Glossary- Dog Skin Conditions

The following information below has been extracted from The Man’s Best Friend Animal Soap has also re-arranged the format to organise the skin problems typically encountered by canines into alphabetical order for easy reading. is an online resource that offers free information and tips on many different pets including dogs, cats, birds, fishes, reptiles, horses, rabbits and pigeons. It also covers many aspects that comprise feeding, grooming, housing, breeding and health care for pets.

[Disclaimer: The Man’s Best Friend Animal Soap takes no responsibility for the accuracy of the information written below.]

As highlighted in our customer testimonials, you will find that the Man’s Best Friend Medicated Soap has been successful in healing some of the skin conditions and symptoms mentioned below for our beloved four-legged customers.


It is accurate to say that canine dermatology is not an exact science. Even when we are aware of a cause of a problem it is not always possible to effect a cure. Skin problems into three general categories: external, internal, and externally caused internal problems, such as inhalant or food allergies.

One of the first observations made by veterinarians in the evaluation of skin disorders is to note the locations of lesions and whether or not they are symmetrical. If the lesions are equal on both sides of the dog the condition is suspect of being of internal origin. If asymmetrical, it is thought to be of external origin.

Many skin problems are self-limiting in that even after extended periods of severe dermatitis the problem disappears permanently without treatment. Many, perhaps most, young dogs develop this problem, which usually but not always disappears with maturity. The question is asked of veterinarians, why, if the problem is contagious, doesn’t the second dog in the house have it too? The answer is that some dogs have immunity to a particular disease to which another may be susceptible.


  • Acanthosis Nigricans

With Acanthosis Nigricans, a few breeds and dogs of mixed breeds develop a dark pigmentation, usually under the forelegs, that progress slowly to other areas of the body. The skin becomes thickened and is sometimes referred to as elephant skin. There is no external treatment to cure this nuisance disease but palliative salves and lotions help to minimize it. It is found in dogs with a decrease of thyroid activity.

  • Allergies

Allergies may be caused by inhalation or ingestion of allergens. Once the cause is established some dogs may be desensitized by injections.

One city dog had been treated for recurrent attacks of itching, scratching, localized hair loss, and open lesions off and on for a year. Allergy problems due to ingestion are in effect year-round. One of our canine patients cannot tolerate meat but can cat eggs with no ill effects. Remember, commercial dog foods have meat and fish in dehydrated form. Food allergies can often be diagnosed by the owner who selectively withholds a particular food from the diet over a two-week period. Milk and eggs must be high on any list of allergic foods and since these foods are commonly used in baking, all foods with any combination of these should be withheld.

One of the more dramatic allergy reactions to food manifests itself by large hivelike lesions that expand as you watch them. Some reach two inches in diameter and rise over half an inch above the normal skin. A dog with such a reaction usually shows no discomfort from this “hob-nail” pattern of swellings all over the body. This dog may be rushed to a veterinarian as an emergency and the veterinarian may watch the swellings recede before his or her eyes. If this condition is persistent, steroids are helpful. One problem lies in the difficulty in the determination of the cause. It may be food ingested twelve or more hours prior to the reaction. The instance of a dog on a commercial food that has received a specific food in addition may give us the clue necessary, but as so many dogs either forage outside or are fed a variety of leftovers it may be difficult to pinpoint the causative agent.

  • Alopecia

There are more inherited skin problems affecting several breeds than space permits describing. One of these inherited problems, alopecia, may affect all breeds. The word refers to abnormal loss of hair with no recognized infection or hormonal imbalance. There is no inflammation and no itching involved, but unfortunately there is no reliable treatment.

  • Animal Odours

The sources of dog odours, aside from excrement of course, are ear canker, lip-fold or other infections, anal gland secretions, sebum from thousands of body glands, and dog collars, which absorb sebum. All of these can be eliminated by cleaning the arse, by treating the infections, by expressing the anal glands, and by thorough bathing.

  • Atopic Dermatitis

Skin inflammation from inhaling airborne particles that produce an allergic reaction is called Canine Atopy. The agents most commonly responsible are pollens, dander, dust, and wool. The tendency to get this dermatitis, which starts between one and four years of age, is thought to be inherited. Saliva-stained extremities and itching are common signs, but many dry itchy conditions may be atopy. Skin testing is usually helpful in a diagnosis.

  • Burns & Frostbites

Perhaps the most common cause of burns is hot fluids, such as coffee or tea, being spilled from a stove. You should apply an ice pack for fifteen minutes and take the dog to your veterinarian. He or she will give you an antibiotic with a steroid to be applied frequently. More serious burn cases should be hospitalized.

It requires prolonged low temperatures to cause frost bite in dogs and virtually never occurs if a dog is free to find shelter. If a dog is chained or otherwise confined where there is inadequate shelter, however, the ear tips and scrotum arc the most vulnerable areas to be affected by frostbite. Systemic antibiotics and antibiotic ointments are the treatments that should be used. They are obtained from a veterinarian.

  • Canine Pemphigus

Superficial ulcers of the lips, eyes, anus, vulva, and penis that progress to deep ulcers which then spread to other areas is a condition called Pemphigus. When present this auto immune disease is not correctible with antibiotics and antiseptics but steroids and other medications do help to control it. Pemphigus is considered incurable.

  • Cheyletiella Dermatitis

Another less common suite-related dermatitis is Cheyletiella Dermatitis. It is easily destroyed by flea sprays, powders, and rinses.

  • Coat Colour Changes

Some dogs with dark coats may grow lighter-coloured hair after a skin infection. Others with light-coloured coats may grow dark hair. Usually this colour change returns to normal after shedding.

  • Contact Dermatitis

Marry substances applied to the skin either intentionally or accidentally, such as acids, caustics, strong soaps and detergents, may cause irritations. Synthetic fabrics including carpeting and wool have been found to cause this as have chemically impregnated plastic collars. Some people claim poison ivy causes contact dermatitis but our research, which involved massaging the leaves into our own Beagles’ lower abdominal skin twice weekly for two months, produced no reaction, although one of us developed the typical poisoning. Even eating from plastic dishes may cause dermatitis of the lips and nose insensitive dogs.

  • Dandruff

The outer surface of the skin is shed constantly and even when this shedding is normal it appears excessive in three- to four-month-old puppies. Many dogs have a coat texture that permits the dandruff to fall out unnoticed, but other coats seem to hold it, suggesting a problem. Any good shampoo and even dish-washing detergent will remove it with a bath. But excess dandruff shedding can be abnormal and caused by many problems. A lack of fat in the diet predisposes many dogs to have dandruff. Both allergy and the common types of mange can cause it. Irritants such as too strong a soap used in a bath may create large flakes of dandruff some days later.

Persistent excess dandruff may indicate the early stages of one of several hormonal problems and a veterinarian should be consulted.

  • Fly Strike

In some areas of the country, a blood-sucking fly will attack the ear tips of erect-eared dogs, causing bleeding and scabbing there. These flies attack only dogs that are kept outdoors. It helps to keep the flies away by mixing a fly repellent such as Toluamide with Vaseline and applying it to the ear tips three times daily. Your veterinarian can tell you whether these flies are a danger in your area.

  • Food and Skin Disease

It is often said that certain foods are too “heatening to the blood” cause skin disease. There is very little truth in that idea. Never feed fat or starches in hot weather because they cause eczema.

But let’s put the old clichés aside and recognize that whatever the cause and effects there are some foods that affect some dogs adversely. We are inclined to think the cases are rare but some are so dramatic they should he mentioned. Although many diet changes had been advised, including one week when only raw hamburger was fed, there was always the common denominator: meat. Of course dry commercial dog foods contain meat in a dehydrated form.

The vegetarian diet consisted of a mixture of one half soybean meal cooked in a pressure cooker with one quarter of either boiled rice or oatmeal and one quarter crushed cooked mixed vegetables. Add a vitamin mineral mixture and two tablespoons of corn oil.

The dog has been normal since that time except for one twenty-four hour period after a cookout, when someone fed the dog half a ham-burger.

Since the meat-sensitive German Shepherd, we have found another dog that can eat only small amounts of meat without breaking out with an itchy rash. However, many’ of our vegetarian clients’ owners are feeding our vegetarians formula out of choice.

Many dogs have a violent reaction to pork not small amounts but on that rare occasion when they are fed a meal of leftover smoked or fresh pork. The results are usually vomiting and diarrhoea for part of a day.

  • Interdigital Pyoderma

Pyoderma means pus in the skin, and some breeds appear particularly susceptible to this disagreeable problem. Abscesses develop between the toes, swell and rupture, then drain and heal. In a few weeks the swelling returns and the same sequence of events happens. Some dogs develop these abscesses between all the toes on all four feet but more often there will be only one or two at any one time. The cause is not understood but experience indicates small doses of the antibiotic tetracycline in the food daily does control but not cure the problem. Surgery helps to correct some of these lesions.

  • Lick Granuloma

Chronic thickened skin on the surface of a fore-leg and occasionally on a rear leg where it is convenient for a dog to lick may be a lick granuloma. The hair falls out and the skin appears to be tough and featherlike. When medication is applied without a bandage, the dog promptly licks it off. At one time these lesions were treated by injecting them with snake venom. Cobra venom was the choice and did help many such cases, but steroid injections seem to be more effective with topical antibiotics. Bandaging may help but often the dog licks the edges of the bandage, resulting in a new lick granuloma. Surgery helps some cases but not infrequently the dog licks the healing wound and produces another area of involvement where the affected tissue had been removed. There is good evidence that if the dog stops licking the lesions heals. And one wonders if the saliva contains an agent capable of causing a lick granuloma.

  • Lip-fold  Pyoderma

Some breeds have folds of skin along the lower jaw that are subject to an infection that usually produces a foul odour. Many owners think the problem is halitosis perhaps caused by bad teeth or gums, but touching the area with a fingertip and smelling it reveals the odour. Antibiotics and even tamed iodine will correct this problem. An occasional dog experiences this problem even without having the deep lip folds.

  • Mange

Both demodectic mange and sarcoptic mange are skin problems caused by mites.

  • Moist Eczema or “Hot Spot”

Moist eczema begins as a spot the size of your little fingernail one day, grows to the size of a silver dollar the next, and is the size of your palm on the third day. The hair falls out; the area is yellow, glistening, and painful. One of our colleagues said he thought that seven days in the hospital with treatment three times a day cures this disease if treated; otherwise, it takes a week. The yellow oil lotion is the best treatment to be used on dogs with this problem. It must be applied liberally twice daily until the scab that forms works off. The hair grows back with no after effects. This treatment usually reduces the discomfort and corrects the problem in less than a week.

  • Nasal Solar Dermatitis

Although also called “Collie rinse,” nasal solar dermatitis is not confined to that breed. The problem is sensitivity to the sun that causes dermatitis on the surface of the nose. The condition sometimes eventually extends up to the eyes. When the problem is advanced, the nose becomes disfigured and erodes away. When the dog is kept out of the sun, the condition improves. Tattooing, covering the nose with black ink from felt marking pens has controlled many cases, but the tissue may be so damaged that tattoos may not “take.” Perhaps making the dog a nocturnal dog is most effective. Steroids and antibiotics also help minimize solar dermatitis.

  • Parasite Control

Bathing in itself will not eliminate parasites, as many people seem to think, but preparations of excellent efficiency for use with bathing are readily available. Some are used as a rinse or dip following the bath; others are liquid soaps or soap cakes with insect killers added. Some manufacturers claim that their products will prevent fleas and lice from re infesting dogs for several days to a week after use. Some claim their products will kill the eggs of lice (nits).

In eliminating lice, it is necessary to apply the killing agent every eleven days, as this breaks the generation and so eliminates the lice. If there is any doubt about the thoroughness of the treatment, apply the preparation once a week for three weeks.

The more effective way to control pests is to use a liquid dip, soap, or rinse to kill all the insect pests during the bath and then keep the dog well powdered with a non poisonous flea powder. Flea collars that were once effective are less so now, thanks to the emergence of resistant fleas.

  • Pruritus or Itching

One of the more perplexing dermatologic problems in dogs is pruritus, or itching, which is usually seasonal in the late summertime and into the fall. Dermatitis and eczema are catchall words, but since we like labels, many in the profession call the condition “summer eczema.”

Once a name is given to a problem we veterinarians are as human as anyone.

After grass allergy came the term “grass fungus”; a fungus that was also found on grass could be cultured from the skin of affected dogs. More recently many veterinarians have decided flea bite dermatitis is the cause, the theory being that affected dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas and, theoretically, even one flea can bring on the condition and when are most dogs without one flea in the summertime? There is little doubt that some dogs are allergic to flea saliva, but this should not be sweepingly considered the cause of all summer itching.

We would like to offer quite a different opinion. Affected dogs are sensitive to some unidentified substance given off in the moisture secreted by the skin. Dogs don’t sweat as we do because they have few sweat glands in their skin, but moisture is given off normally. More moisture forms in hot weather and dogs susceptible to this irritant in the moisture suffer.

There is no doubt that baths give temporary relief to the itching of summer eczema but often for only twelve or so hours. Medicated soaps are effective but an oily solution which we call “yellow oil lotion” seems to be better. Perhaps the oil prevents the contact of the irritating unknown substance with the skin. The formula of one third each by volume fine sulphur powder, corn oil, and kerosene has been a great help to relieve the itching but has the disadvantage of messiness. Pursuant to our belief that moisture is the cause of itching, we have asked owners of dogs with early-stage summer eczema to dust their pets with an antiperspirant powder human antiperspirant not a deodorant daily. Many believe it has brought great relief and prevented the problem of previous years.

Only in desperation should steroids be given to stop itching, as steroids depress the immune system. It is suggested the route of administration should be through the mouth and not by injection; once injected steroids cannot be withdrawn.

  • Removal of Paint

Most of us are cognizant of the dangers of lead in oil-based paints. Since some of these oil-based paint pigments are poisonous they should be removed immediately. If the dog comes home with still wet oil-based paint on its coat, turpentine will remove it, if plenty is used without allowing too much to come in contact with the dog’s skin. The turpentine must be removed by thorough washing with soap and water after each application.

If the oil-based paint is dry, first try to dissolve it. And if your dog’s skin is especially tender, use linseed oil to do this. When you have diluted the paint greatly, wash it and the oil out with soap and water. You may, however, have to cut the paint out with scissors as a last resort, even though this may make the dog look less attractive for awhile. Of course, water-based paints can be removed by washing with water.

  • Ringworm

The term “ringworm” has nothing to do with worms but is a fungal infection that may be contracted from humans or vice versa.

  • Seborrhoea Dermatitis

  Seborrhoea Dermatitis is a result of overactive glands of the skin called sebaceous glands exuding a waxy substance often with a rancid odour in excessive amounts. When this occurs, the dog is miserable with some itching and thickening and scaling of the skin. Although there is no known cause, seborrhoea can be controlled by bathing at weekly or less intervals for the life of the dog. Special medicated soaps are necessary, which your veterinarian may prescribe.

  • Shedding

It is perfectly normal for a dog to shed- the denser the coat, the more obvious the condition. Even what may appear to a pet owner to be excess shedding is a sign of good health. Dogs maintained outside tend to shed twice a year, in spring and fall, but pets living in the house and exposed to the outside a few tinier a day tend to shed365 days a year. Breeders refer to a dog “blowing its coat” when shedding is at its peak. It is not normal for shedding to leave nude areas and if this happens you take the dog to the vet.

That hormonal problems reflected in problems of the skin is well established. One good example is the loss of the coat in a female dog a month or so after whelping a litter of puppies. Many females in the wild lose a good deal of their coats to line their nests prior to whelping, but perhaps in domestication we have altered the dog’s physiology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s