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Identifying Skin Disease and Conditions in Dogs / Pets

Common Dog Skin Problems
Unfortunately, the most out-of-control health issue concerning pet owners these days centers around one complex and disturbing issue. That issue, creating tremendous suffering in their Dogs or Cats (less frequent than dogs), involves ITCHY skin, feet or ears with constant scratching, licking or chewing as a result. Eventually, and especially where common prescribed treatments are involved, much more significant skin or ear problems will evolve. Then comes the obvious concern over what kind of Skin Disease or Condition is involved, and how to figure that out.

Of great consequence is the fact that the most critical factor in maintaining core health in the body - either pet or human - is virtually always overlooked; that element being digestive system health (a healthy Gut). It is widely known that sound digestive health - with well established and healthy Micro-Flora - makes up about 70% or more of immune system function or capability. When and if the 'friendly bacteria colonies' of the Micro-Flora are destroyed, or seriously compromised, immune capability will suffer and other health issues will arise - especially when Candida yeast is allowed to take control of the digestive tract. Candida overgrowth is unfortunately a core cause of MOST of the itching along with Skin and Ear problems pets are suffering with in our modern times. In fact, there is SO MUCH of this going on that research shows between 6 and 9 Million searches being done on Google (alone) EVERY MONTH by people using various search terms RELATED to dog skin & itching problems ranging from mild to wild. This errata is presented to start moving your thinking/assessing process in a different direction than where you will typically be led by your local medical professionals.

Finally, the remainder of this article presents you with a vast list of POSSIBLE skin issues that could affect your dog or cat if you care to peruse the list for something that catches your attention. However, based on the information in the above two paragraphs, and the high probability that Gut damage - from vaccinations or Antibiotic use - and Candida yeast are at the core of your pets' skin, ear or itching problems, we have prepared THREE different branch-off points that you may want to consider - based on the SEVERITY of the issues you are dealing with. Please review and choose:
  • Dogs/Pets simply troubled by too much ITCHING, scratching, or flaky skin/dandruff, see: Dogs and Itching
  • If you've been convinced your Dog or other Pet is suffering with "Allergies", see: Allergies Assessment
  • For obviously more serious Skin & Itching problems (example picture above), see: Healthy-Skin Program


The following sections serve as an introduction to skin diseases in dogs, and suggest where to look to find the cause of a problem.

The ITCHY SKIN DISEASES in the first section are characterized by constant scratching, biting at the skin and rubbing up against objects to relieve the itch.

The next two sections list diseases characterized by HORMONE-RELATED AND OTHER DISEASES WITH HAIR LOSS with few if any other symptoms. Hair loss can mean impaired growth of new hair, in which case it usually involves specific areas or the entire coat. Or you may see patches of hair loss on various parts of the body. In general, hair loss caused by hormonal diseases is symmetric (the same on both sides of the body), while that caused by parasites and other causes is asymmetric.

The next section lists SKIN DISEASES WITH PUS DRAINAGE in which the predominant sign is skin infection - pyoderma. The Pyoderma issue is characterized by pus, infected sores, scabs, ulcerations, papules, pustules, furuncles, boils and skin abscesses. The skin infection is often secondary to some other skin disease, particularly an itchy skin disease that causes the dog to attack his own skin.

The section after that lists AUTOIMMUNE and IMMUNE-MEDIATED SKIN DISEASES, characterized by blebs. Blebs, also called vesicles, are blisters that contain clear fluid. Large ones are called bullae. All tend to progress through rubbing, biting and scratching, eventually producing skin erosions, ulcers and crusts. Look for these changes to appear first on the face, nose, muzzle and ears.

During the course of grooming, playing with or handling your dog, you may discover a lump or bump on or beneath the skin. To learn what it may be, see the last section on LUMPS AND BUMPS, ON OR BENEATH THE SKIN.

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(See Healthy-Skin Program Information)

dog shedding Allergic contact dermatitis: Same as contact dermatitis, but rash may spread beyond area of contact. Requires repeated or continuous exposure to allergen (such as wearing a flea collar).

dog skin problems Canine atopy: Severe itching that occurs in young dogs and begins in late summer and fall. Caused by seasonal pollens. Occurs in mixed breeds as well as purebreds. Somewhat Common.

dog hair loss Chiggers: Itching and severe skin irritation between toes, and around the ears and mouth. Look for barely visible red, yellow or orange chiggers.

dog skin diseases Contact dermatitis: Red, itchy bumps and inflamed skin at the site of contact with chemical, detergent, paint or other irritant. Affects feet and hairless parts of the body.

dog skin disorders Damp hay itch (Pelodera): Red pimple-like bumps on skin. Severe itching. Occurs in dogs bedded on damp hay and similar grass.

dog itching Flea allergy dermatitis: Red, itchy pimple-like bumps over the base of the tail, back of rear legs and inner thighs. Scratching continues after fleas have been killed.

dog skin infections Fleas: Itching and scratching along the back, around the tail and hindquarters. Look for fleas, or black and white gritty specks in hair (flea feces and eggs).

dog hot spots Fly-bite dermatitis: Painful bites at tips of erect ears and bent surfaces of floppy ears. Bites become scabbed, crusty-black and bleed easily.

dog skin allergies Grubs: Inch-long fly larvae that form cyst-like lumps beneath the skin with a hole in the center for the insect to breathe. Often found beneath chin or along abdomen.

dog skin condition Lice: Two-millimeter-long insects, or white grains of "sand" (nits) attached to hair. Not common. Found in dogs with matted coats. May have bare spots where hair has been rubbed off.

dog bald spots Lick granuloma (acral pruritic dermatitis): Red, shiny skin ulcer caused by continuous licking at wrist or ankle. Usually seen occurring in large, short-coated breeds.(See Healthy-Skin Program Information)

dog dull coats Maggots: Soft-bodied, legless fly larvae found in damp matted fur.

dog dog skin Scabies (Sarcoptic mange): Intense itching. Small red spots that look like insect bites on the skin of the ears, elbows and hocks. Typical crusty ear tips.

dog dog skin Ticks: Large insects attached to skin. May swell up to size of pea. Found beneath ear flaps and where hair is thin.

itchy dog skin Walking dandruff (Cheyletiella mange): Occurs in puppies 2 to 12 weeks of age. Large amounts of dry, scaly, flaky skin over the neck and back. Itching is variable.


flaky dog skin Cortisone excess: Symmetric hair loss over trunk and body. Abdomen is pot-bellied and pendulous. Seen with Cushing's syndrome. In some cases the dog is taking steroids.

smelly dog skin Growth hormone-responsive alopecia: Bilaterally symmetric hair loss. Begins around puberty. Breed specific involvement.

dog dermititis Hyperestrogenism (Estrogen excess): Occurs in females and males. Bilateral symmetric hair loss in perineum and around genitals. Enlarged vulva and clitoris; in males, pendulous prepuce.

dog skin rashes Hypoestrogenism (Estrogen deficiency): Occurs in older spayed females. Scanty hair growth and thinning coat, initially around vulva and later over body. Skin is smooth and soft, like a baby's.

dog licking paws trouble Hypothyroidism: Most common cause of bilaterally symmetric hair loss without itching. Coat is thin, scanty and falls out easily. Involves the neck beneath the chin to the brisket, sides of body, backs of thighs and top of tail.


Acanthosis nigrans Acanthosis nigrans: Mainly in Dachshunds. Hair loss begins in armpit folds. Black, thick, greasy, rancid-smelling skin.

Color mutant alopecia Color mutant alopecia (Blue Doberman syndrome): Loss of hair over the body, giving a moth-eaten look. Papules and pustules appear in areas of hair loss. Also affects other breeds.

Demodectic mange Demodectic mange: Localized - Occurs in puppies. Hair loss around eyelids, lips and corners of mouth, giving a moth-eaten look. Fewer than five patches, up to one inch in diameter. Generalized-Numerous patches that enlarge and coalesce. Severe skin problem complicated by pyoderma. Primarily affects young adults.
(See Healthy-Skin Program Information)

Nasal solar dermatitis Nasal solar dermatitis (Collie nose): Loss of hair at junction of nose and muzzle. Can lead to severe ulceration. Affects dogs with lightly pigmented noses.

Pressure sores Pressure sores (Calluses): Gray, hairless, thickened pads of wrinkled skin, usually over elbows but may involve other pressure points. Caused by lying on hard surfaces.

Ringworm Ringworm: A fungal infection. Scaly, crusty circular patches 1/2 to 2 inches across. Patches show central hair loss with a red ring at the periphery. Some cases show widespread involvement.
Utilizing a 2% Solution of OX-E-DROPS or using Tincture of Black-Leaf straight can be very effective in combating these fungal problems

Sebaceous adenitis Sebaceous adenitis: Mainly in Standard Poodles. Symmetrical loss of hair over face, head, neck and back. Dandruff-like scales and hair follicle infection can develop.

Seborrhea Seborrhea: Dry type - similar to heavy dandruff. Greasy type - yellow brown greasy scales that adhere to hair shafts; rancid odor.
(See Healthy-Skin Program Information)

Zinc responsive dermatosis Zinc-responsive dermatosis: Crusty, scaly skin with hair loss over the face, nose, elbows and hocks. Cracked feet. Caused by zinc deficiency. Arctic breeds most susceptible.


Actinomycosis and norcadiosis Actinomycosis and norcadiosis: Uncommon skin infections with abscesses and draining sinus tracts that discharge pus and respond slowly to treatment.

Acute moist dermatitis Acute moist dermatitis (Hot spots): Rapidly advancing patches of inflamed skin from which the hair falls out. The skin is covered with a wet exudate of pus. Progresses through self-chewing and results in pyoderma. (See Healthy-Skin Program Information)

Cellulitis or abscess Cellulitis or abscess: Painful, warm, reddened skin, or pockets of pus beneath the skin. Look for a cause (such as a foreign body, bite wound, self-trauma from irritation related skin disease).

Folliculitis Folliculitis (Hair pore infection): Hair shaft protrudes through center of pustule. Superficial-Similar to impetigo, but extends to involve armpit folds and chest. Deep-Pustules become larger and firmer. Pus, crusts and draining tracts in the skin.

Impetigo Impetigo: Pimple-like bumps (pustules) and thin brown crust on hairless skin of abdomen and groin. Occurs in young puppies.

Interdigital cysts Interdigital cysts: A swelling between the toes that may open and drain pus.

Mycetoma Mycetoma: Painful swelling at the site of a puncture wound, usually on legs or feet. Pus drains through sinus tracts deep in the mass.

Puppy acne Puppy acne: Purplish red bumps (pustules) on the chin and lower lip. Not painful. (See this story)

Puppy strangles Puppy strangles (Juvenile pyoderma): Painful swelling of face (lips, eyelids, ears), followed by rapid appearance of pustules and draining sores. Occurs in puppies under four months of age.

Skin fold pyoderma Skin fold pyoderma (Skin wrinkle infection): Red, inflamed skin with a foul odor in lip fold, nose fold, tail fold, or fold of vulva.
(See Healthy-Skin Program Information)


Bullous pemphigoid Bullous pemphigoid: Similar to pemphigus vulgaris (see below), but usually begins at the junction of skin and mucous membranes. Mouth is commonly involved.

Discoid lupus erythematosus Discoid lupus erythematosus: Affects the flat surface of the nose. Ulceration and de-pigmentation are characteristic.

Erythema multiforme Erythema multiforme: Acute eruption of skin and mucous membranes. Often caused by drugs. Characteristic target-like eruptions with red rims and blanching at center.

Pemphigus erythematosus Pemphigus erythematosus: Similar to pemphigus foliaceus, but restricted to face, head and footpads.

Pemphigus foliaceus Pemphigus foliaceus: Red skin patches (raacules) that progress rapidly to pustules and then to dry yellow crusts. Usually limited to face (nose, muzzle, around eyes, ears). Crusts adhere to underlying skin and hair. Often becomes generalized. De-pigmentation seen in late stages. The feet can become thickened and cracked. Occasionally only the footpads are involved.

Pemphigus vegetans Pemphigus vegetans: Flat-topped pustules involving skin folds. Heals with wart-like growths.

Pemphigus vulgaris Pemphigus vulgaris: Vesicles and bullae (small and large blisters) that ulcerate and form thick crusts. Usually found around the lips and in the mouth, but may be generalized. Ulceration of footpads and shedding of nails are common.

Nodular panniculitis Nodular panniculitis: Multiple lumps (like marbles beneath the skin) over the back and along the sides. Lumps open and drain, then heal by scarring.

Systemic lupus erythematosus Systemic lupus erythematosus: Skin involvement similar to pemphigus foliaceus. First sign may be wandering lameness. Ulceration of footpads is common.

Toxic epidermal necrolysis Toxic epidermal necrolysis: Severe, painful skin disease. Blebs and ulcers involve the skin, mucous membranes and footpads. Large sections of skin are shed like a bum.


Abscess Abscess: A painful collection of pus at the site of a bite or puncture wound.

Basal cell tumor Basal cell tumor: Solitary nodule, usually on a narrow base or stalk. Found on the head, neck and shoulders of older dogs.

Ceruminous gland adenoma Ceruminous gland adenoma: A pinkish-white dome-shaped growth in the ear canal less than one centimeter in size. May become ulcerated and secondarily infected.

Epidermal inclusion cyst Epidermal inclusion cyst: A firm lump beneath the skin. May discharge cheesy material and become infected.

Hematoma Hematoma: A collection of clotted blood beneath the skin; often involves the ear flaps.

Histiocytoma Histiocytoma: Rapidly growing dome-shaped (button like) growth found anywhere on the body, usually in young adults.

Seborrhea Lipoma: Smooth round or oblong growth beneath the skin; feels somewhat soft.

Mast cell tumor Mast cell tumor: Solitary or multiple growths usually found on the trunk, perineum and legs. Breed specific predisposition.

Melanoma Melanoma: A brown or black-pigmented nodule found in areas of dark skin. Growths in mouth and nail beds usually are malignant.

Perianal gland tumor Perianal gland tumor: A solitary or multinodular growth in the perineum around the anus. Occurs in older intact males.

Sebaceous adenoma Sebaceous adenoma: Smooth, pink, wart like growth less than one inch in size. Most common on the eyelids and limbs, Occurs in older individuals (average age 10).

Skin papillomas Skin papillomas: These grow out from the skin and may look like a wart. Not painful.

Soft-tissue sarcomas Soft-tissue sarcomas: Ill-defined or well-demarcated masses of varying size and location. Often slow growing.

Squamous cell carcinoma Squamous cell carcinoma: A non-healing gray or reddish-looking ulcer found on the belly, scrotum, feet, legs, lips or nose; may resemble a cauliflower like growth.

Transmissible venereal tumors Transmissible venereal tumors: Ulcerated often multiple cauliflower-like growths on the genitalia of dogs and bitches.