Skin Problems in Dogs-II

This issue, as we know is in continuation of topic Skin Prombelm in Dogs. In the 2nd part of the series, we would be covering skin problems  under the following categories:

  • Environmental
  • Allergic
  • Nutritional

Environmental Skin Problems

Most dogs under this category are physically healthy and follow a good nutritional pattern in terms of their diet. Most times, the diagnosis for environmental dermatitis is done by elimination of Parasitic infections. A vet will usually determine this after acquiring through information on the dogs diet, environment, dog activity (which may include swimming, rolling in the mud, garden digging etc), use of floor cleaners and any ongoing medication. An analysis of the dogs activities can be a very prime piece of information to get to environmental dermatitis. Most dogs, can be allergic to something as basic as the congress grass in your lawn. Any change of soil, manure or even pesticides which you use in the garden could cause this allergy.

In hot weather, you might notice your dog has a tendency to spill the water and sit in it to keep him cool. Some dogs also have a habit of digging into your lawn or flower beds. This leads to moisture and dirt getting locked up especially in the paws, digits and even on the skin. This serves as a breeding ground for bacteria and more often than not, lead to what is called as Hot Spots (Moist red Eczema) – Red inflamed skin between digits or on the skin. Mowed lawns can also cause generalized injury. In long haired dogs- Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and even Labs, the moisture tends to remain for a longer time resulting in matted hair and thus create an infection.

Environmental dermatitis is characterized by heavy itching, red patches, hair loss and skin irritation. The dog tries to get to the itch by biting himself persistently. The itching maybe all over the body.

A few ways by which you can avoid this:

  • Towel dry after his bath and/ or swimming sessions, especially between his paws.
  • If swimming in a pool, give your dog a nice bath as the chlorine in the pool may also affect the dog and may cause itching
  • Have a nice dry area for your dog especially in the monsoon months
  • After a nice long walk in a muddy area or a digging session or a walk in the lawn, wipe your dogs paws and digits with a clean cloth to remove any traces of mud and dirt
  • If you have changed the manure, the soil in your garden, restrict his play areas and do not let him play in there

If you do notice  such scratching or red patches, consult a vet for treatment.

Allergic Dermatitis

Lots of money has been spent on doing research on Allergic Dermatitis. Allergies in dogs could be because of half a dozen objects in and around your house and garden. Food, carpets, pollen, molden, parasites, plastics are just a few which can set about an allergic reaction in your pet. When the agent- called the Antigen- makes contact with the dog, the dog sets about to disarm this antigen. Unfortunately, as this battle continues, the side effects may lead to tissue irritation, inflammation and cell destruction. This eventually leads to the basis of dermatitis- lick, itch, scratch and bite.

Allergic dermatitis is also very difficult to diagnose. Once the allergy agent is identified, try and avoid your dogs exposure to that as far as possible. Blood tests and skin scrapings are the most common methods of attempting to identify.

Most common of this allergy is called the Atopic Dermatitis. This is caused by inhaling antigens such as pollen, molds, dust etc. The common characteristics of Atopic Dermatitis is licking and chewing of paws, scratching their face, eyelids and ears. But this itching and scratching can be quite intense.


Reducing the exposure to allergens- Once the allergy is identified, try and reduce your pets exposure to that particular allergen. Say, if he is allergic to dust mites, you need to make sure the bed he sleeps on is dusted or washed regularly.

Topical– It’s the most common way and also the safest. If the itching is localized, topical method may be the best method. Some ways of doing this are- leave on medications, bathing with medicated shampoos (containing oatmeal, aloevera or antihistamines), local antibacterial cream applications etc.

Fatty Acid supplements– The dogs diet has to include Omega 3’s and Omega 6 Fatty acid. Most dogs cannot produce this acid internally and therefore the need to supplement it by external means. Sunflower oil and Fish oil are good sources of these acids. These acids basically lessen the harmful effect the Antigen can have on the dog health. More often, fatty acids are used in conjunction with some additional therapy and can go a long way if your dog has a tendency for dry skin. Dull looking coats, brittle hair is also one more reason to include fatty acids in your dog’s diet. To show effect, this therapy need to be continued for a minimum period of 8- 12 weeks.

Nutritional Dermatitis

“My dog has chapattis and milk everyday for his meals since he was a pup and he loves it”.

“My dog only eats rice and chicken”

These are the most common statements we hear from dog owners. What the owners are saying about their dogs loving their food is 100% true, but is that meal sufficient in terms of nutritional values? A US based study shows, most dogs live their entire lives in a less than optimum health.

Dull looking coat, lusterless hair coat, excessive scaling (dandruff), scaly patches on the skin are some clinical signs of Nutritional Dermatitis. It’s really not about expensive or cheap foods, but more to do with what are the ingredients that make the meal.

The food along with the relative portion of each element in the food group for your pet should be based on the following criterion:

  • Size of your pet- Large breed (Labs, GSD’s, Golden Retrievers); Small breed (Poms, Lhasa Apso’s, Cocker Spaniels); Giant breed (St. Bernard, Great Dane)
  • Your pet’s physiological stage- Growth, Gestation, Lactation, Activity levels (Sporting, lethargic), dogs age. The dietary needs change at every stage.
  • The general health of your pet- The diet has become an important aspect of any medical treatment.

You might also notice that your dog has allergic reactions to certain foods which could cause itching. So this may not be related to the dogs diet but maybe to some particular ingredient as well which is causing the allergy.

Check with your vet for the perfect and balanced diet for your pet. The variety available in the market with respect to brands, pricing and its ingredients is very extensive. Choose the right one based on your breed.

Food Nutrients and their sources

Proteins: Cooked Meat , fish,  boiled eggs, milk, cheese (Avoid raw fish and meat tenders)

Starch: Well cooked grains – rice, corn, wheat. Avoid raw grains.

Fibre: Veggies- green beans, carrots, spinach. Avoid onions.

Fats: Animal fats, vegetable oils- soya, corn

Minerals-Calcium Carbonate

Vitamins: Mineral supplements, yeast for vitamins, dairy products for calcium

“Today we recognize that nutrition and health go hand in hand. So a good diet works as a preventive element in most health related issues which dogs might face.   Including certain elements in food can reduce the incidences of diseases affecting the kidneys, digestive process or bone disorders and can counter the effects of the ageing process.”