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Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin?

By Ameera Mills. Updated: September 2, 2018
Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin?

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Dogs can sometimes experience skin irritation which can appear as red or itchy areas on the skin. This irritation can cause severe discomfort for our canines. Skin irritation is dogs is known as dermatitis. The causes for skin problems in dogs can vary, therefore, if you notice that your dog is experiencing skin aggravation, it is important to go to your veterinarian as soon as possible. A veterinarian will be able to diagnose the infection or condition and treat it appropriately.

In this AnimalWised article we will cover what to do if your dog has irritated skin. We will be discussing possible causes of this irritation and ways to solve this problem. It is important to know that often skin conditions are not incredibly serious, but do have to be treated.

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Why does my dog have irritated skin?

The most important thing to find out first is the cause of this irritation. Common skin irritations appear as dermatitis, hot spots or sores. Dogs of all ages can be affected by these skin reactions. If any of these conditions are apparent, it must be a veterinarian who, after performing tests and reviews, determines a diagnosis. In order to help you and you vet come to this diagnosis, it is important to consider these following factors:

  • Data on the lifestyle of our dog, that is, in what environment he lives or walks, when, how long, what is his relationship with other animals, etc.
  • Diet.
  • Dates and type of antiparasitic medicines used in the past and present. As well as any extra medication that the dog has consumed. If your dog has been treated for skin irritation before, we should also notify the veterinarian.
  • How the irritation started and if it is the first time your dog is experiencing this.
  • Take into account if it occurs only at a certain time of the year.
  • Observe if there is a presence of pruritus and if it is mild, moderate or intense.
  • Check to see if the irritation is localized or widespread on the skin. In the latter case, we must know at what speed the infection has spread.
  • It is also important to note the characteristics of the injuries, such as: shape, coloring, if there has been a formation of wounds, etc.
  • Lastly, you need to confirm whether your dog has suffered from any other symptoms.

In addition to this data, your dog has to be examined by a veterinarian. A vet will be able to perform: skin and hair samples, scrapes, cultures, biopsies or allergy tests.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs

This condition presupposes a predisposition in a dog to develop hypersensitive reactions to different allergens located in the environment. The skin will appear irritated, inflamed and itchy as a reaction to mites, pollens, spores, etc. Dermatitis usually occurs in young dogs between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. The lesions can be seasonal or can manifest throughout the year. The irritated area can also be located or spread to other areas of the body. Because this causes itchiness in a dog, they will naturally scratch the sensitive area. This scratching can often present wounds, alopecia and other complications. Scratching can also develop into otitis or conjunctivitis.

Atopic dermatitis is a treatable be incurable disease, therefore, it will always be present in the dog’s life. However, if they are constantly treated, the effects and symptoms can be controlled. Contact with allergens should be avoided as much as possible. In general, atopic dermatitis is treated with the use of: baths, hypoallergenic and fatty acid diets, scrupulous control of fleas and immunotherapy. Some dogs may also be prescribed medication to control the itch, or drugs which help fight against potential associated infection.

Allergies causing irritation to my dog’s skin

Skin irritation can sometimes be caused by a hypersensitive reaction to allergens present in food, such as: meats, dairy products, cereals, soy, eggs, fish or some additives. It is another common type of dermatitis in dogs. Its main symptom is itching on different parts of the body.

If you believe that your dog is suffering from a skin allergy, we recommend trying the elimination diet. This diet means that you change your dog’s diet completely. You have the option of trying a homemade diet or a feed with different ingredients (there are many hypoallergenic feeds on the market). If this diet change presents subsided symptoms, you can assume that it was the previous diet which caused this skin reaction. Therefore, the food assumed to be the possible cause of the allergy needs to be avoided in the future. Another option is to choose to eliminate one thing from your dog’s diet for some time and notice if there is a change. This can be done by avoiding specific foods for a month, such as meats or fish. A veterinarian will also be able to perform an animal allergy test to identify the allergen.

Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin? - Allergies causing irritation to my dog’s skin

Dog dermatitis due to fleas

In this case, dermatitis appears as a reaction to the antigens found in the saliva of a flea. This means that a single flea bite is sufficient to trigger irritation. This problem can affect dogs of all ages at any time of the year.

This irritation commonly appears on the lumbosacral area, from the small of the back to the tail. Sometimes it can also extend to the sides of a dog’s body or its abdomen. As mentioned before, a dog suffering from dermatitis will instinctively scratch this area. This scratching can produce extended wounds or alopecia. In order to find out whether your dog has fleas, you can turn them onto their back and check their stomachs and groin area. You can also try doing this with a flea comb by running this comb through your dog’s hair. A flea comb is designed to catch fleas so that you can see them.

In the case of dermatitis caused by flea infestations, you need to make sure you follow your dog’s deworming schedule strictly. You might also have to clean and anti-flea spray the areas where your dog is, for example, its bed.

Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin? - Dog dermatitis due to fleas

Sarcoptic mange in dogs

Sarcoptic mange is a dermatitis caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei. This condition is noticeable when dog has irritated skin and scratches excessively. This condition produces very intense itching where a dog literally cannot stop scratching. Sarcoptic mange is incredibly contagious and can affect other dogs, cats and humans. This disease mainly targets the elbows and ears. And, similar to the rest of pruritic dermatitis, can cause alopecia, wounds and scabbing from scratching.

A diagnosis of this condition can be reached by direct visualization of the mite. This visualization however must be done under a microscope, after taking a sample by scraping. Sarcoptic mange is incredibly contagious, therefore, if diagnosed, it is necessary to treat the environment to prevent contagion and always wash your hands after handling the animal.

Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin? - Sarcoptic mange in dogs

What can I do to relieve my dog’s itchy skin?

Treatment of itchy skin will depending on the cause of the itching and its diagnosis. However, here are a few recommendation of how you can treat or at least relieve the itching on your dog’s skin:

  • Go to the veterinarian as soon as possible, this will prevent the dog from hurting itself and adding further complications to the dermatitis.
  • Do not apply any drug on irritated skin, as it could be counterproductive. This application could also hinder diagnosis.
  • Do not bathe your dog until they have been diagnosed. Remember that it is not good to wash dogs very often, unless those baths are part of the treatment. However, if for whatever reason you can not go to the specialist immediately, an oatmeal bath can be done as a final option.
  • You can apply cold compresses (but not frozen) if the animal's skin is expelling a lot of heat.
  • Vegetable oils with moisturizing properties such as olive oil can also help to alleviate dog skin irritation.
  • You have to scrupulously follow treatment prescribed by a veterinarian.
  • Food supplements rich in omega 3 fatty acids help relieve itching and improve the skin’s health.

Prevention of irritation will depend on its cause. In general, this prevention will include specific measures. These measures include: periodic deworming, hypoallergenic diets, hygiene and, above all, rapid veterinary assistance.

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why Does My Dog Have Irritated Skin?, we recommend you visit our Skin problems category.

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1 comment
Shanik Sinclair
My dog been having issues with her skin for the past few months to where she chews herself to death almost. So I bought this spray for her and she slowly starting to grow her hair back but she seems to still try to bite herself so I’m just wondering what else can help her besides me keep giving her oatmeal baths and spray her 24/7
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Shanik,

There problem could be varied. We can't diagnose any problem, so you will need to take them to the vet for a proper evaluation and treatment plan. We will say that if the dog's skin seems to be getting better, but they are chewing it, then maybe you should put a collar on them until the skin has healed.

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