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A rash (pyoderma) is usually a temporary outbreak of scaly, patchy, and sometimes swollen or bumpy skin that is often red and may be itchy.

A rash can occur on any part of your dog’s body, but it pops up most often on the belly. A rash by itself is usually minor and often goes away on its own, but it can be a sign of a more serious situation. The cause of rashes on a dog can range from parasites to diabetes.

Here’s what you should know about rashes on dogs, from what to look for to possible causes and their treatments.

What to Check For if Your Dog Has a Rash

If your dog’s rash gets worse or does not go away after a week, take your dog to the vet to be examined.

With rashes on dogs, you may see:

  • Red, bumpy skin

  • Dandruff or flakes of skin in your dog’s fur

  • Hot spots

  • Hair loss (alopecia)

  • Excessive scratching

  • Hives (urticaria)

  • Mites (cheyletiellosis), also called walking dandruff

Causes of Rashes on Dogs

A rash can occur anywhere on a dog’s body. The location of the rash can provide some clues as to what health issue may have caused it:

  • Belly rash or underarm rash: A belly rash on a dog is one of the more common reasons pet parents take their dogs to the vet. Rashes also often appear in a dog’s “underarms,” more accurately, the point where a dog’s front and hind legs meet the chest or abdomen. These rashes have many causes:

    • Allergies

    • Insect bites

    • Irritation from a chemical substance, like fertilizer

    • Bacterial infection

  • Groin-area rash: Like a belly rash, a rash in your dog’s groin area is often due to:

    • Allergies,

    • Insect bites

    • Infection

    • A tumor: Male dogs with testicular tumors and unspayed females with hormone issues may have hair loss and a rash beginning in the groin area.

  • Paw rash: Known as pododermatitis, this is inflammation of the paws that can include a rash. Causes can include:

    • Infection

    • Cancer

    • Injury

    • Irritating substances

    • Lack of grooming

    • Low levels of thyroid hormone

Diagnosing Rashes on Dogs

Your vet will give your dog a physical exam and ask questions about your dog’s diet, current health issues, home environment, and other factors. To diagnose a rash, your veterinarian will perform a number of tests, depending on the suspected cause, including:

  • Allergy tests if an allergen is suspected. This may include a food elimination diet or intradermal allergy testing.

  • Skin scraping to look for mites, bacteria, fungus, or other potential causes.

  • Skin biopsy, where a piece of skin is examined at a pathology laboratory (done in cases of recurring infection or rash).

  • Blood profile to check for diseases such as thyroid issues (hypothyroidism) or Cushing’s disease

Treatment for Rashes on Dogs

To eliminate the rash and make sure it doesn’t come back, your vet will need to find and treat any underlying medical condition that’s causing it.

They may also recommend several treatments for the rash and related symptoms. These may include:

  • Grooming (such as brushing or cutting away hair)

  • Oatmeal baths

  • Medicated dog shampoo (containing antifungal or antibacterial ingredients)

  • Anti-itch and anti-inflammatory medications

  • Elizabethan collar or e-collar to prevent a dog from irritating hot spots by licking or biting

Epsom salt foot soaks if your dog’s paws are inflamed. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions, as these can dry out the skin if used inappropriately. Do not allow your dog to drink the solution, which has high sodium levels.

Featured image: iStock.com/SeventyFour

Rashes on Dogs FAQs

What can I put on my dog’s skin rash?

Depending on the cause and location of the rash (and accompanying symptoms), a veterinarian may recommend oatmeal baths, medicated dog shampoos, or medication to reduce itching and inflammation. Do not give your dog any medications without a veterinarian’s recommendation and guidance.

What does a rash look like on a dog?

Rashes can appear red, bumpy, inflamed, or like welts. There might be hair loss or hot spots, areas of  skin that are inflamed and oozing.

What can cause skin rashes on dogs?

Causes of rash in dogs are numerous and range from allergies and insect bites, which are most common, to thyroid conditions and cancer.

References

  1. Smith, John. American Heartworm Society. Heartworm Basics. January 2020. 
  2. Veterinary Partner. Pruritus Diagnostics in Dogs and Cats. October 2003.
  3. Brooks, Wendy. Veterinary Partner. Itch Relief for Dogs and Cats. January 2001.
  4. White, S.D. Merck Veterinary Manual. Hives and Rashes (Urticaria) in Dogs. June 2018.

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