from others.
  • Yeast infections are one of the most common skin conditions in dogs and are caused by the abnormal overgrowth of yeast that is naturally found on your dog's skin. These spore-like budding forms of fungi are exceptionally uncomfortable for your dog and may indicate that there are further underlying health concerns that need addressing. Yeast infections generally occur in moist environments, such as the paw pads, skin (especially folds) and ears, making the area itchy, red and irritated. If you notice your dog’s skin change colour, become greasy, scaly or smells and they are paying particular attention to the area by shaking, scratching, licking or presenting with a head tilt, then it is worth discussing with your veterinarian about medical or at-home treatments and preventative measures for the future. Other signs include hair loss, drooling, swelling and crusty skin.

A yeast infection can develop in one of two ways. An overactive immune system in a dog can trigger an allergic reaction and lead to a yeast infection. While an underactive immune system can develop yeast overgrowth and infection in a dog.

  1. Parasites, specifically common external parasites, include fleas, ticks, mange, ear mites and lice. These external parasites can be very frustrating for your dog and can lead to serious skin and health conditions. Easily treated and managed, prevention is always the best cure when it comes to these tiny critters.
  • Fleas are small parasitic insects that latch onto your dog’s skin and coat and feed on their blood. Small, dark and wingless fleas have extremely strong back legs, which allow them to jump from body to body. Wasting no time, female fleas lay eggs within twenty-four hours of finding a new host, producing up to fifty eggs per day. These eggs fall from your pet and hatch within one to ten days – where the larvae then nestle into carpets, furniture and soil before spinning themselves into a sticky cocoon called pupa. Inside the pupa, the flea can develop in less than ten days or lie dormant for up to twelve months, often hatching when the temperatures increase. The adult flea’s life cycle can be anywhere from one week to six months, depending on its environment. Believe it or not, the fleas you see only count for approximately 5% of the total population. The other 95% are the eggs, larva and pupa. Given the complexity of the flea life cycle, it is imperative that you ensure continuous flea protection to prevent infestation and severe illnesses in your dog.

Adaptable and extremely mobile, your dog can catch fleas from just about anywhere – the outdoors, indoors, other dogs, unwashed bedding, grass and so on. Signs your dog has fleas include scratching, licking, hair loss, pale gums, red bumps, irritated skin, flea eggs, flea dirt (looks like scattered pepper) and seeing the little insects darting across the skin – usually to warmer areas such as the neck, ears, genitals and leg folds. To get rid of fleas, you need to first treat the adult fleas on your dog’s coat with either oral or topical flea control or shampoos, prescription flea medication or non-prescription flea medication. You will then need to clean your environment. This includes but is not limited to washing all the bedding, vacuuming, and mowing the lawn. Lastly, ensure you have ongoing parasite protection, such as flea treatments. Fleas also like human blood, so it’s not just your dog who is at risk.

  • Ticks, like fleas, feed on the blood of their hosts. With almost nine-hundred tick species, these arachnids can cause serious and life-threatening illnesses in dogs, humans, other mammals, birds and reptiles. Spreading diseases through their mouth, ticks are often found in wooded areas, brush or other dense shrubberies and look like little black or brown bugs/beetles. Ticks cannot fly or jump, only crawl – and they can usually be found on warm pockets of your dog, such as their paws (especially in between their toes), head, neck, ears, genitals, tail and leg folds. Proven tick prevention treatments, regular body checks and proper tick removal are essential to keeping your dog safe. If your dog is showing signs of paralysis, loss of coordination, vomiting, coughing, a decrease in appetite, trouble breathing or lethargy after being bitten by a tick, take them to a vet immediately.
  • Mange is a skin disease caused by microscopic parasites called mites. Found at the hair follicles, there are two types of mange - sarcoptic and demodectic.

Spread by direct contact, sarcoptic mange or scabies, as it is more frequently referred to, is highly contagious and can be transmitted between animals and humans. Though, it is less common than demodectic mange and regularly found in homeless dogs or those suffering from a compromised immune system. Symptoms include severe itching, hair loss, redness, self-inflicted wounds from irritation, crusted lesions, decreased appetite, emaciation, lethargy and overall weakness.

Demodectic mange is caused by Demodex – tiny parasitic mites that live in or near the hair follicles of the skin. These are normal inhabitants of the hair follicle and are typically found in very low numbers. It is when the immune system is immature or compromised that the mites are able to overgrow, causing hair loss, redness, lesions, pigmentation, papules, thickening of the skin, itchiness and scaling. Usually, transmitted between a mother and puppy during feeding, demodectic mange is not contagious to humans or among other dogs.

Sarcoptic and demodectic mange is both preventable and treatable skin conditions.

  • Otodectes or ear mites are barely visible to the human eye and live on the surface of the skin. They’re highly contagious, particularly in puppies and can cause itchy and irritated ears. Signs of an infestation are brownish wax in your dog’s ears, as well as inflammation, redness, hair loss, lesions and obvious discomfort - scratching at the ears and shaking their heads. Ear mites can be treated with a number of medications, topical creams or injections.
  • Even dogs aren’t immune to the pesky parasites that invade our human scalps. Though, they are a different species and not nearly as common. Dog lice, or canine pediculosis, function similarly to human lice in that they feed on blood and can be transmitted through direct or close contact. There are two types, trichodectes canis – where the lice chew on the skin of the dog and linognathus setosus – where the lice suck the blood of the dog. Both types are uncomfortable for your pooch but easy to treat if addressed early on. If left unchecked, it can lead to an infestation over your dog’s entire body. While lice don’t move from one species to another, humans can be bitten; though, it will not lead to an infestation.
  1. Allergic dermatitis, generally encompassing all aspects of food and environmental allergies, is as customary in dogs as it is in humans.
  • Environmental allergies or atopic dermatitis can be triggered by things such as grass, pollen, dust and insects (including fleas) and normally present as red, itchy rashes and hair loss on the paws, chest, stomach and face. Some can even cause brownish tear stains under the eyes. These environmental irritants are often seasonal and can be challenging to treat, depending on the diagnosis and external factors involved.
  • Food allergies present similar symptoms to environmental allergies – hair loss, increased itching, inflammation and redness on the paws, face, ears and genital region. If untreated, however, it can lead to hyperactivity, weight loss, lethargy, aggression, chronic ear infections and gastrointestinal problems. Protein is the most common food allergen in dogs – occurring when the dog’s immune system identifies the protein from the food, or any food ingredient they’re allergic to, as an invader prompting an immune response. Each time they consume this food, the antibodies react with the antigens, and the symptoms will appear. Determining what your dog is allergic to will be a process of elimination that your vet can guide you through.
  1. Autoimmune diseases in dogs occur when the body’s immune system cannot distinguish the difference between the good and the bad cells. As a result, the hyperactive immune system attacks and destroys its own cells by mistake, causing serious illnesses. Affecting single or multiple body systems, some common autoimmune skin diseases or immune-mediated skin diseases in dogs include:
  • Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
  • Discoid Lupus Erythematosus
  • Pemphigus Complex
  • Bullous Pemphigoid
  • Alopecia (Hormonal)
  • Fungal Infections

Signs of an autoimmune skin disease or immune-mediated skin disease in dogs are blisters, sores, pustules, ulcers, crusted/flaky skin, redness, irritation, itchiness, oozing fluid, hair loss, thickened skin, discolouration and pigmentation. Secondary bacterial infections are also common.

If you believe your dog is suffering from an autoimmune skin disease or immune-mediated skin disease, we recommend consulting with your veterinary specialist at your earlier convenience for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

  1. Seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis is a common skin disorder that causes excessive flaking, scaling, itching and redness of the skin – one that we often refer to as dandruff. Predominately affecting the back, face, sides and folds of the skin, Seborrhea is due to the overproduction of sebum in the sebaceous glands. There are two types - Seborrhea Sicca (a dry skin condition) and Seborrhea Oleosa (an oily skin condition). Though, most dogs have a combination of the two.

Seborrhea can be a primary disease that is inherited or a secondary disease that is related to an underlying medical issue, such as allergies, parasites, fungal or bacterial infections, hormonal imbalances and dietary abnormalities.

  1. Skin lumps and bumps are a familiar sight on dogs and fall into several categories. While many are common and often harmless, it is important to note developing lumps and bumps on your dog and have them examined to rule out anything sinister. These are not contagious dog skin conditions.

What are some of the common types of skin lumps and bumps that can be found on your dog?

  • Skin tags
  • Sebaceous cysts
  • Warts
  • Lipomas
  • Abscesses
  • Button tumours
  • Mast cell tumours

If your pooch develops a hard, irregularly shaped or rapidly growing lump or any existing lumps change in size, texture or colour, we suggest seeking veterinary advice as soon as possible.


Best Diet and Best Food for Dog Skin Conditions:

Diet and food are an integral part of your dog’s overall health, and although they cannot prevent your dog from developing a skin condition, they can help with food allergies, sensitivities, and inflammation and provide nutrients to support healthy skin. So, what is the best diet for dogs with skin conditions and the best food for dogs with skin conditions?

  • Hydrolysed Diets:

This is when the proteins in the food are broken down into tiny pieces using hydrolysis/hydrolysation. By breaking down the pieces using this water-based chemical process, the proteins essentially become invisible to the dog’s immune system. As protein is a crucial ingredient in a dog’s diet, your dog is able to both consume and digest the protein without triggering an immune reaction.

  • General Skin Care Diets:

These diets are high in vitamins b, c and e, amino acids, Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, antioxidants, proteins, zinc and minerals.

  • Novel Protein Diets:

This is a diet where you feed your pet a protein source they have never eaten before, such as duck, kangaroo or venison. It’s an alternative, non-prescription option to a hydrolysed diet and is usually more affordable. Make certain that you check the ingredients in novel protein foods to ensure it only has one meat source and no other poultry by-products or fillers.

  • Fish-Based Diets:

Rising in popularity due to their high levels of protein and skin-supporting nutrients, fish-based diets are a great option for dogs with dry or crusty skin, inflammation, allergies or who need grain-free food.

There are over one hundred and sixty different types of skin conditions that can affect a dog. Some are common, some are contagious, some are caused by environmental factors, some are treatable, some are chronic, but most importantly, nearly all of them are uncomfortable. It’s imperative to act immediately if your dog is showing any signs of a skin disease or disorder and provide the appropriate treatment and prevention plan, as well as rule out any underlying medical conditions.


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