6 Most Common Causes of Dog Skin Problems

6 Most Common Causes of Dog Skin Problems

Your skin swells, turn red and itches much worse than any mosquito bite you’ve ever had.

Fido feels this way every day, day after day after day.

Dog skin problems and allergies are one of the most common issues faced by pet owners, veterinarians, and – most importantly – dogs.

These itchy canine issues include:

  • Hair loss
  • Hot spots
  • Rashes
  • Scabs
  • Bumps
  • Scaly skin

Skin issues are frustrating and a cause for concern.

Because a dog’s skin is an indication of its overall health, poor skin condition indicates poor health.

Approximately 160 different skin disorders affect dogs of every age, size and breed. 

Dog skin disorders stem from 6 basic causes.

#1 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Fleas

All dogs have fleas!

“But not my dog! I have NEVER seen a flea on my dog! Fluffy gets a flea bath every week – how can she have fleas?!?” snaps Mrs. Jones.

Sorry, Mrs. Jones, but there is a good chance Fluffy has fallen victim to a flea bite.

Just because you haven’t seen a flea doesn’t mean your dog has not been affected by fleas.

For many dogs, a severe reaction can be induced by a flea simply jumping on your dog, biting, and then immediately jumping right back off.

This scenario is common in flea allergy dermatitis.

Nevertheless, fleas are more of a problem for some dogs than others.

If your dog is allergic to fleas, one little flea bite can result in hot spots and hair loss all over its body.

One flea, due to flea allergies, can make a dog miserable.

Dog lovers worldwide fail to completely understand the relationship between fleas and an itchy dog.

FACT: Fleas running around on your dog’s body do NOT make your dog itch. What really makes your dog itch is an allergic reaction to a flea’s saliva after a flea bites your dog.

When a flea bites your dog, the flea’s saliva thins your dog’s blood.

Then, some of the flea’s saliva enters your dog’s bloodstream and causes a reaction much the same way a mosquito bite affects you.

Signs of flea allergy include:

  • Loss of hair on the flanks
  • Licking between the back legs

The products I use and recommend are:

  • Comfortis
  • Nexgard

#2 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Seasonal Allergies

Dogs suffer from seasonal allergies just like people.

Congestion, draining eyes, skin rashes and irritation are all expected.

Signs of seasonal allergies include:

  • Itchy stomach
  • Draining eyes
  • Infected ears
  • Licking feet

How to treat seasonal allergies:

  • Steroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Immunosuppressives
  • Herbal medicines
  • Dietary changes

#3 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Skin Infections

Skin infections – the sequel to seasonal allergies.

Seasonal allergies cause your dog to have itchy skin.

Itchy skin causes your dog to lick and scratch, creating a wet damp mess on your dog’s skin.

Bacteria and yeast soon colonize and create a skin infection.

Signs of skin infections include:

  • Red, damp areas of hair loss
  • Sour smell
  • Pain and sensitivity over the affected area
  • Itching

How to treat skin infections:

  • Treatment depends on the invading pathogen
  • Yeast or fungi require antifungals, most likely Ketoconazole
  • Bacteria is usually treated with an antibiotic like Cephalexin

#4 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Ringworm

Ringworm is a fungal skin disease that results in hair loss.

Ringworm can be transmitted from dogs and cats to humans.

Signs of ringworm include:

  • Hair loss
  • Pruritis
  • Young animal

How to treat ringworm:

  • Antifungals
  • Medicated baths

#5 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Food Allergies

Food allergies cause rashes, bumps, and pustules all over the skin.

If your dog is allergic to a food he eats, his body manifests a hyperimmune response.

Clinical signs appear anywhere on the dog, including the skin and digestive tract.

Signs of food allergies include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Skin lesions
  • Soft stool
  • Itching

How to treat food allergies:

  • Stay away from the allergen
  • Switch to a specialized, novel protein diet
  • Switch to a hydrolyzed protein diet

#6 Cause of Dog Skin Problems: Mange

Mange is a skin disease caused by parasitic mites that primarily affect young dogs.

There are two types of mange:


  • Affects primarily young dogs
  • Some cases resolve without treatment
  • Not contagious


  • Causes intense itching
  • Very contagious

Signs of mange include:

  • Hair loss
  • Intense, unbearable itching

How to treat mange:

  • Demodectic Mange
    • Can be difficult to cure
    • Off label use of Ivermectin
    • Mitaban Dip
    • Amitraz
  • Sarcoptic Mange
    • Easy to cure
    • Advantage Multi
    • Off label use of injectable Ivermectin
    • Revolution

Pet owners also need to understand skin disorders are either curable or incurable.

The incurable diseases at best can only be controlled and not eliminated.

As veterinarians, we recommend some very effective home remedies for treating and preventing dog skin allergies and problems.

For treatment, a vet may prescribe antibiotics, antihistamines, or similar injections to control itching and treat allergic reactions.

Dog Food Affects Allergy Symptoms

One of the most effective treatments for dog allergies is food therapy.

The food a dog eats directly affects their skin problems.

Healthy, natural dog food made with fresh ingredients and without fillers or preservatives is perhaps the most important factor in a dog’s overall health and in the health of their skin and coat.

Proper diet can improve and even eliminate irritating skin issues, including dog skin bumps, allergies, rashes, hair loss, swellings, inflammation, hot spots on dogs, and more.

Herbal and dietary supplements are also effective in treating these issues.

Consult with a veterinarian, preferably one who practices Eastern medicine and is experienced in herbology for pets.

Vets can prescribe topical products such as shampoos and dips to help treat certain skin problems.

It is always important to have a veterinarian-recommended flea treatment program in place.

There are also practical steps for preventing dog skin problems and allergies.

It is always important for pet owners to keep their dog’s coats clean and brushed.

At the same time, it is very important to keep their living quarters clean, with pens clean, carpets vacuumed, floors mopped and so forth.

Pet owners should provide a balanced, safe environment and schedule for their dog, with proper exercise, playtime, rest, sleep, and interaction with people and pets.

This healthy lifestyle will help prevent stress and boredom, a definite cause of skin problems. Dogs often itch, chew, and irritate their skin out of frustration, stress, habit, and similar factors. These lesions are termed lick granulomas.

If you’re unsure of the cause of your pet’s allergies, bring them to the vet. Not sure it’s worth the trip?

Which symptoms does your pet experience?

  • Sneezing
  • Scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Skin irritation

Get A Phone Consultation with One of Our TCVM Veterinarians

Powerful Tools for Overcoming Dog Allergy Challenges

There are many quick and easy changes you can make at home to help you give your dog an edge on easing allergy challenges.

  • Learn more about dog allergies.
  • Switch to a Limited Ingredient Diet. PET | TAO Limited Ingredient Diet is naturally low in foods that stimulate an allergic response.
  • Supplement with medicinal mushrooms. PET | TAO Complement Immune Mushroom Blend eases inflammatory response and allergy symptoms.
  • Try digestive enzymes and probiotics. PET | TAO Harmonize Gi boosts gut health and combats food allergens.
  • Feed Freeze Dried Lung Treats. According to TCVM, Lung is on the same meridian as the skin. Therefore, lung treats help both breathing and skin allergies. Lung treats support lung and skin similar to a glandular supplement in a “like treats like” fashion.
  • Learn more about TCVM Herbal Remedies. Chinese medicine offers many amazing natural solutions for dog allergies Some good examples are:

Get A Phone Consultation with One of Our TCVM Veterinarians

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When I first graduated from veterinary school, I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew everything about animals. Anatomy, physiology, drugs, surgery – learning about