Dogs can actually have a skin rash anywhere, but the belly does seem to be a particularly vulnerable spot. Perhaps it’s because the skin there is extra soft and tender, making it prime real estate for mites, parasites, bacteria, and fungi. Whatever the reason, skin rash is ever fun, not for you or for your poor dog. Belly skin rashes in dogs in particular can become itchy, inflamed, and can even turn painful if left untreated.
Though it’s never a good idea to leave a belly rash unchecked, the longer it’s allowed to continue without proper care and attention, the worse it can become. This is because the more your dog itches and scratches at the tender skin of his belly, the more likely he is to spread the rash to other parts of his body. Bacteria and fungi can get caught under your dog’s nails as he scratches his tummy, and then when he scratches elsewhere, that bacteria or fungi can be transferred.
Plus, when a dog is constantly itching, and their nails keep breaking through the skin barrier, the trauma to the skin is more likely to morph into some kind of secondary infection. Secondary infections will require additional treatment and can become serious without proper medication. The reality is that a rash of any kind creates all sorts of unwanted problems for your dog. Rashes can leave them sick and miserable and should never be ignored.
Causes of Belly Rashes on a Dog
Dogs can suffer from skin rashes on their belly for many reasons, typically originating from either some kind of fungal infection or bacterial infection, or sometimes due to an infestation of parasites like fleas, mites, or ticks. They can also have an underlying health condition like canine Cushing’s disease, or hormonal imbalances like hyperthyroidism that could contribute to their skin woes.
Sometimes dogs get skin rashes because of a canine allergic reaction to some kind of environmental contaminant, such as poison ivy or poison oak, or some other substance they have come into contact with. Dogs can be allergic to pretty much anything a human can be allergic to, including foods they eat and materials they are surrounded with, both inside and outside of the home. Carpet cleaners and detergents can cause irritation and so can certain lawn treatments. Since dogs like to lie down both indoors and out, their belly comes into contact with all kinds of things that have the potential to cause irritation.
Because a dog’s skin is so sensitive, it often reacts quickly to changes both inside and outside their body. Though the skin behaves as a protective barrier for a dog, it can also behave as a warning sign to indicate when something is off in your dog’s system. You can be sure that whatever is out whack will end up manifesting as a rash on the skin. Your biggest problem then will be figuring out how best to treat it.
Dogs can also suffer from conditions like canine mange and even find themselves victim to a good old-fashioned heat rash. The important thing with any rash is to try to figure out the cause of it, first and foremost. Only then can you determine the best way to begin treating it. Knowing why your dog has a rash or what initially caused the rash gives you a jumping off point. Think about it… it’s a waste of time and effort to treat a bacterial infection with fungal meds and vice versa. You have to know what you’re dealing with beforehand, so you can decide on the best course of action.
Keep in mind that dogs with bacterial infections will require antibiotics to treat the rash effectively. Likewise, dogs with a yeast infection will require anti-fungal medication. Fleas, ticks, and other parasites like mites will require certain preventative medications to be administered, as well as something to kill the current infestation. You can also never go wrong with giving your dog a nice, soothing oatmeal bath or apple cider rinse, as both are known to help calm inflammation in dogs, and every little bit helps.
Symptoms of a Belly Rash on a Dog
Symptoms of a belly rash can run the gamut, depending on what’s causing the rash in the first place and whether or not there is some kind of underlying health issue related to the rash. Some of those symptoms may include:
- Itching and inflammation
- Swelling and/or hives
- Flaking skin
- Ulcerated skin
- Skin that weeps fluid and pus
- Strong, foul odors
- Little pimple-like bumps
- Bald patches and hair loss
- Skin that is “thickened”
- Scabs and crusting
- Compulsive chewing
- Licking and biting
- Moping and depression
How to Treat a Rash on Dog’s Belly
Treatments for a belly rash will vary depending on the cause of the rash in the first place. If your dog is only suffering from something like heat rash, then you might get away with a soothing oatmeal bath and perhaps some kind of hydrocortisone cream. Stay away from calamine lotion, as it can be toxic to a dog if ingested. If your dog’s inflammation is severe and ongoing, your vet may recommend a round of anti-inflammatory medications to help calm the rash.
If you suspect your dog is reacting to some kind of allergy, you may need to see a specialist. Dogs can be allergic to things in the environment or foods they eat. Trying to figure out the allergen source can feel like an uphill battle.
If you suspect it might be something your dog is consuming, your vet may recommend removing certain foods to see if they respond positively. This is sometimes called an elimination diet. This diet requires removing certain foods and determining the source of an allergy by the process of elimination.
Your vet may recommend that testing is done as well to uncover any vulnerabilities to common environmental allergens. Dogs can have seasonal allergies just like people, or be allergic to certain grasses and weeds as well.
The only real way to treat an allergy is to try to limit the exposure to whatever it is they are sensitive to, whether that’s something in their environment or something they are eating. When that isn’t possible, sometimes allergy medications may be recommended. These can work with varying degrees of success and be warned that some of them can have side effects like making your dog drowsy.
Dogs with conditions like mange, fleas, or ticks, will need medicated shampoo to treat existing parasites and will be given prevention meds to limit the potential for future infestations. Sometimes solutions like flea and tick collars can be helpful, but not always. Topical solutions are often the best bet, as well as treating your yard and home.
If your dog has some kind of infection, whether it’s bacterial or fungal, it will need to be treated with antibacterial or antifungal medications, or both. Yes, your dog can have both types of infections at the same time. Though this is miserable, it’s not uncommon.
Yeast infections happen all the time in dogs and can cause serious discomfort, including emitting a funky odor and inciting chronic itching. Yeast can also spread to other parts of your dog’s body very quickly and cause additional problems, so it’s important to treat it right away and not let the problem get out of control.
Staph infections in dogs are more serious and can be difficult to gain control of. If you worry your dog has a staph infection, you should have them tested by your vet, because waiting and letting the infection get worse can be dangerous. Also, the sooner you start treatment measures, the better the chances of success will be for your dog.
If your dog has some kind of underlying health issue such as Cushing’s disease or hormonal imbalances, your vet will need to treat those conditions first in order for your dog to see relief from their belly rash.
Often skin problems are just a symptom of an underlying disorder, so it’s important to note your concerns and discuss them with your vet to rule out the possibility of something more serious. Sometimes it’s not merely a rash. Your vet may require additional testing and follow up treatments to bring an underlying disorder under control.