Look for other signs of skin problems besides scabs, such as redness or inflammation.
Scabs on dogs can be caused by allergies, bacterial infections, external parasites, fungal infections, hormonal imbalances, immune disorders, nutritional issues, and yeast infections.
Treatments for scabs on dogs include using anti-bacterial or anti-fungal shampoos and ointments, keeping your dog, home, and yard clean, and brushing your dog daily.
It's important to address any skin issues your dog is experiencing and have a licensed veterinarian conduct tests to determine the underlying cause of the scabs.
Table of Contents
- What to Look for to Spot Skin Problems
- Why Are There Crusty Scabs on My Dog's Back?
- Other Common Skin Problems in Dogs
- Treatment Options For Crusty Scabs
- 1. Use Anti-bacterial/fungal Dog Shampoos, Ointments
- 2. Keep Your Dog, Home, and Yard Clean
- 3. Brush Your Dog Daily
- 4. Use Fish Oil
- 5. Flea and Tick Collars, Topical Treatments
- 6. Keep Them on a High-Quality, Balanced Diet
- 7. Use Only Safe, Good Quality Grooming Products
- 8. Try Some Over Counter Medication…
- 9. …Or Veterinarian Prescribed Medication For The Crusty Scabs on Dog's Back
- Quick FAQs When You See Crusty Scabs on Dog's Back
- Why You Should Trust Top Dog Tips
Does your dog have scabs on their back?
Do they look discolored or red, or does it have dry blood around it?
Are there sores on your dog's back?
Discovering these random scabs on your dog’s back, especially if you do not know what caused or how to treat them, can be upsetting.
I personally had a bad experience with scabs.
My dog, Belle, a mutt, loves to play outside with her sister. Usually, she has a beautiful black coat that looks like this:
And one day, she had this mystery red scab on her back that looked like she had been biting at it.
The hair around it had fallen off.
It was weird because there were no other scabs.
Turns out, it was a fungal infection.
But it had the same signs as some of the other possible skin issues that we'll go through in a bit…more on that later.
Fortunately, with one of the methods we'll also talk about, I got her scab to heal and ultimately go away completely.
A wide variety of conditions can cause crusty scabs on a dog's skin, and I'll cover the eight most common ones that could be the culprits and what to do about them.
By the end of this, I want you to be able to identify what the scab is, and feel like you have the tools to help your poor baby so they can get back to having fun.
Lastly, I'll wrap up with some commonly asked questions regarding scabs and treatment options.
What to Look for to Spot Skin Problems
You already know that if my dog has crusty scabs on his back, he has a skin problem of some type.
It would help if you also were on the lookout for other signs that something is wrong:
- Bald patches
- Flakiness or dryness
- Lumps or swelling
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Why Are There Crusty Scabs on My Dog's Back?
Fortunately, I will say from personal experience and from what my vet has told me, scabs on your dog's back are common.
And they are typically easy to treat too!
Believe it or not, you and many other owners have experienced the same problem and have been able to treat them with no problems.
Okay? Deep breaths…
Let's dive into the first possibility:
I think we can all agree that having allergies of any kind, having lived it myself, can be completely debilitating at times, am I right?
So I can't imagine how miserable it can be when a poor puppy has allergies.
They are abundant and can be caused by nearly anything you can think of.
While pollen is the number one environmental allergy that can cause visible signs of irritation on your dog’s skin, countless other environmental compounds can and do cause skin irritation.
Some examples are laundry detergents, shampoos, soaps, cleaning products, lawn chemicals and treatments, and any chemicals.
Even objects like plastic bowls can cause skin irritation for some dogs, just like they can in humans.
Food allergies are less common in dogs than they are in humans.
They are also less common than environmental allergies.
But..they do happen.
And you'll notice the same side effects like scabs on your dog’s skin if they have food allergies.
As mentioned above, pollen is the most common allergen that can irritate a dog’s skin.
In fact, Belle's sister, Sasha, my dad's dog, had this issue!
An allergic reaction happens when the pollen has direct contact with the skin or is inhaled through the dog’s nose.
Although it is unknown why pollen allergies are among the most common allergy in dogs, it is known that this allergy results in allergic dermatitis.
The symptoms of this type of dermatitis are: skin irritation, itchiness, rashes, redness, bumps, blisters, moist skin, abnormal odors, sores, and crusty scabs.
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2. Bacterial Infection
Your dog could have superficial bacterial folliculitis.
But Jossana, that sounds really bad. What the heck is that?!
It's a type of bacterial infection that often results in irritation, bumps, sores, and scabs on a dog’s skin.
Commonly co-occurs in dogs suffering from another type of skin disorder, allergies, mange, fleas, or injury.
Bacterial infections usually develop because a dog is constantly scratching, licking, and/or chewing on their skin due to the primary condition that they are suffering from.
According to Dr. Patty Khuly:
“Folliculitis is a term that refers to the inflammation of one or more hair follicles.
In veterinary medicine, it’s most commonly discussed as bacterial folliculitis, a condition which involves the infection of hair follicles with bacteria and is widely considered the most common kind of canine skin infection.”
And by your dog scratching and breaking its skin open, it opens its system for bacteria to attack.
Puss-filled sores that look like human acne can develop due to bacteria getting into a dog’s system through the compromised skin.
Ugh! Sounds gruesome and horrible!
The resulting sores and other skin lesions caused by the constant scratching, chewing, and licking of irritated skin can leave crusty scabs on the dog’s body.
Fortunately, this is very treatable, which we'll touch on in a bit…
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3. External Parasites
We pet guardians HATE fleas.
My mind takes me to those viral videos of stray, abandoned dogs riddled with fleas.
They are the external parasites that most commonly irritate a dog’s skin, causing it to excessively lick, scratch excessively, and/or chew at its skin, resulting in sore, hot spots and crusty scabs.
Some dogs are much more sensitive to fleas than others.
You may not be able to see a single flea on your dog, but that in no way means that they aren’t hiding on your dog, in their bedding, on your carpets and rugs, and/or in your yard.
Severe cases of flea infestation can cause excessive blood loss resulting in anemia, and can also lead to other parasites in a dog, such as tapeworms.
Proper flea prevention and control are imperative with all dogs.
See the “What to Do” section below for more about flea prevention and control.
See the following informational handouts for further information about all things related to fleas, published by DVM360 in a convenient PDF format.
They are also a widespread kind of external parasite that causes a disorder called mange.
Mange produces the same skin conditions that fleas do, and sometimes to a much more severe extent.
In worst cases, a dog can lose all or most of their hair and be covered in large amounts of crusty scabs.
Demodex mites survive and thrive in a dog’s hair follicles, causing a disorder name demodectic mange in dogs that results in redness, sores, scabbing, and hair loss but not always a ton of itchiness and is not contagious to other animals or humans.
Scabies mites are less common but are contagious to other animals and humans and cause a disorder known as sarcoptic mange (or scabies), resulting in severe itching and red, inflamed skin sores, scabs, and hair loss.
See the following informational handout for further information about Demodex mites and mange published by DVM360 in PDF format.
Like fleas and mites, ticks are external parasites that attach to a dog’s skin and feed on its blood, causing skin irritation, itchiness, sores, and scabs.
Most of us should have no problem seeing a tick feeding on our dog with the naked eye.
Fortunately, you can remove it by grasping the tick with tweezers positioned as close as possible to your dog’s skin and gently pulling it straight out of its skin.
However, pulling too hard or twisting the tick can cause its head to become stuck in your dog.
This can cause an infection, so always remove ticks slowly, carefully, and gently.
4. Fungal Infection
Puppies under a year of age are especially vulnerable to ringworm infection, which is highly contagious among animals and humans.
The reference to “ring” in the disorder’s name is due to the circular, ring-like patches of irritated skin that develop in animals and humans who contract ringworm.
5. Hormonal Imbalance
Caused by inherited abnormalities in a dog’s testicles, ovaries, adrenal glands, thyroid glands, and/or pituitary glands will generally cause a dog to lose all of their hair, which can cause skin irritation and crusty scabs on its skin.
Endocrine (hormone) abnormalities can cause skin irritation and scabs in dogs.
Although usually not the case, the scabs you are seeing could be the initial stages and signs of Cushing’s Disease, hypothyroidism, and tumors.
What the heck?! I thought you said most of these are treatable?!
I am, but it's why it's essential to address any skin issues your dog is experiencing.
Have a licensed veterinarian further tests to determine what is causing skin irritation in a dog.
6. Immune Disorders
If your dog is suffering from any auto-immune or immune-suppressing syndromes or disorders, they can develop skin conditions that lead to sores and scabs on its skin.
These skin disorders are a side effect of the dog’s weakened immune system.
Your dog's immune system is either compromised and unable to fight off the skin irritants or is working extra hard and, as a result, is attacking itself.
These skin conditions are among the most serious and can result in death.
7. Nutritional Issue
Lacking proper minerals and vitamins in their diet can cause your dog to develop skin irritation, rashes, and itchiness.
It will develop into sores and scabs on your dog’s skin if not treated.
This is because dogs need specific nutrients in certain amounts to keep their skin properly hydrated, which keeps it moist, moisturized, and glossy.
When a dog’s skin is properly balanced and moisturized, this provides an extra layer of defense against parasites, which can attach and latch onto a dog’s skin easily.
It also protects the skin from being scratched or torn open by environmental elements, which happens much more easily when it is dry and flaky.
8. Yeast Infection
This is a fairly common type of skin infection in dogs.
Some yeast on a dog’s skin is normal and even necessary.
The problem occurs when the dog develops an excessive amount of yeast.
It begins to build up in warm, moist places on the dog's body.
This environment creates irritated, itchy, and discolored skin.
Then your dog will lick, chew, and scratch their skin incessantly to try to relieve their discomfort, which causes the scabs.
A further complication can arise when the scratching and chewing cause open wounds on the dog’s skin.
That bacteria then enters and creates a whole host of new and serious side effects you must treat.
Other Common Skin Problems in Dogs
I didn't go through every possible cause of scabs on your dogs back, so here are some more to keep in mind:
- Alopecia or shedding can be due to illness, poor nutrition, or stress.
- Acral lick granuloma or dermatitis happens if your dog licks the same area repeatedly.
- Changes to color or texture can indicate a hormone or metabolic issue.
- Hot spots are small parts of the skin that are inflamed, irritated, and red.
- Impetigo is a bacterial infection, and it mostly affects puppies. Pups with this condition may develop pus-filled blisters. Those blisters can break before crusting over.
- Skin tumors: Your dog’s vet will need to do a biopsy to confirm it is not cancerous.
Treatment Options For Crusty Scabs
Now that you made it this far, I want to go through some treatment options I promised you.
Most of these will resolve your minor skin and scab problems, unless there is something more serious.
1. Use Anti-bacterial/fungal Dog Shampoos, Ointments
Fortunately, many different over-the-counter (OTC) strength (versus veterinarian-prescribed) anti-bacterial and anti-fungal creams exist.
Shampoos are also effective and manufactured and sold commercially by many companies.
You can easily find and purchase them at large retail chains, pet stores, and online retailers.
Ask your veterinarian and/or complete research to determine which shampoo and/or ointment has been shown to work best for the specific skin condition your dog is suffering from, and wash your dog with the shampoo and/or apply the ointment, carefully following the included directions.
You can find OTC medicated shampoos to treat a wide variety of skin disorders in dogs that are caused by fleas, mites, lice, general allergies, and more.
2. Keep Your Dog, Home, and Yard Clean
Keeping your dog, home, and yard clean and pest-free is vital.
Managing these three can completely prevent your dog from developing painful and potentially dangerous skin disorders.
This is especially true for external parasites and bacterial infections.
Here are some QUICK TIPS on how to do that:
a) pick up and properly dispose of feces in your yard, and anywhere your dog plays multiple times each day, once at the bare minimum;
b) bathe your dog as often as needed, but at least once every couple of weeks or once a month, at minimum.
Always bathe your dog if they get into something exceptionally stinky or dirty, or have been anywhere known to commonly be frequented by ticks, fleas, mites, lice, or any other type of parasite or a sick animal (which should always be avoided if possible);
c) wash all of your dog’s bedding at least once a week and more often as needed;
d) wash your bedding and clean all furniture, carpets, rugs, and flooring in your home at least once a week and more often as needed.
3. Brush Your Dog Daily
This falls along the lines of keeping your dog clean, but unlike bathing a dog which is not recommended to be done daily, brushing your dog can and should be done every single day.
By brushing your dog, you do many things that help keep their skin and coat healthy and disease and disorder-free.
The simple act of brushing a dog does much more than you think.
First, it removes dirt, dandruff, bacteria, and any foreign objects or parasites that could irritate a dog’s skin from their body.
But second and most importantly, brushing helps stimulate oil glands and equally distribute all of the dog’s natural oils essential to their overall skin health.
It spreads these protective oils throughout the entire surface area of the dog’s skin.
And just you and me, their skin is their largest organ and the first line of defense against harmful and dangerous parasites, fungi, and bacteria entering their system.
A good brushing doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Even five minutes a day will do.
Brushing a dog also detangles its coat, loosens and eliminates dead hair, and prevents the pores from becoming clogged and infected.
4. Use Fish Oil
Essential fatty acids are essential to the health of a dog’s skin and coat, and not all dogs get enough of this vital nutrient in their diet, which can lead to skin disorders.
Give your dog fish oil capsules once daily with a meal, or add fish oil liquid to your dog's food to remedy this issue.
You can read more about this topic in the following peer-reviewed article published in the Journal of Nutrition.
The study showed clear benefits of high doses of essential fatty acids in a dog’s diet to the dog’s overall skin and coat health.
5. Flea and Tick Collars, Topical Treatments
A plethora of different companies make a wide variety of flea and tick collars, as well as topical and oral treatments that work to keep fleas and ticks off of your dog.
With anything you use on your dog, it is important to thoroughly research the product, its ingredients, effectiveness, potential side effects, and customer reviews before purchasing and using it on your dog.
Make sure to seek the advice of your dog’s veterinarian, as he or she can advise you on which options are known to work best for your specific type of dog and the area in which you live.
6. Keep Them on a High-Quality, Balanced Diet
As explained in this article's “Nutritional Issue” section, a dog’s diet greatly impacts its skin condition.
A diet that lacks essential vitamins and nutrients can dry out a dog’s skin, causing a dog to itch, chew, and bite in response to the irritation, which in turn can cause the dog to rip their skin, leaving compromised areas of their skin open to parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections, and more.
Some foods (like these brands) are specifically balanced for better skin and coat conditions in dogs.
You can also select foods yourself, picking with high-quality ingredients, including plenty of protein, vegetables, and a bit of carb and fat.
For most dogs, this is their optimal diet. Additionally, parasites are known to seek out and feed on dogs that are not in optimal health.
Therefore a poor diet makes a dog much more susceptible to parasite bites and infestations.
7. Use Only Safe, Good Quality Grooming Products
Sure, a two-dollar dog shampoo might seem like a great deal.
Still, there are usually reasons why a product is much less expensive than its counterparts.
It is often made with cheaper, chemical-ridden, irritating, and even harmful ingredients and chemicals.
To save yourself the stress and hassle of dealing with a skin condition, research before purchasing any grooming product for your dog.
Here's a veterinarian who wrote an article on how to shop for the best shampoos and grooming products.
8. Try Some Over Counter Medication…
Benadryl, the same allergy medication humans take to help control their allergies, can be given to a dog for the same purpose.
This medication is beneficial to give to dogs that are having problems sleeping due to their itchiness.
The general guideline for giving dogs Benadryl is to give a dog one milligram of Benadryl per pound of their body weight.
Never give a dog more than two doses of 50 mg of Benadryl in a 24-hour period.
9. …Or Veterinarian Prescribed Medication For The Crusty Scabs on Dog's Back
If no other treatments work, and/or if your dog’s skin condition is terrible and/or causing the dog discomfort and difficulty in their everyday life, doing the things that they normally do, you’ll need to take your dog to see a licensed doctor of veterinary medicine who can prescribe a wide variety of prescription-strength oral medications, such as antibiotics and can also prescribe your dog prescription-strength medicated shampoos and ointments.
Additionally, a veterinarian can perform any one (or multiple) of the following diagnostic tests that can help to determine exactly what is causing your dog’s skin condition, which will, in turn, allow the vet to treat best and clear it up.
Here are some of the diagnostic tests that your vet can perform: a) allergy testing; b) bacterial culture; c) cytology; d) fungal culture; e) physical exam; f) skin biopsy; g) skin scraping.
Quick FAQs When You See Crusty Scabs on Dog's Back
If you don’t necessarily have time to skim this entire article, these FAQs may have the answers you need.
How Do I Treat Crusty Scabs on Dog's Back?
Don’t wipe crusty scabs, as this will not make them better.
Instead, soften them using either water or something like coconut oil.
This should help them flake off. If the crusty scabs are bad or don’t disappear easily, consult your pooch’s vet.
Why Does My Dog Have Dry Skin and Scabs?
There are plenty of reasons your dog may have dry skin and scabs.
Some common issues include mange-causing parasites or lice.
When in doubt, always consult your vet.
What Does Folliculitis Look Like on Dogs?
When your dog has folliculitis, you will notice at least one lesion on his body. At first, it may just look like a slightly raised area or even appear similar to acne.
Over time, the affected area can raise and turn into a pus-filled pustule.
What Does Seborrhea Look Like on a Dog?
Seborrhea tends to affect the parts of your dog’s skin with many sebaceous glands.
It most commonly affects the skin on the back. When your dog has seborrhea, you will spot dandruff or white flakes coming off your pooch’s skin.
You may also notice an unusual smell.
Can I Put Neosporin on My Dog’s Scab?
If my dog has crusty scabs on his back, the application of Neosporin can help. However, use it for extremely minor scabs, cuts, or scrapes.
Using Neosporin can help stop bacterial infections, just like it does in humans.
Additionally, your pup likely won’t appreciate the taste of the Neosporin, so you should prevent him from licking, biting, or scratching the scab.
Any of those actions would make it worse. The only caveat is to ensure your pooch doesn’t lick it off.
Why You Should Trust Top Dog Tips
Well, as dog owners, we also want to know as much as possible and find “the truth” out there in dog ownership.
We want to clear the fog that surrounds certain topics like nutrition, dog care, dog health, and more.
So we went ahead and brought aboard not only long-time dog owners but Veterinarians onto our website.
For each article we publish, we want to ensure the information is accurate and vetted by real veterinarians.
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