If your dog is scratching wildly, constantly licking, or even nibbling at their skin, you may be dealing with a dog skin rash.
In general, a dog skin rash will fall into one of two camps. It’s either caused by an infection or an allergy. Understanding which one you’re dealing with is the key to helping your buddy find relief ASAP.
On the spectrum of dog health issues, skin conditions like rashes are fairly common. While many dogs suffer from skin problems, they shouldn’t be ignored. Read through this dog skin rash guide to understand what you’re dealing with, and how to best handle things.
If your dog has a rash, it’s quite possible that an allergy is to blame. When a dog’s immune system is hypersensitive (or “allergic”) to a something, their body may overreact when it comes in contact with that substance. This reaction can be harmful to the dog’s body.
A pet allergy is typically caused by a protein from a specific plant, insect, animal, or food. Your dog might’ve brushed up against, ate, or inhaled an allergen that caused a reaction.1
Here are a few types of dog skin allergies:
Contact dermatitis simply means that a dog touched something that irritated their skin. This could be:
- Poison ivy
- Salt on the road
- Harsh soaps or detergents
- Certain plants, mulch, or fertilizers
- Flea collars
- Rugs, carpets, or concrete2
The item itself could be an irritant – like poison ivy – or your pup could have a specific allergy to something, like certain ingredients in soaps.
Signs and Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis
- Dog skin rash in the place of contact – the area of the neck that rubs against a flea collar, for example.
- Skin irritation on the area of the dog’s body that touches the ground – like the chin, chest, groin, abdomen, and between the toes
- Severe itching
- Secondary skin lesions from scratching
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infections from scratching3
What To Do If Your Dog Has a Skin Rash
If you see a rash on your dog’s skin, your first objective will be to find the irritant. Call your vet for help. Rashes may not be life-threatening in and of themselves, but your dog can do real damage to their skin with heavy, incessant scratching.4
- Create an Epsom salt soak to discourage infection and reduce swelling.5
- Soothe itchy skin with an oatmeal shampoo bath.
- Improve your dog’s diet to boost their immune system.
- Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, or steroids in severe cases.
Keep in mind that some products that are great for humans, like tea tree oil, may be toxic to pets. Always check out the ingredients and ask your vet before you apply something to your dog’s skin.
Atopic dermatitis is a fancy way of saying that your dog is allergic to something that gave them a rash. It’s incredibly common and is not contagious. Typically, the rash is caused by exposure to a protein, either in your dog’s diet, or in the environment.6
Food Allergies from Your Dog’s Diet
Just like humans, dogs can have food allergies. These allergies can range from itchy and irritated skin to a more severe reaction.
For dogs, the most common allergens are certain types of meat, eggs, corn, wheat, soy, and milk.7 These also happen to be some of the most common ingredients in commercial dog food, so reactions are common.
Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies
You can tell that the allergic reaction is caused by something in the diet because the skin reaction won’t be seasonal. Skin conditions will typically flare up around the ears and rears of dogs.8,9
- Skin conditions, like itchy skin, hives, and facial swelling
- Gastrointestinal signs, like vomiting and diarrhea
- In rare cases, an acute allergic reaction, or anaphylaxis, can occur.
What To Do If Your Dog Has a Food Allergy
First off, call your vet. You’ll want to determine the cause of your dog’s skin reactions. If your dog is showing severe signs of a food intolerance beyond skin irritation – like vomiting, seek help from your vet immediately.
If your dog has itchy skin here and there, there are many things you can do at home to help ease an allergy-related skin rash.
In all cases, you first must determine what your dog is allergic to, so you can cut it out.
- Experts recommend a strict elimination diet for this. Work with your vet to develop a plan.10
- Relieve Fido’s itchy skin with aloe vera gel or a diluted apple cider vinegar mixture.11
- Treat your dog to a bath with naturally medicated shampoo to relieve itchy skin.
Some dogs are born extra-sensitive to allergens like pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and animal dander. If your dog has seasonal allergies that get worse at certain times of the year, you can bet that you’re dealing with environmental allergies.12
Certain breeds are more prone to environmental allergies than others.
Signs and Symptoms of Environmental Allergies
When a dog’s body reacts to environmental allergens, these symptoms can occur:
- Skin inflammation
- Irritated skin
- Severe itching
- Ear infections
- Chewing, biting, and licking of the skin as a way to soothe the itchiness. This can lead to skin lesions or hair loss.
- Runny nose or watery eyes14
What To Do If Your Dog Has Environmental Allergies
If you suspect your dog is suffering from environmental allergies, call your vet for advice. Because dogs spend a lot of time outdoors, it can be difficult to avoid allergens altogether.
Your vet may want to test for allergies, prescribe antihistamines or corticosteroids, or recommend a cream or spray that can help.
How to Naturally Manage Environmental Allergies
If your dog has atopic dermatitis, there are several things you can do to help manage it and make your pup more comfortable year round.
Apple Cider Vinegar can help soothe itchy skin.
If your dog has red, itchy paws, you can dilute ACV and give your dog a soothing foot bath.
If everything seems to itch, try mixing apple cider vinegar with cold green tea and rinsing your dog’s whole body after a shampoo.
Herbs like nettles and astragalus contain antifungal properties.
You can saute fresh nettles with coconut oil and add the mixture to your pup’s food.
Or you can try making a tea and giving your pup a few drops at a time.15
Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help regulate inflammation.16 Seek out natural sources of omega-3’s to add to your dog’s diet. Dogs don’t produce this on their own.
A daily natural supplement that contains ingredients like Juvecol, Quercetin, and Nettle Lead can regulate histamine production, reduce inflammation and promote better skin health.
Flea Bite Allergies
An allergic reaction to flea bites, known by vets as flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), is one of the most common causes of a dog skin rash.
When a flea bites Fido, it injects saliva that contains antigens or proteins that cause an intensely itchy reaction.17 As a response, the dog’s immune system has a severe reaction.
Signs and Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis
For dogs with flea bite allergies, the severity of itching doesn’t necessarily correlate to the number of flea bites they are dealing with. Dogs can have an intense reaction to even a few bites. So, even if you don’t see any fleas crawling on Fido, don’t rule out FAD.
Flea allergies often spike in the summer and can be recognized by these symptoms:
- The flea bites cause pruritus, aka itchy skin
- Scratching, licking, rubbing, chewing, and even nibbling at the skin – especially on the rump and base of the tail
- Skin lesions, flaky skin, and hair loss caused by intense itching
- Your dog’s skin may feel hot to the touch
- Secondary yeast or bacterial infections18-20
What To Do If Your Dog Has Flea Allergy Dermatitis
The best way to treat flea allergy dermatitis is to remove fleas from your pet and their environment.21
- Ask your vet for a medication that can safely remove your dog’s fleas. These usually come as a topical cream or a monthly pill.
- Clean your pet’s environment by vacuuming floors, throwing out old bedding, and washing all linens.
- Upgrade your dog’s diet. Switching to high quality, all natural dog food will help boost Fido’s immune system.
- Proper grooming can help relieve symptoms and soothe irritated skin.22
- If your dog’s skin sores become infected, your vet may have to prescribe antibiotics
If your dog is having skin problems, and you’ve ruled out allergies as the cause, they might have an infection.
How Do Infections Occur?
Bacteria and fungi naturally live on the skin. Usually, this is all well and good. But if your dog has an underlying health issue, like a weak immune system, the bacteria or fungus can grow and cause a skin infection.
Here are some common infections that can cause rashes in dogs:
This infection is caused by bacteria like staphylococcus pseudintermedius, also called a staph infection. Impetigo primarily affects puppies. It is frequently called puppy Impetigo. This strain of bacteria is highly contagious and can be hard to eliminate.
Signs and Symptoms of Puppy Impetigo
- Areas of acne or skin rash
- Small patches of inflamed skin
- Skin infections and pus-filled blisters23
What To Do If Your Dog Has Impetigo
Call your vet for a complete assessment and diagnosis. They will typically prescribe medicated shampoos, creams, or antibiotics. Since this issue is usually caused by a compromised immune system, anything you can do at home to make your dog healthy is a good idea.
- Improve your dog’s diet by feeding them an all natural, raw food.
- Consider adding supplements, like omega-3’s, to your dog’s diet.
- Thoroughly clean your pup’s environment.
If a dog has irritated, itchy skin and they smell a little stinky, they may be dealing with a yeast infection.
Yeast is caused by a fungus that is normally found on your dog’s skin. If a dog’s immune system is compromised, an abnormal amount of yeast can grow on the skin, and infection is born.
Yeast infections have to do with the balance of yeast in your dog’s body, and they are not contagious. Yeast infections often flare up in your dog’s ears, but they can affect all areas of their skin.24
Signs and Symptoms of a Yeast Infection
- Visible skin irritation and severe itchiness
- Inflammation around the ears and other areas of the body
- Foul smelling, dry skin
- Head shaking (if the infection is in the ear)25
What To Do If Your Dog Has a Yeast Infection
Call your vet. They may prescribe an oral or topical medication, depending on the severity of the infection. Your goal at home is to help boost your dog’s immune system.
- Address your dog’s diet. Yeast thrives on sugar, so check to make sure your dog’s food doesn’t contain things like honey or high fructose corn syrup. Switch to an all natural, raw diet.
- Coconut oil has natural antifungal properties, and it can do wonders to beat back yeast.26
- Apply diluted raw, organic apple cider vinegar to the infected area.
- Bathe your dog using natural, antifungal products.
Other Infections That Can Cause Dog Skin Rash
- Parasitic infections, like ear mites, ticks, sarcoptic mange, and demodectic mange
- Folliculitis, a bacterial infection
- Ringworm, a fungal infection
We hate to see our pups suffer! If your dog has an itchy skin rash, there are a ton of things you can do right away at home to bring them relief from their skin problems. Natural remedies like coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, histamine-balancing supplements, and omega-3 supplements can help your dog. And they may be all you need.
If you’re dealing with a serious, persistent rash, you’re always better off calling your vet to get professional advice. Your vet can determine whether your dog’s skin rash is due to yeast, mites, mange, or some other condition.
And lastly, never underestimate the power of strengthening your dog’s immune system with a balanced, nutritious diet. This can be one of the best ways to help keep infectious rashes from ever starting.
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