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What the Heck Is That!? The Figo Guide to Canine Skin Infections

Incessant scratching, licking, or biting? Your dog may have a skin infection. Wondering what kind your canine has and why they keep reoccurring? Read on!

Fluffy dog in office with owner

Skin issues are actually more common in canines than one might believe. They can cause quite a bit of discomfort for your pooch, from itchiness to open sores. The warm weather sees an increase in skin infections with contributing factors like seasonal allergies or insect bites. 

Even minor skin conditions or infections merit attention, because repeated itching, rashes, and even bald patches can indicate an underlying health issue that may not have been diagnosed yet. Canine skin conditions can be mild or severe and do need professional care to prevent the worsening of the infection. Untreated infections can quickly become more serious. Consider that an allergic skin condition can become infected with bacteria or with yeast due to scratching. 

The most common skin infections will include:

  • Allergies due to environmental allergens

  • Bacterial skin infections

  • Parasite allergies

To understand why your dog may be suffering from recurring skin infections, it’s important to verify the type of infection and the underlying causes to effectively treat it.

Skin infection symptoms

Itching is probably the biggest tell of a skin condition, but a vet will need to determine the cause of irritation. Dogs do normally scratch, but prolonged itching and continuous scratching point to something more severe. Other skin infection symptoms include 

  • Baldness or hair loss

  • Bumps

  • Dandruff

  • Excessive licking or scratching

  • Hotspots or moist dermatitis

  •  Lumps

  • Rashes

  •  Redness

  • Skin lesions

  • Skin appears dry, flaky, or scaly

If you notice any of these conditions, investigate when your dog exhibits a reaction. This may help your vet to rapidly identify the cause of a recurring infection. For example, does a reaction appear after a meal or in a specific season? Another clue may be after you finish housework or have used cleaning products. If you don’t see anything unordinary, your dog needs a veterinary evaluation.

When going to your vet, prepare the following information to aid in diagnosis:

  • Dietary information including snacks and all food

  • Times of increased symptoms such as after meals, after a walk, in the dog bed, etc.

  • Specific symptoms 

  • Underlying health issues that have already been diagnosed, or previous health conditions

Common canine skin infections

The most common dog skin infections that veterinarians encounter include bacterial infections, contact allergies, fungal infections, and parasite allergies.

Bacterial infections

Puncture wounds from dog fights can cause bacteria to enter the skin. Pyodermas are skin infections that are generally secondary to other conditions like allergies, hormonal problems, or internal disease.

Contact and environmental allergies

Itching and scratching on the chest, face, feet, or stomach areas can indicate an environmental allergy that erupts when your pooch comes into contact with something. These are atopic allergies that can be caused by plants, pollen, grasses, or even dust mites. These are difficult to treat and may require injections, tablets, or bathing products.

Dandruff

Dry skin that flakes can signal an underlying medical issue. Diet can likewise play a part in skin dryness. Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in the diet can help. A simple case of dandruff can be treated with a specific shampoo.

Folliculitis

This infection is the inflammation of hair follicles and may be the result of other skin infections. This infection can develop in the form of bumps, scabs, and sores. It is generally treated with antibiotics, both oral and ointments, and shampoos.

Food allergies

Constant itching and scratching at the ears, face, feet, and anus may indicate a food allergy. Canines can develop food allergies to specific proteins such as beef, chicken, eggs, or dairy. Some may also exhibit allergies to vegetables and wheat.

Impetigo

This infection is common to puppies and can indicate an underlying skin problem. Blisters appear on the belly area and may rupture and develop a scab. Antibiotics and washes are used as treatment. 

Lupus

This is an autoimmune disease where your dog’s immune system attacks the dog’s body cells. Lupus is a very serious skin condition. Symptoms generally show around the eyes, on the nose, or paws.

Mange

Mange is a common skin disease dogs that are neglected and abused. Mites cause this severe skin infection. There are two types: demodectic and sarcoptic. Symptoms include hair loss, severe itching, and inflamed skin. Mites can invade bedding and the environment, so the cure will not be limited to pharmaceuticals.

Ringworm

Ringworm is probably the commonest fungal infection found on dogs. It is highly contagious to pet parents, family members and guests, and other animals. Ringworm appears as a crusty round patch on the head, ears, paws, or front legs. Skin will have a red inflamed look that will be further irritated with scratching.

Ticks and fleas

These parasites bite your pup’s skin and saliva enters the system causing extreme itching. Dogs will scratch or bite causing hair to fall out and skin to become inflamed. The problem with fleas is that they can invade bedding and carpets, making elimination problematic and a return of the infection probable. 

Yeast infections

Yeast will generally attack hard to get to places like ears, groin, and in between toes. Skin will thicken and your pup will scratch and bite at it. There also may be a bad smell and discoloration of the skin.

In conclusion

To be able to understand why your dog is experiencing repeated skin infections, it’s important that you visit your veterinarian for a full exam. Any mild to severe skin problem needs a veterinary visit. In this way, your vet will be able to identify any underlying causes and prescribe the proper course of treatment.


Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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