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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.

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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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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness

Dog has patches of flaky skin followed by redness on her back. Some hair loss Doesn’t seem to be bothered by it Still cheerful.

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Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for this question and photo. There is significant thinning of the fur and the skin appears dry and flaky with some target lesions. There are several possible causes including a parasite infestation, yeast infection, bacterial folliculitis, allergies etc. A vet visit is best to examine the skin and perhaps perform some tests such as a swab or scrape. The correct medication can then be prescribed which may be e.g. antibiotics and a medicated wash. Do ensure they are up to date with their parasite prevention.

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Husky

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Rash in right leg he is licking it and making it worst Looks really irritated

Jan. 26, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without being able to see him, it is hard to say whether he may or may not need treatment. If the rash is not improving, and he will not stop licking at it or it is very itchy, then you may be right, he may need antibiotic therapy. It would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they can examine him, see what might be causing the rash, and get food for him.

Jan. 26, 2021

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Bulldog

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

A round, flakey rash on Bailey's back with hair loss, pain free, starting tonight. No redness. The Apoquel was started 1 month ago for itchy feet and she has been off of it for 3 days (it was a trial)

Jan. 11, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. If the rash started after the apoquel stopped, the apoquel may be needed on a more long-term basis. Many dogs need that, as an anti allergy medication, and Bulldogs are certainly prone to skin conditions. It would be best to call your veterinarian when they open on Monday, let them know what's going on, and see if they recommend an ongoing apoquel dose, or a different medication.

Jan. 11, 2021

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Husky German Shepard Pit Terrior

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9 weeks

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Red bumps all on nose and knot on throat

Jan. 10, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello Your pup may have a condition called Puppy Strangles. It can cause a rash and swollen lymph nodes. Steroids is usually the treatment. I recommend that you take him to a veterinarian for an exam as soon as possible. Good luck.

Jan. 10, 2021

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Beagle Jack Russell

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Eleven Years

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Unknown severity

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7 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Red Rash Maybe Bug Bite On Armpit

Red rash or bug bit on arm pit

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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7 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If the rash is small, and it is not been there for very long, you can try washing the area gently twice a day with a chlorhexidine solution like hibiclens. That may help wipe off any allergen and let it heal. If it is not improving, or it has been there for quite a while and is not getting better, then it would be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine your dog, see what might be going on, and let you know what treatment might be needed. I hope that all goes well.

Sept. 29, 2020

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

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

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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