Dog owners all around the world know that, sometimes, unexpected health issues can pop up at a moment’s notice. That being said, it’s hard to know when concerns are enough to bring a dog to the vet, and when an issue will go away on its own.
This is especially true of skin problems, which can affect dogs of all different breeds and ages. Are the crusty scabs on your dog’s back harmless, or do they constitute a greater risk to your pet’s health? A dog with skin allergy sensitivity is one issue, while normal dry skin in dog coats will be handled differently.
This article will guide you to all the different types of dermatitis and skin problems that might affect your dog. We’ll also discuss how you can help them with the scabs on their back, and whether or not they’ll need veterinary attention.
Different Dermatitis Issues In Dogs
The development of dermatitis conditions in dog’s skin is often due to underlying allergies, but that is not always the case. Regardless of the cause, these skin problems generally lead to inflammation, itchiness, and pain.
Skin barrier weakness is also often associated with canine dermatitis and can make your dog more apt to scratch or chew at their raw skin—this can worsen the skin condition.
Plus, there is also a chance that your dog’s skin problems stem from issues in their gut microbiome.
Your Dog’s Gut Microbiome
In your dog’s stomach, there is a wide variety of bacteria and microbes that help to break down their dog food and feed their body. Food molecules are also responsible for sending messages to other parts of the body to communicate feelings of fullness, or even anxiety.
That being said, if there are certain bacteria missing from your dog’s stomach culture it can cause issues throughout the body—especially on your pet’s skin. This is of particular significance if your dog is exposed to a potential allergen.
Your pooch’s stomach, along with the bacteria and microbes, features a wide variety of immune cells as well. When a threat (i.e. an allergen) is detected, whether it will harm your dog or not, those immune cells will attack.
These immune system attacks can have a multitude of repercussions for your dog’s health, including potential allergic dermatitis issues or other skin disease.
How To Determine The Source Of Your Dog’s Allergy
When diagnosing allergic dermatitis due to an allergic reaction in dogs, you’ll need to consult your veterinarian . Usually, they will recommend using a tiered approach to decide which potential allergen is affecting your dog and causing the skin condition. If that doesn’t work, blood tests can also be performed to detect potential food or environmental allergies.
It’s also possible that your dog’s dermatitis doesn’t come from external allergens, but rather from signals given off from malicious bacteria in your dog’s stomach. If your pet’s bacteria culture in their gut is off balance it can cause pro-inflammatory signals to be sent throughout the body.
If this is the case, something will have to be done to balance these bacteria. Most likely, this will be achieved through the use of medications prescribed by your veterinarian.
Through the use of an AnimalBio testing kit, you can find out the proportions of bacteria in your dog’s gut. If an imbalance is detected, you can rest assured that you will be able to alleviate this through medication or even an improved diet for your dog.
The Skin Has A Microbiome, Too
The stomach is not the only organ your dog has that features a microbiome; atopic dermatitis hot spots can also be caused by imbalances in your pet’s skin microbiome.
Staphylococcus, also known as STAPH, is a coagulase-positive pathogen that can affect both humans and animals, and when your dog’s skin microbiome is out of balance, it leaves room for STAPH to move in and cause dermatitis-related skin conditions .
If this is the cause of your dog’s skin issues, an antibiotic will likely need to be prescribed by their vet to treat the skin disease.
Dermatitis caused by fleas or ticks
If your dog’s skin conditions are not being caused by imbalances in your dog’s bacteria culture or allergens, it’s possible that the hot spots being caused by an external issue, such as flea or tick bites.
These blood-sucking parasites can cause a serious skin condition for your dog. That being said, there are several warning signs for you to look out for when considering whether or not your dog has fleas or ticks. If you think your dog might be suffering from an external parasite you’ll want to make sure to apply flea treatment the hot spots as quickly as possible, as long-term flea or tick infestations can cause serious health issues. The best flea shampoos for dogs should also be able to rid your dog of these pests.
Visible Parasite Infestation
Fleas and ticks can sometimes be seen on your dog’s skin or fur, although this is not always the case.
Ticks have eight legs, are flat and oval-shaped, and can come in many different colors. If you are concerned that your dog may have ticks, the easiest thing to do is to make sure to brush or pet them. Often, owners will feel a bump, and then realize it’s actually an engorged tick.
Fleas, while smaller than ticks, can still potentially be seen jumping on or off your pet.
If your dog suddenly begins itching rapidly, there’s a good chance they have a flea or tick infestation. This is especially evident if your dog is whipping around and furiously biting themself, or if they’re consistently licking their groin area.
How To Treat Your Dog’s Fleas or Ticks
Fleas and ticks are both readily preventable through the use of topical or oral medication. This type of medication can also be used to kill fleas and ticks when they’ve already infested your dog.
There are also more natural methods to killing fleas and ticks on your dog, like essential oil blends, although these methods do not work as well in prevention of an infestation.
Additionally, if you’re not interested in applying ointments to your pet’s skin, or giving them medication, you can also use a flea collar for dogs. These items typically last about eight months and both repel and kill fleas and ticks.
What Does Seborrhea Look Like On A Dog?
Dogs can also suffer from a skin disorder called seborrhea, which is when crusty scale formation on the skin will increase, occasionally leading to the excessive greasiness of the skin and coat. Don’t worry, scaly skin can often be treated.
This skin disorder is genetically inherited and is most commonly seen in certain breeds, specifically American Cocker Spaniels, English Sprinter Spaniels, Basset Hounds, West Highland White Terriers, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds.
Additionally, dogs can also suffer from secondary seborrhea, which is usually a sign of an underlying disease. Symptoms of secondary seborrhea include excessively scaly skin, crusty scabs, or oiliness, and sometimes pus-filled inflammations, infections, and hair loss. Hair loss is always a good cue that something might be wrong.
If you’re seeing issues with your dog’s skin, it’s also possible that they are suffering from a fungal infection. While this can sound alarming and a bit gross, it’s really not too big of a deal.
The most notorious fungal infection that can affect dogs is ringworm, which is known to cause hair loss, red and irritated skin, bumps, scabs, and itchiness. The hair loss, in particularly, can be an alarming observation for the dog owner. How do dogs get ringworm? Dogs can get it from dirty environment where it can get in contact the fungi or with another dog that has it.
If you suspect your dog has ringworm, take extra care when handling them, as it can pass from canine to human rather easily. Ringworm can also easily pass from animal to animal, so if you have other dogs, it might be a good idea to keep the dogs separated until the ringworm scabs are treated.
How Do You Treat Scabs On Dogs?
Now that you know a little bit about the different types of skin ailments your dog might be suffering from, it’s time to determine how they will need to be treated.
In general, if you have any questions about how your dog should be treated, or even if you’re just unsure what they’re suffering from, you should consult your pet’s veterinarian. They are and always will be the number one source for diagnosing your dog’s health issues.
Treatment Of Microbiome Issues
Often times, diet can play a large issue in the imbalance of bacteria in the gut, or on the skin for dogs. Through diet change and choosing the proper food, you can balance the bacterial community in your pet’s body, controlling the issues, and aiding in long term healing.
Certain antibiotics can also be used to treat this imbalance leading to bacterial infections in dogs, as they will allow beneficial bacteria to flourish throughout your pet’s body.
Treatment Of Flea Or Tick Issues
As mentioned above, there are a few ways to get rid of external parasites, the most common of which being using topical or oral treatment. This way, any fleas and ticks on your pet’s body (including eggs) will be killed, and new external parasites will be prevented.
Some dog owners opt for a flea collar instead of the above treatment. Effectively, this collar lasts for 8 months and contains two ingredients: imidacloprid and flumethrin.
Finally, some owners try to use natural methods, like essential oils, to kill and repel fleas, although their effectiveness for dogs is not as proven.
Treatment Of Seborrhea
If your dog is suffering from seborrhea, the treatment generally functions to keep your dog comfortable and fix the underlying causes of the ailment. Usually, medicated shampoos are used to decrease the bacteria and yeast on the skin’s surface and the itching.
Antibiotics are also used to for three to four weeks if the underlying cause is bacterial, and anti-fungal medications are used if the underlying cause is a fungus.
Treatment Of Allergies
As is the case with fleas and ticks, your dog’s allergies can be treated through a variety of means. Usually, the type of treatment that your dog needs depends on what is causing their allergic reaction.
It’s also important to note that, oftentimes, skin dermatitis is not the only symptom associated with canine allergies. In some cases, they might not even suffer from any scabs or lesions on their skin. To know for sure if your dog has allergies, they’ll have to be tested by a veterinarian. Dogs with skin allergies likely need more particular treatment.
If your dog suffers from atopy (inhalant allergies), the recommended treatment is usually a hypoallergenic shampoo. Generally, your dog will need to be washed once every two weeks, although more frequent washing might offer increased relief for some dogs.
Hydrocortisone shampoos are also used, as well as topical ointments that contain hydrocortisone.
Other treatments include modifying your dog’s diet to increase their intake of fatty acids like fish oil for dogs, as they have been shown to be potentially beneficial in the treatment of allergies in both dogs and cats.
Occasionally, your veterinarian might recommend a steroid, especially if your dog’s skin is not the only symptom of their allergies. Not only are they effective for reliving itching, but can also help if your dog is suffering from coughing or pain.
Do Ticks Leave Scabs on Dogs?
This is a question that unfortunately depends on the situation. A tick properly removed may not leave a scab on a dog, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes they will leave small scabs and this can be exacerbated when you remove the tick too forcefully, removing some of the dog’s skin in the process.
What Can I Put On a Dog’s Sore Skin?
This question also depends on what the cause of the sore skin seems to be. While there are a number of topical ointments you can use for various different forms of irritation, it is usually best to identify the source of the problem if the irritation persists or looks abnormal. If you find your dogs skin dry that’s one thing, but things like redness and swelling can potentially indicate an allergy on dog skin surfaces. Hopefully, you’ll be able to identify the source of the problem, but if there’s any question it’s best to consult a veterinarian.
If all else fails and you can’t determine what is causing your pet’s skin issues, you will need to take them to the vet. There are a few tests your veterinarian might want to do in order to distinguish the exact cause of your pet’s ailment.
Normal vet appointments, regardless of cause, will almost always start with a physical exam. During this, your vet will examine your pet’s skin and determine what the next step should be.
Sometimes during this step of an examination, your vet will be able to determine if your pet is suffering from fleas or ticks.
Skin scraping will almost always be your vet’s next step in determining what’s wrong with your pet. During this step, they will be able to tell nearly without fail if your pet has any external parasites.
Next, if nothing is found through the skin scraping, your vet will most likely collect a sample for a ringworm culture.
A hair and or skin sample is placed on a fungal culture media and left for 10 days to see if a dermatophyte (ringworm) fungus grows.
Your veterinarian might recommend that your pet see a “veterinary dermatologist” to have allergy testing done. In this case, there are two options: blood testing and skin testing.
In general, blood testing is not as accurate as skin testing, so most veterinarians will opt for the latter.
Sometimes, your veterinarian might recommend a cytology, which is when your vet collects a sample on a clear piece of tape to examine under a microscope. During this examination, they look for harmful bacteria and yeast.
If all else fails, your veterinarian will likely request a skin biopsy to decide what’s causing the bumps and scabs on your dog’s skin. During this, your dog will be given a sedative and a local anesthetic, and then a small piece of skin will be removed and sent away to be studied by a pathologist.
Skin biopsies can also occur when lesions are unusual and could be cancerous.