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What is Skin Rash?

A skin rash can be painful, itchy and very uncomfortable.  Many skin conditions can quickly progress. The most common reason for skin rashes in dogs is allergies. Allergies may be caused by your dog’s diet, by the environment (air-borne) and by parasites. A few flea bites on a dog that is allergic to flea saliva can trigger itching and scratching for weeks.  A flea bite allergy is also known as flea allergy dermatitis.

The most common food allergies in dogs are beef, dairy, chicken, corn, wheat, soy and yeast. A dog with a skin rash may also be reacting due to an allergy to the preservatives, dyes and fillers in his diet. Any dog can develop allergies. There are some breeds that are more prone to develop food and airborne allergies such as the Maltese, German Shepherd, Bull Terrier, Cocker Spaniel, American Hairless Terrier, Lhasa Apso, American Pit Bull Terrier, Golden Retriever and the English Bulldog.

Parasites not only cause skin rashes, they can rob your dog of nutrients. A heavy infestation of fleas, mites and ticks can also cause your dog to become anemic.

Dogs that have a skin rash should be seen by a veterinarian.  The veterinarian will be able to diagnose and treat the underlying reason for the skin rash.

Skin conditions are a very common health problem in dogs.   A skin rash in dogs can be caused by an underlying condition such as allergies, heat, bacterial infections and parasites.

Symptoms of Skin Rash in Dogs

Symptoms may include:

  • Pimple-like pustules on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Ulcerated skin
  • Bleeding
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Swelling
  • Sneezing
  • Itchiness
  • Skin flaking
  • Weeping skin
  • Constant licking, biting and chewing
  • Scabs and crusty skin
  • Strong bad odor
  • Depression
  • Secondary skin infection
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Causes of Skin Rash in Dogs

Skin rashes in dogs may be caused by:

  • Parasites such as fleas, ticks and mites can cause skin rashes in dogs; many dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas 
  • Ticks not only irritate the dog’s skin, they can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever; ticks can also transmit these diseases to humans
  • The mite Demodex canis is the cause of demodex mange; demodex canis lives on the dog’s hair follicles
  • Sarcoptic canine mange is caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite burrowing into the dog’s skin. 
  • Food allergies are responsible for 20% of itching in dogs
  • Environmental allergies such as grass, dust, mold, second hand smoke, insecticides and cleaning chemicals can cause your pet to itch and develop a rash
  • Heat rash is caused by the combination of the staphylococcus bacteria and hot, humid weather; dogs with a thick coat are more susceptible to heat rashes
  • Hot spots are also referred to as acute moist dermatitis. Hot spots can spread rapidly and a secondary staph infection can cause the skin to have open sores with pus
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Diagnosis of Skin Rash in Dogs

The veterinarian will want to go over your companion’s medical history.  He will want to know when the skin rash started and if you have noticed any other symptoms. The veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination and may recommend a complete blood count (CBC).  A complete blood count can help determine if the dog has a bacterial infection or if he is anemic. A skin scrape or biopsy may be taken to be analyzed under a microscope. This can indicate the presence of parasites or secondary infections to the rash, like fungal yeast.

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Treatment of Skin Rash in Dogs

Mange is usually treated with dips and medicated shampoo.  Fleas and ticks are treated with a topical product and followed by regular application moving forward, of a parasite preventative medication. If your dog was diagnosed with parasites, the home and yard may need to be professionally fumigated.  Your dog’s bedding and toys should be washed in hot water.  

Dogs diagnosed with food allergies may need to have a dietary elimination trial.  An elimination diet, under the guidance of your veterinarian, can help determine what foods your dog is allergic to. Once a food sensitivity is identified, the rash caused by the reaction should begin to clear. Ointments to soothe the skin can be prescribed.

The veterinarian may recommend you take your dog to a veterinary allergy specialist.  The allergist may recommend blood allergy testing and intradermal allergy testing to narrow down the environmental allergens.  In some cases, daily allergy shots can eliminate the reaction.

Heat rashes may be treated with calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. Dogs with hot spots may be prescribed antibiotics and a short course of corticosteroids. The hair around hot spots must be clipped away and topical medications will be prescribed.

Dogs with skin rashes may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications. If the dog has a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed. The veterinarian could suggest Benadryl to help stop the itching.

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Recovery of Skin Rash in Dogs

Your dog will need follow up visits to help monitor his progress. Most dogs recover from skin rashes once the underlying condition is diagnosed and treated. However, even though a rash appears to be healed, the medication prescribed must be completed in full. The rash and itching may return otherwise.

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Skin Rash Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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terrier mix

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Redness

Milton is mostly Amstaff, followed by Collie and a mix of Boston, Jack and Boxer.....so 7 types of terrier Just now I noticed what appears to be a rash around the bottom of his mouth and on the inside of his hind legs......his legs are a shade of pink I've yet to see with a few darker spots. Cherry red gums, shaking of his ears constantly. This came on suddenly and I have no knowledge of what he could have gotten into, if anything., Bloodshot eyes as well. He is also behaving like something is wrong - eg. overcompensating with hardcore playing and then collapses on the couch etc

Sept. 18, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Kate D. MA VetMB MRCVS

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Hello, Thank you for contacting us about your dog. You have done the right thing in seeking advice. From the symptoms you describe, I am worried both by the fact that the bloodshot or red coloring of the skin is happening in several areas, and the fact that it is accompanied by unusual behavior and sometimes seeming to collapse or be out of energy. There are several possible causes, but I would be most concerned about the possibility of a toxin affecting his system, which is an emergency. My best advice is to get him to a veterinary clinic as soon as possible, so that he can have a full evaluation and treatment. I hope things go ok for him.

Sept. 18, 2020

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German Shepherd

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Rash

Rash under armpit and inner thigh. What should I apply?

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, without being able to see the rash or examine your dog, it is hard to say what it might be or how to treat it. It may be an allergy, a bacterial or fungal infection, or a parasite. If it is something that is not getting better, then you should probably have your dog seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be causing this rash, and get you the right treatment. I hope that everything goes well for your dog.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Dalmatian/ massive

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Rash On Inner Leg

My dog has developed a rash on both her inner legs

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Jessica N. DVM

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Hello- Thank you for your question. The rash could be an indication of a skin infection so I would recommend taking your dog to the veterinarian so they can examine him. If it is an infection they will be able to prescribe antibiotics. Most skin infections in dogs are related to allergies of some form. If he is itchy they will also be able to provide medication to help with the itch. I hope he feels better soon.

July 31, 2020

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Chihuahua

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3 Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

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Red Rash

Hi my dog is licking the right upper part of his leg, it’s a small red rash but I’m worried it might be something more

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Rashes can be caused by many things, including a parasite, a bacterial infection, or allergies. You can try washing the area gently twice a day with a chlorhexidine solution like Hibiclens, for a couple of days. If that helps that is great, if it does not, then it would be best to have him seen by a Veterinarian. They will be able to look at the area if it is not improving, and see what's going on. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 21, 2020

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Bear

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Shih Tzu

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5 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Rash
Red Skin
Irritated
Flaky

My dog is roughly 5 months old. She is a Shih Tzu / Yorkshire terrier mix. I recently noticed a small patch of dark pink/red skin near between her nose and eye area where her tears (very minimal form). This area is wet more often then not from the tears and eating meals. I'm wondering if the nature of the area being moist more often than not is causing this small rash and flaky irritated skin. I also used the Tropiclean brand face cleaning foam to clean her face area without a wash. It's only in one area of her body and one side of her nose/eye area. We wash about 2 times per week and use Hypo-Allergenic Tropiclean Soap and Espree Dead Sea Mud Bath to reduce any dryness. We live in Las Vegas where it can be hot and dry. Is there a topical that I can purchase? Is this something we should see the vet for ASAP? Any all natural remedies? Any advise would be GREATLY appreciated.

Sept. 25, 2018

Bear's Owner

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Pancho

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Rottweiler

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11 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

White Bumps, Scabbing

We have a 11 week puppy with a rash on his joints. It doesn’t itch him but they are small white bumps and they scab. They are on his elbows, legs and top of his head. We have bathed him with medicated shampoo and haven’t sceen improvement. He smells a little too.

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Tyson

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Boxer

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Rash

I have a 3 year old male boxer. He has a rash under his chin. Very raw and bleeding. I do not see him scratching it. I just changed their food about 1 week ago. I do not know what it could be. His feet are red again and I know that it is from the grass. Very rainy here right now.I just need help with the rash under his chin. Rigt now the vet is to expensive.

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Izzy

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Brittany Spaniel

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Seven Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Red Rings On Belly,
Red Rings On Belly, Dark Edges, Lig

My Brittany has sensitive skin. Overnight she developed five rings on her skin in her lower stomach and inner thigh. They are dark around the edges and lighter pink in the middle. They have a small pinprick dot in the middle. The rings are flush with her skin and do not seem to be bothering her. She does not like to spend much time laying down outdoors. Yesterday, she walked in tall grass and spent some time with me in a large campground shower, in a changing area. She did not lay down in that area. The spots are not scaly

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Sugar

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Jack Russell Terrier

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3 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

My 11 lb. rescue has developed a few days ago, a rash under her neck of small, smooth grey spots - she is a long-haired white Jack Russel mix. It doesn't appear to bother her. I plan to take her to the vet if it doesn't go away soon.

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Teddy

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Yorkie pom

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Redness, Itch

Our Yorkie Pom mix has red, irritated areas mostly under his front legs in the "armpit area". It's also got black areas as well, with him itching constantly. Any ideas for home treatment or does he need a vet visit?

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