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4 min read

Can Dogs Get Rashes?


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So your furry friend is covered in hair, right? It would be pretty hard to notice a rash due to their permanent “clothing”, but do dogs get rashes?

Can Dogs Get Rashes?


Although, rashes may not be noticeable on your dog unless they become very extensive, spreading to areas like the belly where there may be less hair covering, or cause irritation resulting in itching and scratching. A variety of conditions can result in rashes, much like in us. Bacterial or viral infections, parasitic or fungal infections, allergies, or exposure to heat and high humidity are all culprits that can cause rashes in our canine companions.

Does My Dog Have a Rash?

Because your dog's skin is not as readily visible due to their furry covering, rashes may go undetected at first, until more obvious symptoms appear. Aside from redness and discoloration of skin, some other symptoms of rash in our furry friends are:

  • Flaking skin

  • Hot spots and open sores

  • Scratching

  • Biting at skin

  • Dull hair coat

  • Loss of hair

If your dog is experiencing a rash there could be a variety of causes. Rashes in dogs can be caused by:

  • Allergies: skin irritants or dietary factors are common causes

  • Dermatitis

  • Parasites: ticks, fleas, mange are all common culprits

  • Fungal infections: yeast, ringworm

  • Heat rash from exposure to heat and humidity

  • Bacterial infection: impetigo may occur in puppies

  • Viral infection

  • Reaction to medication

A compromised immune system will often be a contributing factor to a rash.

Your veterinarian can take a scraping of skin and examine it under the microscope which may reveal parasites. Blood and urine tests may help uncover bacterial or viral causes of a rash. Letting your veterinarian know what exposures your dog has had, prior to developing the rash, may help narrow down an allergic reaction to a medicine, detergent, or dietary factor. Diagnosing the cause of the rash is important in determining appropriate treatment, so any information you can provide on your dog's medical history and what may have triggered the rash will be helpful.

Please see the following guides for more information on skin rashes and possible conditions causing them in your dog:

Skin Rash in Dogs

Skin Reaction to Drugs in Dogs

Yeast Dermatitis in Dogs

Skin Rash Due to Contact with Irritants in Dogs

Skin Reaction to Allergies in Dogs

Skin Reaction Due to Parasites in Dogs

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Rash?

If an allergic reaction is the cause of your dog's rash, removing the allergen, if possible, making changes to diet, and treatment with antihistamines or steroids will decrease the allergic reaction and the resulting rash.

Heat rash can be treated with removal of the dog from the hot environment and the application of cool wet cloths, calamine lotion, and topical hydrocortisone creams.

Fleas, ringworms, mange, and other fungal or parasitic infections can be treated with antiparasitic medications, medicated shampoos and dips.

Bacterial infections may require antibiotics and topical treatment with chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide or benzoyl peroxide.

Supportive care for rashes includes bathing with soothing hypoallergenic shampoos and vacuuming and cleaning your dog's bedding to remove irritants and parasites. Aloe vera and oatmeal sprays may soothe irritated rashes.

How Are Rashes Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Rashes in dogs and people have many things in common.

  • Bacterial, fungal, parasitic, or viral infections can result in rashes

  • Allergies are a very common cause of rashes in dogs and people and are treated in a similar fashion

  • Dietary factors are often causes of rashes in dogs or people

  • Rashes can be itchy and result in secondary skin conditions

  • Compromised immune system is often associated with manifestation of rashes

  • A combination of factors is often responsible for a rash occurring

How Are Rashes Different in Dogs and Humans?

There are some differences in how dogs are affected by rashes.

  • Because your furry friend is covered in a hair coat, manifestation of a rash may not be noticed until it extends to delicate skin and/or causes itching or noticeable sores and other secondary conditions.

  • Parasitic infections, especially fleas and mange, are much more common in dogs than people. Fleas and mites require a hairy host to complete their life cycle and only live briefly on people before finding a preferred host.

Case Study

A Greyhound mix, adopted from a rescue, is covered in fleas and exhibiting a terrible rash with flaking skin and open sores. The adoptive family treats their new friend for fleas and provides soothing skin treatments and medication to heal sores and skin conditions. Several months later, although the fleas are gone, and much of the skin condition has improved, red irritated skin still remains. The veterinarian that works with the rescue agency recommends changing the dog’s diet to a gluten free diet, with lots of protein. This makes a difference, and the dog’s remaining skin condition clears up after several weeks on his new diet.

It is not uncommon for a combination of factors, including a compromised immune system, to contribute to a rash and several treatments may be necessary to resolve skin conditions, which are especially common in neglected rescue animals.

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