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Dog Rash: Learn the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

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Skin is the body's largest organ on humans and dogs alike, so it's no surprise that every now and again a skin rash might appear. While a rash might look alarming and cause instant panic, there's a good chance it's nothing too serious. Still, you want to know what's causing the problem and what treatments are available so you can make your pup more comfortable. 

In this guide, you'll learn the different symptoms of dog rash, how to identify the possible causes, and what to do to get your beloved pup's skin clean and clear. 

6 Common Types of Dog Rashes and How to Treat Them

Skin rashes can appear in different forms — from inflamed and oozing to dry and scaly. Here are some common causes of dog rashes along with the symptoms to look out for and what you need to know about treatment options. 

1. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is a common skin condition that often results in red, itchy skin. It occurs when dogs come into contact with something in the environment that triggers an allergic reaction. This contact could be with any number of potential irritants, including soaps, shampoos, detergents, pollen, house dust, plants (such as poison ivy), insect bites, dog food, medication, and more. 

Contact dermatitis could also be seasonal. Allergens show up more frequently during certain times of year (hello, spring!), so your pet might end up with a small rash, itchy skin, watery eyes, and frequent sneezing at these times. 

Symptoms: Red, inflamed skin usually on the belly, legs, or areas on the body with little to no hair.

How to Treat It: The only way to get rid of contact dermatitis is to eliminate the irritant. Perhaps your laundry detergent has perfumes or dyes that are reacting with your dog's skin. Or maybe your pet has seasonal allergies

Antihistamines or topical ointments can help depending on the trigger. Your vet should examine your dog to rule out canine atopic dermatitis, which is a chronic and much rarer condition linked to autoimmune issues. 

2. Fleas

As a loving pet owner, you do all you can to ensure your pet doesn't have to deal with the discomfort of fleas. However, even the most well-cared-for pooches can end up with an infestation of these nasty little insects.

Symptoms: Red bumps that your dog can't stop scratching, biting, or chewing — usually on the ears, neck, belly, back, and base of the tail. Because of excessive scratching, scabs and localized hair loss can also appear. If your pet has a flea allergy (allergic to the flea's saliva), the rash will appear inflamed.

How to Treat It: Regular bathing and over-the-counter or prescribed flea medications are the most common methods for keeping fleas at bay. However, some dogs are allergic to flea medications, which can, ironically, cause a rash. Talk to your vet about natural, non-toxic options. 

3. Hot Spots

Otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are any areas on a dog's skin that appear as patches of swollen red skin. These spots can appear seemingly out of the blue, and can quickly turn into larger lesions that bleed and leave patches of hair loss. 

While there's no single cause for hot spots, excess moisture is certainly a contributing factor. For example, if a dog gets wet and he has matted fur that doesn't allow air to reach his skin, a hot spot could develop. Other potential causes are skin infections, various forms of dermatitis, and untreated allergies.

Symptoms: Raw, itchy, red skin that's hot to the touch. Commonly found on the head, hips, and paws. 

How to Treat It: Your vet may suggest applying antibiotic cream or sprays such as hydrocortisone to reduce the swelling and itchiness. If left untreated, hot spots can develop into secondary infections and painful, fluid-filled blisters, so be sure to seek medical help if the spots don't get better. 

4. Mange

Mange is a skin disease caused by mites that burrow into a dog's skin. The two primary types of mange are sarcoptic mange (known as canine scabies) and demodectic mange (sometimes called demodex). Canine scabies is the most common form and is highly contagious from dog to dog. 

On the other hand, the mites that cause demodectic mange are usually harmless and part of the regular microorganisms that live on your dog's skin. (And your skin, too!) These types of mites live in hair follicles and transfer from a mother dog to her puppies. However, if your dog has a weakened immune system, demodex can cause a red rash and hair loss.

Symptoms: Red, irritated, scaly, flaky skin and hair loss on areas that aren't naturally hairy, such as the belly, elbows, ears, and ankles.

How to Treat It: Oral medications, medicated shampoos, and topical creams and ointments are often the first approach. Antibiotics treat any bacterial infections that might occur. You should also keep your dog away from other dogs since mange is highly contagious. Regularly washing your pet's bedding and other items can also prevent an infestation.

5. Food Allergies or Sensitivities

Unlike the other types of dog rashes on this list, food allergies and sensitivities can cause a breakout all over your dog's skin, not just in specific areas. Some of the most common food allergies for dogs include beef, chicken, lamb, fish, dairy, eggs, wheat, and corn. 

Symptoms: Excessive itchiness, red skin, hives, swelling of the eyes, face, or ears. Another tell-tale sign is vomiting or diarrhea

How to Treat It: Consult your veterinarian for allergy testing so you can pinpoint the exact cause of your canine's condition. You may also try an elimination diet by removing ingredients one week at a time to see how your pooch does. 

6. Infections

Some dog rashes are the result of bacterial infections (such as a staph infection), fungal infections (including ringworm), or yeast infections. Check with your dog's vet right away if you suspect an infection since conditions can worsen significantly if left untreated.

Symptoms: It depends on the type of infection. A bacterial ear infection will present a red rash on the ears and emit a bad odor or sticky discharge. Ringworm shows up as red, scaly, circular patches on the coat as well as the chest, ears, head, or back. Yeast infections often appear as red, itchy, smelly skin in moist environments, such as the ears or folds of the skin. 

How to Treat It: Your vet may prescribe either oral or topical antibiotics and other medications. You may also have to disinfect your home and any areas your dog frequents, especially in the case of ringworm, which is transmissible to humans.

Natural Treatments for Dog Rash

Dog rash: a French bulldog

Seeking professional medical advice is the best way to diagnose and treat your dog's rash. That said, incorporating some natural remedies can help improve your pet's condition and may even prevent flare-ups from happening in the first place.

Frequent Cleaning

Regularly bathing your dog can be a big help when it comes to preventing and soothing dog rashes. Avoid harsh chemicals and opt for shampoos that use natural, soothing ingredients like colloidal oatmeal. 

Frequent brushing and combing will remove dead skin, mats, and allergens while regularly using an OTIC ear cleanser can reduce the risk of ear infections. Just be sure to thoroughly dry your pup after bathing to ensure there isn't any excess moisture where hot spots or other issues can develop. 

High-Quality, Natural Dog Food

Just as you want to choose nutritious, whole foods that are good for you and your family, the same goes for your dog. (Who is, after all, a very important member of the family.) Stay away from highly processed products, and choose food that is free of wheat, sugar, artificial preservatives, GMOs, corn, gumming agents, soy, and salt. Read the label to make sure the food doesn't contain any ingredients your dog is allergic to.

Dog Allergy Treats

Natural dog allergy treats can be an easy and tasty way to help boost your dog's immune system and give them relief from food, environmental, and seasonal allergies. Look for ingredients like probiotics and colostrum, which promote a healthier digestive tract. As science shows, a dog's gut microbiome is directly correlated with overall health. 

Skin Health Supplements

Adding natural supplements that target skin and coat issues is another great way to enhance your dog's healthy lifestyle. Look for ingredients such as flaxseed and fish oil that are rich in Omega fatty acids. Research shows these fats improve inflammatory and immune responses in dogs. 

PetHonesty's SkinHealth chews contain flaxseed, omegas, and probiotics to address the potential causes of your dog’s rash while the Omega Salmon Chews help with dermatitis, skin allergies, hot spots, inflamed and itchy skin, and dull coats. 

Keep Your Dog Clean and Healthy

Dog rash: A hand pets a happy dog

There are many potential causes for a dog rash, which means there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Thankfully, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of your dog getting a rash in the first place. 

As with humans, it all starts with good nutrition, regular exercise, and adding supplements to promote good immune health. However, if your dog does develop a rash, there are effective treatments. For more helpful tips on how to keep your pet happy and healthy, be sure to check out the PetHonesty blog.