April 24, 2006

Four Common Skin Problems in Dogs

Dogs are susceptible to various skin problems — which can be frustrating for owners who want to see Fido comfortable and happy. Does your dog have a skin problem, and if so, how do you fix it?

That depends on the symptoms you see. Of course, the most common sign of a possible skin problem in your dog is constant, excessive itching. Other symptoms include fur loss, either localized in a certain location or spread across the dogs entire body. More severe cases may involve redness in the skin, changes in skin pigmentation or even open sores that your dog constantly licks.

No particular symptom necessarily proves your four-footed friend has a certain type of skin disorder, and youll need to investigate other areas before you draw conclusions. While its common and helpful for veterinarians to diagnose skin problems, its also essential for dog owners like you to familiarize yourself with typical canine skin problems, so you can react quickly and keep his discomfort to a minimum.

Fleas, Lice and Ticks

One of the most common problems in dogs is the presence of fleas, lice and ticks, which are parasites that live on the surface of the skin and feed on the dogs blood. These parasites saliva causes skin irritation and results in intense scratching.

Lice and ticks can be detected visually when you check your dogs fur, while fleas are hard to spot with the naked eye. However, fleas cause red pimple marks on the skin and also can be spotted through the black, gritty trail of dirt they leave on a dogs belly.

While you can remove ticks and lice with tweezers — applying alcohol to relax the ticks grip before doing so — you can also adopt more general methods. For instance, you can give your dog a dip with special tick shampoo to eliminate ticks. Flea sprays or flea powder can also be applied to the dog to kill parasites. But all these require persistence and it may be a while before you see results.

One of the best methods to keep your dog comfortable is to prevent ticks from living off your dog in the first place through the use of a spot-on product, such as FrontLine or BioSpot. To apply these chemicals, you drip a small amount onto the back of your dogs neck once a month. The chemical spreads throughout the dogs skin and kills parasites — including the eggs and larvae. When regularly treated, your dog becomes an unattractive host.


Mange is a skin problem caused by mites that burrow underneath the dogs skin, causing intense and even agonizing itching. Bald spots or inflamed red skin are common symptoms of mange. Two types of mange exist in dogs: sarcoptic mange and demodectic mange, depending on the kind of mite involved.

Most dogs carry the mites involved in demodectic mange or demodex. However, these mites usually do not cause itching except when they suddenly multiply into huge numbers. This may happen in young puppies, or in dogs with decreased natural body defenses, sometimes from stress.

On the other hand, Sacroptic mange or scabies causes intense itching in the dog as the mites burrow under the skin and even lay their eggs there. This causes large red spots on the dogs skin, and sometimes fur loss on the ears and elbows. Scabies can infect humans as well and cause itchiness, although infection in humans usually disappears by itself after a while. However, it is still important for people to seek treatment if they get infected.

Treatment for mange requires patience and time, as eliminating them or lowering the mite population takes a while to take effect. The best way to kill the mites is to soak your dog in a lime and sulfur medicated dip for 10 to 15 minutes a few times in a week. The dip should not be washed off, but left to dry on your dogs skin and fur. During this time, its best to watch your dog closely and prevent him from licking himself dry. As a further precaution, you can feed him a raw egg to line his stomach before dipping him in the solution. This way, even if he does lick himself, the solution wont be absorbed on an empty stomach.

When fighting mange, its also important to support your dog with the highest quality diet you can find, to improve his immune system. Healing from mange will take a lot of his internal resources. You might consider looking into the raw diet for dogs and avoiding any corn or rice-based products for the time being.

About the Author

Blake Kritzberg is proprietor of Poodle-oo: Fashion for Toy Dogs . Stop by for toy dog couture and home decor, free toy dog postcards and the Toy Dog Blog.

Blake Kritzberg

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