A Guide to Canine Skin Conditions

Ever found a rash, lump or bump on your furry friend and wondered whether it was time for a visit to your vet?

Just like humans, dogs can be prone to developing many different skin conditions. While some of these can be dangerous and require immediate attention, others are benign or are safe to treat at home. If in doubt, however, remember it’s always best to call the vet.

Hot Spots

Hot spots, also known as acute moist dermatitis, are a non-life threatening skin condition that can cause your pup a considerable amount of discomfort. Hot spots are self-caused injuries which are created by the repetitive itching and licking of an area. They appear as moist, red lesions on the body, and are often accompanied by hair loss. They’re typically found on the head, hips, chest, or stomach—any area that your dog is able to lick or scratch.

The most important part of hot spot treatment is to prevent continued irritation of the area. This can often be accomplished through use of an Elizabethan collar, also known as an e-collar or the cone of shame, combined with vigilant supervision. Many pet stores sell products that can be used to treat hot spots, but a more long-term solution may ultimately require the expertise of a veterinarian, as determining and treating the underlying cause of irritation is the only way to prevent recurrence.


Despite its name, ringworm is actually a fungus, not a worm. It’s spread through direct contact with an infected animal or contaminated surface and is most commonly found on puppies and older dogs. Ringworm isn’t life threatening, but it’s highly contagious and requires veterinary attention. It’s also one of the few diseases your furry companion might pick up that can be spread to humans, so hand washing and sanitation is a must. According to the AKC, “fungal spores can remain viable for up to 18 months and typically spread through shedding or breaking of infected hairs.”

In most cases, ringworm in dogs appears as circular patches of hair loss. Often, the skin will be scaly and inflamed; and red, raised rings may appear in the centers of the lesions. Other symptoms include dry, brittle hair and claws. Once a diagnosis is made, your vet will treat the infection through a combination of topical and oral medications and may suggest environmental decontamination.

Insect Bites

Insect bites can often be safely treated at home, so long as you keep a careful eye on your pet to ensure that complications, such as an allergic reaction, do not occur. Insect bites on your dog are treated much the way they would be on you. A cold compress can be applied to the affected area to help sooth itching and decrease swelling. Hydrocortisone cream is also safe to use on your pet, as is a baking soda and water paste.

According to Pet’s Best, “as long as your dog continues to breathe with no problem, a veterinary visit may not be necessary even if the face swells a bit. Benadryl, an over the counter antihistamine, counters swelling and itching.” The recommended dose for dogs is 1 milligram of Benadryl for every pound your pet weighs. Call your vet immediately if your dog exhibits any signs of anaphylactic shock, including difficulty breathing, trembling, extreme swelling, weakness, diarrhea and vomiting.

Fatty Tumors

Fatty tumors are benign, fatty deposits that can be found anywhere on your dog. Most lumps you feel are non-cancerous and harmless, but whenever you feel a new bump, make sure you get it checked out by your veterinarian, just to be safe. It’s a good idea to become familiar with your dog’s body, that way you can be aware of any changes as soon as possible. If you find any new lumps or notice a difference in any old ones, it’s time to make a call to your vet.

Meet the Author: Holly Zynda

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