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Skin rash in dogs: causes and treatment

Skin rash in dogs: causes and treatment

Just like people, dogs need good skin care too. Some dogs never have many skin problems and some deal with issues all their lives. If your dog is biting and scratching his skin, here are some common reasons for rash-like bumps on the skin and ways to treat them.

Dogs are most likely to have a skin rash from:

  • Fleas or other bug bites;
  • Food Allergies/Sensitivities;
  • Allergies (like hayfever);
  • Contact Allergies.

Even with regular baths and treatments, some dogs may still get fleas. They can be especially pesky in warmer areas of the country or in places where the winter was especially mild.
The best flea products are available at your vet’s office or at better pet supply stores. Products such as Advantage and Revolution are more likely to work and keep working.
Some products even allow you to re-treat more often than once a month if there is an infestation.
Before you look for other causes, rule out fleas. You can bathe your pet and look for fleas in the bathwater or use a flea comb to search for the bugs and eggs.

Food Allergies
Food allergies can also cause itchiness and rashes that are generalized and irritating. You may also notice other symptoms such as loose bowel movements or stomach distress. If you suspect food allergies a consultation with your vet may be the best route to take.
It doesn’t hurt to try, in the meantime, adjusting your pet’s food. Look for foods that are premium and high quality or ones that specifically say for sensitive stomachs. Foods that say “limited ingredients” are the best to start with.
A common culprit of food allergies in pets is corn which is often used as a filler in dry dog food. You can also try making your own food for your dog. There are many homemade dog food recipes on the web but the practice is controversial among some vets. If you do decide to do this, make sure you research your dog’s nutritional needs carefully.

Allergies (Hayfever)
Pets can have allergies too. If your pet has inhaled allergies you may notice other signs along with the itching and rash such as sneezing and watery eyes.
If you suspect that your pet may be allergic to irritants in the air you can check the pollen index through a website like If pollen is high and your pet is exhibiting these symptoms and is itchy, he may have hay fever. 
Your vet can prescribe antihistamines for your pet. Most dogs can tolerate over the counter medicines that have the active ingredient of Benadryl. According to, dogs can take .5 to 2 mg of Diphenhydramine for every pound they weigh. Doses should be given every eight hours.
You can always run your dog by the vet’s office for a quick weigh-in (something most vets will do for free).

Contact Allergies
Your dog’s rash could also be caused by something he’s come in contact with. Dogs can and do get poison ivy and poison oak. So if your dog has been outside or in the woods, the rash may be from a plant irritant.
But if that is not the culprit, check your own laundry room and cleaning supplies. Did you switch to a new carpet cleanser? Is the laundry detergent that you use full of perfumes?
Sometimes dogs, just like people, can’t handle dyes and perfumes. If your dog has a contact allergy caused by detergent, for example, his rash may be more on his belly where his blanket or bedding has been touching or where he has been laying on a rug or carpet.
Switching to non-perfumed, sensitive skin detergents and cleansers may give your dog relief.

Shampoo Allergies
Shampoos can also cause contact allergies. If you suspect that your dog's shampoo or grooming rituals are causing the issues, you’ll need to switch products. Ask your groomer to use a sensitive skin shampoo and to hold off on the perfumed powder and products.
If you groom your dog at home, try an unscented pet shampoo or one that is medicated. Medicated shampoos often provide itch relief right away for your pet as you work to get the other factors under control.

Hot Spots
Hot spots is simply a broad term for any red, irritated spot on your dog’s skin. It can be caused by any of the above conditions. Hot spots can also lead to infection. So if your dog's rash becomes inflamed, red, oozing, or is an open sore, you will want to seek vet attention. The site could be infected.

If the Bump is Under the Skin
If the bump is under the skin it could be a growth or lesion that needs to be biopsied. Sometimes even fatty tumors that are benign can irritate the dog and cause him to pick and scratch at it. But since there is a risk of cancer, your vet can check the bumps and tell you what the issue really is.

Pets with itchy skin can feel irritated and restless. It can be frustrating for both owner and dog. If the rash does not show signs of infection, you can try treating it at home. If the rash continues though, seeking veterinary advice and guidance will make your dog happier and healthier.



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