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Skin Ulceration in Dogs

Skin Ulceration in Dogs - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What is Skin Ulceration?

There are multiple causes for skin ulceration, ranging from trauma to serious disease conditions.  Abscesses, inflammation and hives are just three of the many symptoms associated with skin ulcerations; conditions like allergic reactions and parasites can initiate skin issues which may require antibiotics, antifungals, and changes in diet in order to clear up the epidermal lesions.

A broad definition of skin ulceration in dogs is quite simply a condition in which layers of the skin of the afflicted canine have been abraded or otherwise “roughed up”, creating an opportunity for infiltration of various types of organisms into the area of ulceration.

Symptoms of Skin Ulceration in Dogs

A veterinary visit is warranted if you notice symptoms such as these:

  • Abscesses
  • Crusty areas on the skin, some of which will ooze blood or mucus
  • Hairless, raised lesions
  • Abraded areas on the nose which drain and are painful
  • Any painful, raised, swollen or inflamed area
  • Itching which results in excessive licking of the area
  • Hives
  • Any bite noted on the animal’s skin, especially those which have become inflamed


There are various types of skin ulcerations which are common to canines:

  • Dermatitis related - includes rashes
  • Trauma related
  • Bite related - insect bites, stings and other allergen related ulcerations, can include any penetrating wound or injury
  • Parasitic infestation
  • Cancerous or tumor related
  • Bacterial infection from any of the above types
  • Systemic involvement from various diseases and health conditions 

This list is not exhaustive but it serves the purpose of giving you some idea of the possible origins of the skin abnormality which you have noted on your dog or which could be seen at some point in the future.

Causes of Skin Ulceration in Dogs

The causes of skin ulceration in dogs are probably as numerous as the dog breeds themselves.  Some are actually congenital or breed related in origin and some present in the form of skin irritations and lesions while others present in the form of open sores.  Here are some of the causes of irritations and inflammations you may have noticed on your pet:

  • Dermatological conditions - These are the most common causes of skin ulceration in dogs
  • Infections - These include abscesses from bite wounds which have become infected, fungal infection
  • Allergic reactions - These can include reactions to vaccinations, medication, insect bites, bee and wasp stings along with allergic reactions to household and environmental element exposure
  • Cancers of various types
  • Parasitic infestations
  • Skin ulcerations resulting from internal organ dysfunction or imbalance of nutritional elements
  • Breed specific dermatological conditions - Some dog breeds are predisposed to certain dermatological conditions
  • Breed specific diseases - Some dog breeds are predisposed to certain diseases and health conditions

Diagnosis of Skin Ulceration in Dogs

Diagnosis of the skin ulceration in your dog will be, in part, dependent upon some very important input from you.  Your veterinary professional will require the history of your canine family member as it applies to:

  • Dietary regimen - Both present and those from the past 
  • Recent vaccinations (if not done by the treating vet), 
  • Health conditions which may be unknown to the treating vet 
  • Environmental and household conditions which may have had some effect on your canine 
  • The locations of where your pet has been recently to ascertain the possibility of parasitic or insect involvement  
  • Any symptoms and unusual behaviors that you’ve noticed and the duration of that unusual behavior and symptoms  

Your vet will do a physical examination and will likely need blood samples, urine, fecal or tissue samples to provide additional diagnostic information.  In the event that he suspects internal organ or tumor involvement, he will likely also need radiographic (x-ray) imaging, CT (computer tomography) or MRI imaging studies to obtain additional information for his diagnostic process.  Since sometimes the lesions being evaluated can be secondary to a deeper cause, your vet will need this information to isolate and rule out the many maladies common to canines which can exhibit similar symptoms.

Treatment of Skin Ulceration in Dogs

Once your veterinary professional has compiled the results of the testing he has ordered and the examinations he has performed, he will develop a treatment plan which is consistent with the final diagnosis obtained.  Here are some treatment recommendations which could be presented:

  • Treatment with antibiotics if bacterial infection is found 
  • Treatment with antifungals (if available) if fungal infection is found as the root cause
  • Treatment with antihistamine medications and/or steroids if the root cause is determined to be allergic in nature
  • Treatments for parasitic infestation
  • Dietary regimen changes if the diet or nutritional elements of the diet of the canine is determined to be the cause
  • Ongoing, life long treatment of immune disorders if that is the cause
  • Treatments related to treating liver, pancreas, lymphatic or other health conditions or diseases if found to be the root cause of the skin ulceration
  • Treatment and recommendations as needed if the skin condition is found to be zoonotic in nature (these are diseases and conditions which can be passed between animals and humans)

Other treatment plan components will likely include ways to prevent or limit the possibility of future skin ulceration episodes.  This portion of the treatment plan may include some lifestyle changes for you and your entire household and some of those changes may be dramatic while others may be fairly simple.

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Recovery of Skin Ulceration in Dogs

The root cause of the skin ulceration will determine the effectiveness of treatment and the prognosis of your family pet, as some of the potential causes and diagnoses are more serious and life-threatening than others.  It is important to remember that, in all of these cases, the health and well being of both your canine family member and your human family members is of primary concern to your veterinary professional.  He will guide you through the treatment and recuperation of your family pet.  It will be up to you to provide the three A’s (affection, attention and affirmation) which your beloved pet desires and needs, especially during these difficult periods in his life.

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