4 Ways to Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Skin Problems

Table of contents:

4 Ways to Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Skin Problems
4 Ways to Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Skin Problems

As in people, allergies in dogs are managed, not cured. The animal's body is hypersensitive to something, and the reaction to that sensitivity is itching. Dogs can be allergic to food, flea, grass and pollen bites, or direct contact with certain components such as laundry or hay. The first step is to diagnose the dog's behavior as a skin allergy, and the challenge is to find the cause and find an effective treatment.


Method 1 of 4: Monitoring Itch

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 1

Step 1. Pay attention to the dog's body parts that are itchy

Is there a specific area that itches more than the others? Does the animal lick its paws, under its tail or along its belly?

The most common sites of irritation for allergic dogs are near the back and tail, on the abdomen, and on the legs and paws

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 2

Step 2. Look for lesions on the animal's skin

It is common for a dog to itch to be so severe that it bites the skin to the point of making lesions, which can appear overnight and grow very quickly. The skin is pink, moist, hot and painful, and you can even see sticky material coming out of the wound you've created. These lesions are infected open wounds and need veterinary intervention.

  • Chronic cases of itching can cause the skin to thicken and roughen, resembling elephant skin.
  • The lesions described are often symptoms of allergy to fleas, food, grass, mold or other environmental substances. There may be more complicated underlying conditions such as low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism) or Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism). Secondary bacterial and yeast infections (malassezia) are not uncommon and require specialized and personalized treatment.
Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 3

Step 3. Think about time

Is there a particular time of year when your dog feels the most itchy? It may itch more after standing on the grass or eating a certain food. By noticing patterns, you will help reduce the focus of your pet's treatment.

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 4

Step 4. Check the dog's general health

If he has a strong body odor, appears to be very thirsty, or is not as excited as he normally is, take him to the vet. Blood tests and skin samples will need to be taken to get more information and help define an appropriate treatment.

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 5

Step 5. Write down when you notice the itch

Whenever you notice that the dog is scratching, note the circumstances, including where the animal has been, what it ate, and what part of its body is itching. This information will be extremely useful to the veterinarian, who will use it to narrow down the possible causes of itchiness and skin lesions.

Method 2 of 4: Looking for Parasites

Step 1. Look for fleas

The most common cause of itching is the flea. They are most active in hot, humid environments (above 35 °C). You may see fleas on the dog or notice that it has been biting or scratching itself more than usual. They are very fast and jump high: you have to be quick to find them. They are usually found in the animal's armpits and groin, are dark (almost black) and flat.

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 7

Step 2. Look for sarcoptic mange

This is an infestation by parasitic mites, which will usually live in areas of hairless skin, such as the folds of the ears, elbows or belly. The dog may have red, scaly fur in these areas. This disease can cause significant skin damage and distress to the dog, as the mites are very itchy.

  • It is very contagious and can be transmitted to people (zoonosis) and other dogs very easily.
  • Your veterinarian can diagnose it by collecting skin scrapings from your dog.

Step 3. Look for signs of cheyletiella scabies

It is caused by a species of mite that feeds on the upper layer of the skin. In addition to itching, the dog can develop skin sores, hair loss, dandruff and back injuries.

The mite in question is yellow, in case you can see it

Step 4. Look for head lice

Dog lice are different from humans, so don't worry about one lice infecting the other. They survive in the dirt of dog fur or blood, depending on the species. You can usually see adults in dogs: they are yellow or brown, the size of a sesame seed. Sometimes they can be mistaken for dandruff, but they don't fall off if the dog shakes itself.

Other signs of lice include hair loss (especially around the neck, ears, shoulders, groin, and anus); a hard or dry coat; minor injuries or infections; chilblains or other parasites spread by lice; and even anemia, in severe cases

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 8

Step 5. Look for demodectic mange

Also known as demodicosis or red scabies, it is caused by small mites found naturally in most dogs, but which do not usually cause skin problems unless the animal's immune system is compromised. It is more common in puppies because their immune systems are still developing and can be diagnosed by the veterinarian by taking scrapes from the dog's skin.

  • This scab is not very contagious and cannot be caught by humans. It is usually transmitted from mother to lactating puppies and is most noticeable around the eyes and mouth when the puppy's immune system does not keep the mites under control.
  • The predisposition to this skin problem can be inherited, and it is not uncommon for puppies to have demodicosis if the parents also have it at some point in their lives.
Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 6

Step 6. Look for chilblains

Chilblains are caused by fungi and generate itchy, small circular scabs about one centimeter in diameter, and hair loss (alopecia) on one or more areas of the skin. This loss usually starts on the face or feet. The disease is contagious and easy to be transmitted to humans (zoonosis) and other animals. The veterinarian will be able to diagnose it and indicate the treatment protocol, which will require a fungicide.

  • Some pets with minor infections can be treated topically, while others will need oral antifungal medication.
  • Treating chilblains will also include disinfecting the house. The problem can take months to get under control.
Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 9

Step 7. Understand what shouldn't be causing the itch

Your dog may have a condition that resembles a parasite or one that can lead you astray when trying to determine the cause of the itch. Two possible conditions are alopecia and Cushing's disease.

  • Alopecia, or shedding of hair, which can be caused by hypothyroidism, is usually not itchy, but dogs with low thyroid hormone tend to have more skin problems than dogs with a normal thyroid.
  • Dogs with Cushing's disease will drink plenty of water and will want to eat all the time. You may also notice that the animal's fur is thinner and has less undercoat. The dog's belly can even be almost naked, and the fur is thinner too.

Method 3 of 4: Treating Itch

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 10

Step 1. Discuss possible treatments with your veterinarian

Due to the variety of causes of this serious skin problem, there are several treatments that can be prescribed by your veterinarian. Some animals may improve with antihistamines, while others will need short-term steroids to deal with the itching. There are new products coming onto the market all the time.,

Use prescribed medications as per the veterinarian's instructions. Medication is used to control the itching and begin the healing process

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 11

Step 2. Control the fleas

Allergic dermatitis caused by fleas is one of the most common causes of itching in dogs. Eliminating flea bites on your dog is often the first step in dealing with the itch, even if you don't see any fleas. Dogs can develop an allergic reaction to flea saliva that causes them to have a severe itch, even if only one flea is involved.

Flea control on the dog, all other pets in the household, and the environment should be implemented and continued monthly

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 12

Step 3. Treat your dog's parasitic mites

Treatment for each mite differs, and serious cases of demodicosis can take months to treat, while sarcoptic mange usually resolves within a few weeks. The veterinarian will prescribe medication for the parasites.

Sarcoptic mange can easily spread to other animals and humans, and steps should be taken to eradicate the infestation throughout the dog's environment, as well as on the animal itself and others that may be exposed

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 13

Step 4. Try using a prescribed shampoo

These shampoos can be purchased from the vet to deal with itchiness and treat bacterial or yeast infections, and can be used in conjunction with oral medications.

  • Over-the-counter flea shampoos can further irritate open wounds. Consult your veterinarian before attempting any over-the-counter treatments on your dog.
  • Bathing is good for itchy skin, but do not use human shampoo. A light oat-based product specially formulated for dogs can temporarily reduce itching. If the dog's skin is sore or infected, do not apply any shampoo or topical treatment without talking to your veterinarian, as you can make the problem worse by using an inappropriate product.
  • Don't wash the dog too much. One bath a month is all most healthy dogs really need, and some need it less often. Bathing your puppy removes oil from the skin. If your veterinarian prescribes a special shampoo, they will discuss with you the proper bathing frequency for your pet's condition.
Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 14

Step 5. Ask about the steroid Prednisone

The first treatment option for many cases of moderate to severe itching is the steroid Prednisone for temporary relief. By decreasing the itching and making the dog more comfortable, the skin will have a chance to recover.

Steroids have side effects and need to be used with care. Long-term use can lead to problems with the adrenal glands or liver.,

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 15

Step 6. Ask about antihistamines

An antihistamine medication can also be used to calm an allergic reaction. There are many such medications available to try, and your veterinarian can recommend over-the-counter and over-the-counter options.

  • No one product works for all dogs, so an "antihistamine test" will need to be started to find out which medication helps your pet the most.
  • Be aware that antihistamines may not help an itchy dog, but they are often used after the steroids have taken care of the initial problem so that you can continue to treat allergy symptoms.
Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 16

Step 7. Try an antibiotic

If the other methods aren't working, the next order of treatment the veterinarian will recommend will usually be an antibiotic. If the dog has sore the skin to the point of infection, an antibiotic will be needed to fight the problem.

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 17

Step 8. Talk to your veterinarian about allergy testing

You can have your dog take a skin or blood test to find out which pollens, trees, grasses, insects, or molds make him allergic. Food allergies are best determined with food elimination tests.,

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 18

Step 9. Ask about a veterinary dermatologist

If your dog is experiencing a longer period of itching, to the point of bruising its own skin, ask your veterinarian for a recommendation from a veterinary dermatologist who specializes in skin problems.

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 19

Step 10. Avoid over-the-counter itch relief medications

These remedies are part of a desperate attempt by owners in the hope that something will work. Consult your veterinarian before trying any over-the-counter medication on your dog.

  • Other home remedies such as turpentine, petroleum jelly, mouthwash or vinegar should also be avoided.
  • Your efforts to help your pet can make the problem worse for you and your pet.

Method 4 of 4: Changing the Dog's Diet

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 20

Step 1. Assess his current diet

Improving nutrition in general will help the animal's health, no matter if it is allergic to any food or not.

Look up your dog's food ingredient list. See if a protein source is the first ingredient, not a carbohydrate source. Essential fatty acids are good for keeping the skin and coat healthy and should be included in the list.,

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 21

Step 2. Try giving fatty acid supplements

Supplements such as fish oil and flaxseed help in cases of allergic skin problems. They are available in a variety of forms, including capsule and liquid options.,

Follow the product instructions or those given by the veterinarian to know the dosage

Diagnose and Treat Your Dog's Itchy Skin Problems Step 22

Step 3. Ask the veterinarian about a food elimination test

If you suspect a food allergy, your veterinarian may suggest a test of this type with a completely new and different diet for your dog. This new diet should consist of ingredients he has never eaten before.

  • For example, if your pet is eating rice and lamb rations and steak and wheat snacks, the new diet cannot contain any of these ingredients.
  • The food elimination test will usually take 2-3 months.
  • You will need to keep your diet restricted, including snacks, to get the best results from this experiment.
  • It may take a few sets of this elimination diet to determine what foods the dog is allergic to.
  • You may be able to get your dog's food from a pet store, but often your veterinarian's special diet may be needed to deal with your pet's food allergy.
  • Once you've found a diet, you can start challenging the dog's body with small amounts of one ingredient at a time to see if the dog starts scratching again after the additional ingredient is added.


  • Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, seem to be more prone to allergy than others. However, any dog, even a mutt, can develop allergies at any time in their lives.
  • Take care of fleas year-round. They are even the main reason for itching in dogs.
  • Do not shave your dog's fur down to the skin. A focal removal to remove the hair from the infected areas will help the skin in that particular location, but avoid shaving the entire dog unless your veterinarian recommends it. In some cases, shaving even a healthy hair can cause it to grow a different color or not grow back at all.
  • No single treatment or remedy is appropriate or effective for every animal. It may take more than one treatment to resolve the problem.
  • Remember that you will often treat and take care of the symptoms of the itching rather than the cause. Identifying what causes the itch will take time and observation.


  • Steroids and antibiotics are needed to take care of very severe cases of skin allergies early in treatment. There are side effects to any medication, and these should be discussed with your veterinarian when starting and if the medication regimen needs to be extended.
  • Remember that allergies are managed, not cured, and new allergies can develop throughout the dog's life. It can be quite frustrating and uncomfortable for both of you at times, but understanding the nature of the illness is important to your pet's health and happiness.

Popular by topic