Dog Skin Rashes: Causes, Signs, & Treatments

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Dry, dull and itchy coat. Sound familiar? Dog skin rashes and irritations are actually incredibly common for all dog breeds. The good news is that dog rashes are typically not too difficult to alleviate once they have been identified.

Rashes usually do not cause long-term health problems and thus, should not something to be losing sleep over. However, you definitely want to treat them as soon as you notice the irritation to keep your dog comfortable, well groomed, and most importantly, healthy.

While some skin rashes will need to be treated with medication, most of the time you can actually get rid of these rashes through home remedies and dietary changes. It may take a trip to the vet to identify the right course of action, but hopefully the rashes discussed below and their signs and symptoms will allow you to better identify what is going on with your dog’s skin.

Contact Dermatitis or Allergies in Dogs

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Contact Dermatitis is really just the scientific way of saying that your dog is having an allergic reaction to something that he ate, inhaled, or rubbed against. This could be outdoor allergies such as mold, pollen, insects, or something more dietary such as pet food ingredients.

In addition, your dog could have come in contact with poison ivy, or may simply have an irritation to certain household detergents, carpets, road salts, or hay. Essentially, your dog can carry the same allergies as you and have similar signs and symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Contact Dermatitis in Dogs

  • Constant scratching and biting of skin
  • Pink or red rash on dog’s belly, paws, chin and other areas
  • Watery eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting & Diarrhea
  • Itchy ears
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and crust
  • Bleeding

Treatment of Contact Dermatitis in Dogs

These symptoms are going to cause a decent amount of discomfort for your dog so you want to make sure you follow the right course of treatment to bring him back to a healthy state. Although, just like human allergies, dogs cannot be completely cured of allergies. But you can effectively manage their exposure and likelihood of irritation.

The first approach you can take to getting rid of the symptoms of contact dermatitis would be to remove potential allergens and irritants from your dog’s environment. This would be similar to an elimination diet for humans and takes a bit of trial and error to determine just what is causing the irritation.

You can start by using different detergents or watching where your dog is playing outside to make sure he isn’t getting near poisonous plants or eating things from your garden.

In addition, your vet may prescribe a change in your dog’s diet or suggest using a hypoallergenic shampoo weekly. This approach works best for developing long-term comfort for you pet, but it will take time to figure out the right combination of lifestyle changes.

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In the meantime, while you determine what needs to be changed in your pet’s life, there are remedies to quickly alleviate the signs and side effects of contact dermatitis that will make your dog more comfortable and less irritated. Some doctors may prescribe human antihistamines to alleviate allergic reactions in your dog.

Another potential remedy is fatty acid supplements. These supplements are often recommended in combination with other medications, but they can help aid the removal of irritation. Specifically, salmon oil is great for skin irritations in dogs and has a series of other positive benefits for your pet.

Topical application of medicated shampoo or oatmeal and aloe vera sprays are also standard and effective treatments. Medicated shampoos have been formulated to not only eliminate skin rashes due to allergies, but also other problems as well such as bacterial or fungal infections.

Although, if you worry about using chemical treatments on your dog, a more homeopathic approach such as oatmeal and aloe vera have been seen to respond well to allergic reactions.

Bug Bites on Dogs

Bites from fleas, mites, ticks, chiggers, or bugs can trigger similar red rashes on your dog’s stomach or other parts of their skin. However, flea bites are one of the more common bites among dogs and especially young puppies that lead to invasive rashes.

In particular, fleas’ saliva causes a strong reaction in dogs and typically leads to the formation of red skin patches referred to as hotspots on dogs. These patches can become overwhelmingly itchy and uncomfortable as the fleas or other bugs continue to bit your dog’s skin.

Signs of Bug Bites

It important to look out for the signs of bug or flea bites in order to pursue the proper path towards alleviation. These hotspots typically appear scabby or scaly and, like an allergic reaction, these bites can lead to hair loss.

Although a key discrepancy in identifying an allergic reaction versus a bug infestation is that fleas typically appear on your dog’s lower back, tail, and on the outside of his hind legs. In contrast, allergic reactions stay more central to the dog’s stomach.

Treatment of Bug Bites

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The first step in treatment is to control the infestation through thorough elimination. You want to make sure that you take your time with this treatment in order to prevent future breakouts and spread to other animals. Start by using flea shampoos and other topical sprays. You should also treat all other pets in the household, even if you believe they have not come in contact with one another since the infestation.

In addition, you want to wash all of your dog’s bedding frequently, as well as bathe your dog on a regular basis following the discovery of the infestation. Your vet may also prescribe some medications such as hydrocortisone cream to alleviate the symptoms of the bites, however this cream does not serve as a treatment, but rather an outlet to make your dog more comfortable throughout the process.

Heat Rash in Dogs

Dogs get heat rash when they become overheated in hot, humid weather conditions. While heat rash does have discomforting side effects for dogs it is one of the easier rashes to get rid of since it is triggered by hot temperatures.

At its onset, heat rash is a minor skin irritation triggered by staphylococcus bacteria (staph infection) that becomes aggravated and more active in hot temperatures. Although with time and long-term exposure, heat rash can develop more serious symptoms and side effects, which are discussed below.

Signs of Heat Rash in Dogs

Once the initial heat rash appears on your dog’s skin, it can develop into a more invasive rash if you keep your dog exposed to these warmer temperatures. Commonly, your dog will aggressively scratch the area and cause a fluid-discharging red rash that may be accompanied by boils, pimples, or scabs.

Often these wounds will give off a foul smell or bleed, which is a key identifying aspect of heat rash. In addition, heat rash is most common in dogs with dense hair and during the summer months.

Treatment of Heat Rash

Most heat rashes can be treated with exclusively at-home remedies. The first thing you want to do when you suspect that your dog has heat rash is to cool your dog down. You can bring him inside near a fan or air conditioning and also apply a cool towel on his back. Once you’ve regulated your dog’s temperature, you want to begin to try to eliminate the discomfort that comes with heat rash.

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There are three different types of topical treatments that have been shown to respond well to heat rash. Calamine lotion is a great way to relieve the itching your dog is experiencing, which will in turn bring down their red rash. Another option is 1% hydrocortisone, which helps eliminate the itching and inflammation caused by the rash.

In addition, it helps reduce the rashes’ red appearance. But it should not be used for longer than three days because after this point it can have adverse effects. Lastly, aloe vera is frequently recommended to treat heat rash because it is incredibly natural and non-invasive. You can use freshly squeezed aloe vera directly from the plant the same as if you were treating sunburn on your own skin.

Impetigo in Dogs

Impetigo is one of the most common skin rashes among puppies one year and younger. This rash develops from the same bacteria as heat rash and staphylococcus, but displays itself in different physical forms.

The infection develops more commonly if your dog is hypersensitive to bacteria or if they have any other immune or endocrine system imbalances.

Signs of Impetigo in Dogs

If your dog has crusty lesions and blisters with no other irritation, they likely have impetigo. Impetigo causes small patches of redness in hairless sections of your dog’s body such as the abdomen, chin, and groin. When the rash is scratched, these blisters tend to break and can become painful.

Treatment of Impetigo

Despite the discomfort that Impetigo causes, the infection actually tends to eliminate itself with time and topical ointments. However, since it can cause a decent amount of pain, oral and topical antibiotics can be prescribed to prevent spreading and speed up recovery.

If you think you’ll be able to solve your pups discomfort at home, you can apply chlorhexidine, hydrogen peroxide, or benzoyl peroxide twice daily to your puppy’s skin. Specifically, benzoyl peroxide comes in specially formulated shampoos which can be a simple and easy approach to getting rid of this painful rash.

Yeast Infection in Dogs

Yeast infections in dogs are actually fairly common and are caused by overgrowth of the Malassezia species of yeast. This yeast typically inhabits the skin, ears, and mucocutaneous zones, or other body orifices on your dog.

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Yeast infections thrive in the summertime in hot and humid weather and often get mistaken for allergies. However, yeast infections in dogs are accompanied by very distinctive signs, which are explained below.

Signs of Yeast Infections in Dogs

Yeast infections cause a lot of itching, paw chewing, and most identifiably, butt scooting. In addition, the infection is usually almost exclusive in the ears or paws because this is where heat and bacteria can easily get trapped and grow. Your dog’s skin can also become discolored from the infection and have a foul-smelling rancid coat.

Something to be aware of is that yeast infections often develop when your dog has another infection or rash. For example, hormonal disorders, contact allergies, antibiotics or steroids, chemotherapy drugs, and external skin parasites have all been seen to cause yeast infections in dogs. This is likely because your dog is experiencing an imbalance in his normal yeast production and regulation, which causes the infection to form.

Treatment of Yeast Infections

Most yeast infections can be treated with topical creams such as hydrocortisone for yeast in the ears, as well as medicated shampoos for the other areas of infection that your dog is experiencing. In more intense cases, antibiotics can be prescribed if over-the-counter remedies are not doing the trick.

There are several different reasons for your dog to develop a skin rash, and the explanations are not limited to the conditions in this article. If you suspect that your dog has a rash that is causing him pain and discomfort don’t hesitate to take a trip to the vet.

It is better to be professionally consulted about your dog’s rash, especially when this is the first time you’ve ever seen the rash appear. Once you get to know your pup better, you’ll be able to better identify what exactly is going on, but in the meantime take the time to get your dog on the proper road to recovery.


  1. “Skin Rash in Dogs – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost.” WagWalking, 9 June 2017, Accessed 24 Aug. 2017.
  2. Burke, Anna. “Dog Rash on Belly: Causes and Treatment.” American Kennel Club, 29 Aug. Accessed 24 Aug. 2017.
  3. Clark, Mike. “Eczema In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments.” Dogtime, 25 Jan. 2018, Accessed 24 Aug. 2017.
  4. “Chronic Hepatitis in Dogs | Treatment and Prognosis.” PetWave, 27 Oct. 2016, Accessed 24 Aug. 2017.
  5. “How to Treat Atopy in Dogs and Cats.” Vetstreet, 7 March 2014. Accessed 24 Aug. 2017.

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