Most dog skin conditions are minor, but they can be uncomfortable for the dog when left untreated. Some other skin conditions in dogs are related to serious infections and the treatment will be more complicated. If you notice your pet scratching or chewing their skin more than normal, this may be the first symptom.

Atopic Dermatitis in a dogCommon Dog Skin Conditions and Their Treatment Options

1 Atopic Dermatitis

This is a chronic, inflammatory condition that affects the dog’s skin. It cannot be cured and lifelong management is required, but new 2019 study is showing promising results that could make a change in this area.

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is genetically predisposed condition, caused by environmental allergens: pollen, cleaning sprays, and mold (1, 2). This condition will most often show up on a dog's face, ears, underarms, lower legs, and paws (3, 4).

Atopic Dermatitis in dogs is very common and can be difficult to deal with (5, 6, 7). It may begin as the odd scratch here and there, then cultivate into your dog rubbing themselves redraw, making the condition much worse. By itself it may also gradually get worse if there's no treatment provided.


  • Itching and scratching excessively
  • Rubbing against furniture or trees
  • Licking at the affected area

Home Remedies

Apple Cider Vinegar – Combine one part Apple Cider Vinegar with one part water in a sterile spray bottle and spray on the affected areas to relieve itching and help encourage healing. If your dog has raw areas of skin, it’s best to use a milder option as this could sting.

Air Purifier – An excellent way to get rid of environmental pollutants such as dust is to keep an air purifier on in the room that your dog spends most of his time. Many owners swear by this solution, and claim that the difference in their pet’s quality of life and skin health after investing in an air purifier improves beyond belief!

Medical Treatment – As this is an allergy based condition, blood testing, and skin patch testing is usually performed to determine the allergen that’s causing your dog to have outbreaks, sometimes your veterinarian may need to send you to visit with a specialist canine dermatologist to find the source and develop an effective treatment plan.

Veterinary Treatment Options

The treatment of Atopic Dermatitis in dogs must be multifaceted, and different interventions will be combined for the most optimal benefit of a dog (7, 8, 9).

  • Hyposensitization Therapy
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Topical ointments

Pemphigus on a dog

2 Pemphigus

This is a group of four autoimmune skin conditions known to cause scabs, crusting and fluid-filled cysts on the dog’s skin (10, 11). Bacterial infections from the open sores are common, as are fever and depression.

Each variation of Pemphigus shows different effects and symptoms (12). Let's run through them one by one:

Vegetans – This is characterized by groupings of cysts that bond together to form large oozing lesions.

Foliaceus – Most commonly this variation of Pemphigus in dogs affects the head, ears, and pads of the feet. Symptoms are scabbing, crusting of the skin, oozing lesions, and overgrowth on the pads of the feet which result in a cracked appearance. As the dog's feet are affected, the pet will suffer from mild to severe lameness, as well as running a fever, and showing swelling on the lymph nodes.

Erythematosus – Similar in symptoms to Pemphigus Foliaceus, the main way to distinguish the difference is by looking at the color of the dog’s lips. Where they are turning pale, or blue-ish, that likely indicates that Erythematosus is the culprit. Here's a photo example of a Chow Chow with severe Erythematosus.

Vulgaris – The final and most severe version of this condition. Blisters and deep ulcers will likely appear across the entire body. Mouth ulcers are a huge problem with this ailment, as the pain can stop a dog from eating and result in anorexia which weakens the body’s immune response further.

Home Remedies

Changes in diet may be beneficial as autoimmune conditions are greatly affected by diet when the dog is able to be overcome them better. Diet can also help to alleviate and overcome symptoms. Consult with a vet, because each dietary choice will be specific.

Veterinary Treatment Options

In each of the above four variants, as with all autoimmune conditions, the body is reacting with to healthy tissue as though it were a threat (13, 14). Your veterinarian will perform a skin analysis to ensure that there aren’t other reasons for the symptoms, and once a positive diagnosis has been made, treatment can begin.

The standard treatment process for a canine suffering from Pemphigus is steroid therapy and use of topical treatments (15, 16). In more severe cases the dog will need to be hospitalized for a period to safely get the symptoms under control. Corticosteroid therapy is another treatment for these dog skin conditions and will require that your pet switches to a low fat diet due to the medications proclivity for increasing the risk of pancreatitis.

Hot Spots on a dog

3 Hot Spots (Pyotraumatic Dermatitis)

These annoying yet in most cases minor skin irritations on your dog can be likened to heat rash that humans can get during the summer (17, 18). Also known as summer sores, or moist dermatitis, they are most often caused by gnawing or licking at an area which results in a bacterial infection.

All dogs have healthy bacteria living on their skin, but when they pierce the surface of their skin, even with just a tiny scrape, that normal bacteria makes its way into the dog’s body and creates an infection which can cause oozing sores.

Most commonly, these issues happen in humid climates, or after your dog has been in water due to the abundance of bacteria, and are far more common in dogs with thick undercoats such as Border Collies, Labradors, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers.


The hot spot itself is the first sign! So when you spot a raised, or oozing bump on your dog’s skin, it’s best to take him for immediate medical treatment before it worsens.

Home Remedies

The best way to aid in recovery, and in fact avoid hotspots in the first place, is to keep your dog’s fur well groomed and trimmed. If you live in hot or humid weather, this is of particular importance.

While your dog is recovering from this ailment, you can gently wash the area with a mild shampoo, and pat the dog dry. Many veterinarians will advise that your dog wears a recovery cone during the initial healing process to avoid reopening the healing wound.

Veterinary Treatment Options

The main treatment for this condition is cleaning of the area, sometimes washing the dog using a medicated shampoo, and following with application of a topical ointment (19, 20, 21). Depending on the severity of infection, your veterinarian may also prescribe oral medication.

Sarcoptic Mange on a dog

4 Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, also known as canine scabies, is caused by the sarcoptic mite taking up residence atop your pooch. It's a common condition that is highly contagious to canines, humans and wildlife (22, 23, 24). It’s advised that you keep your dog quarantines while treatment takes place.

Your dog can easily pick this up from a boarding kennel, at the dog park, or even at your local vet clinic. The condition takes about six-weeks post-exposure to show symptoms. Once developed, it can affect not only the skin but a dog's internal organs too (25).

The sarcoptic mite (also known as the Sarcoptes Scabie Mite) burrows into your dog’s skin, and it’s this that causes irritation and itching for your poor pup (26). Contrary to popular belief, the mite itself doesn’t cause the dog’s hair to fall out; rather, it’s your dog’s scratching to try and relieve the discomfort that results in the hair loss.


  • Excessive itching of the skin
  • Areas of bleeding on the skin
  • Scabs forming on the skin
  • Hair loss
  • Raised rash

Home Remedies

It may be worth using a scabicidal shampoo on your dog once per week until every sign of the mite has gone and your vet has given him the all clear. As the condition is highly contagious to humans, it might be worth picking up a scabicidal shampoo for yourself too!

Veterinary Treatment Options

The treatment for the sarcoptic mange itself is simple: the dog is ordinarily given a scabicide dip that kills all living mites on the body, and over-the-counter dry skin remedies can also be used to alleviate further discomfort (27, 28, 29).

It’s worth noting that this doesn’t kill the eggs, which is why a weekly bath with a medicated shampoo at home is necessary in most cases. The secondary problems of possible infection to the skin will be treated with topical skin infection treatments, and may also include steroids if advised by a vet.

Demodectic Mange on a dog

5 Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange, unlike the Sarcoptic variety, is caused by an influx of overpopulation of Demodex mites that ordinarily live on dogs without issue (30, 31, 32). Demodectic mange usually occurs in dogs that carry a Demodex mite and have a weakened immune system, including sick or old dogs (33, 34).


The symptoms of the condition include:

  • Lesions on the body
  • Excessive itching
  • Hair loss

Home Remedies

Unlike with other dog skin conditions, studies show that homeopathic remedies can help with Demodectic Mange (35). Soothing the irritation is your goal during your pet's recovery. You can do this by bathing them in a mild soap regularly and applying a fresh aloe vera gel to the afflicted areas of a dog's skin afterward. It’s important to use a cone collar or inflatable collar after application to avoid your dog licking at the area and causing even more damage.

Medical Treatment

In most cases, the problem will resolve by itself. For other cases, treatments may include amitraz rinses, oral ivermectin, milbemycin and moxidectin, as well as a lime-sulfur dip may be required to help control the Demodex population (36, 37, 38). Different topical treatments and spot-on formulations, such as those with 10% imidacloprid and 2.5% moxidectin, have also been successfully used for treatment with no side effects (39).

6 Sunburn

Sunburn condition is often overlooked when it comes to dogs, but some breeds are just as likely to get sunburned. Even though us humans remember to slather sunscreen on ourselves, you may well be forgetting to protect your beloved pet, and most aren't even aware that dog sunscreens exist, too.

The most common areas to be affected by sunburn are the dog's face and ears, with shorter haired dogs being susceptible to sunburn all over their body.


  • Reddened skin
  • Peeling skin
  • Painful blisters

Home Remedies

The best cure is prevention from sunburn, but you cannot use human sunscreens on your pet. The zinc oxide, which is an ingredient in most sunscreens, can cause severe and sometimes deadly results if ingested by your dog.

Use a dog-friendly sunscreen instead – they are available to buy at many pet stores, and online. If you can’t find a pet-friendly option, sometimes it is possible to use a baby sunscreen, but make sure that it’s fragrance-free and doesn’t contain zinc-oxide.

Veterinary Treatment Options

To relieve pain, your vet will likely apply cold compresses to the affected skin, and cortisone to reduce inflammation. To prevent infections from occurring, your vet may prescribe an antibacterial ointment.

If your pooch does develop an infection after suffering from sunburn, you can request antibiotics from your vet that should help to clear it up pretty quickly. Studies shown indomethacin to be effective at treating sunburn in dogs (40).

6 Common and Serious Dog Skin Conditions (And What to Do About Them)


When your dog shows signs of illness on their skin, it’s important to seek out veterinary care immediately for proper diagnosis. The immediate care of any dog skin conditions will likely save your pet from pain. It will also save you from larger vet bills should things be left to progress.

Once a particular dog skin condition has been accurately diagnosed, the rest is plain sailing back to healthy skin. A clear treatment plan usually includes routine bathing, ointment application, and, sometimes, oral medication.Follow your veterinarian's instructions exactly, and don’t miss any treatments if at all possible.

READ NEXT: 7 Best Dog Skin Infection Treatments (OTC)

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Common Dog Skin Conditions and What to Do About Them

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