Why Does Your Dog Have a Rash? Common Causes and Treatments Explained
We aren't the only ones who get skin rashes. Though they can be more difficult to see under all that fur, our dogs can get rashes, too.
A dog skin rash may be nothing more than a minor irritation. However, if left untreated, that rash can progress to serious skin problems. We're going to review common causes of dog rashes and help you learn how to treat them.
Signs Your Dog Has a Rash
Dog rashes on the belly are most common, where there's not much hair and the skin is sensitive. Though a dog rash can show up in other places as well, such as the groin, armpits, ears, neck, and back. Rashes can appear suddenly and sometimes disappear just as quickly.
The typical signs of a rash in dogs include:
If you spot any of these signs of a rash, you'll need to partner up with your dog's veterinarian to figure out what's causing it in order to start treatment.
9 Most Common Causes of Dog Rashes
Basically anything that irritates the skin can cause a rash, so sometimes it's tough to nail down the exact culprit, but these are some of the most common causes.
1. Heat Rash
Dog heat rashes occur when a pup becomes overheated. As a result, the skin becomes itchy, red, and tender to the touch. Pimples and boils may start to develop.
Environmental allergies caused by such substances as pollen, dust, and fertilizer can irritate a dog's skin enough to cause a rash. Food allergies can also cause rashes.
3. Fleas or Other Parasites
4. Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Exposure to Another Plant
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac contain urushiol, an itch-inducing oily sap. Just a light brush against one of these plants can deposit the sap on a dog's skin, most commonly on the belly, and cause a rash. Your individual dog may be allergic to certain plants as well, so it's handy to know what's growing where you most frequently go on walks or hikes so you can describe them to your vet.
5. Yeast Infection
Yeast infections in dogs are usually caused by the fungus Malassezia and can lead to a rash. These infections also make the skin stink, so you'll probably know the cause when you smell it.
6. Bacterial Infection
Bacterial infections on the skin are called pyoderma. The rashes caused by bacterial infections can make the skin dry, crusty, flaky, and quite itchy.
7. Insect Bites
Insect bites are as annoying for dogs as they are for people. They commonly occur on the belly and can cause a rash and itchiness. A spritz with some dog-friendly bug spray can help combat pesky bug bites in the warmer months.
8. Hormone Imbalances
Health conditions in dogs that cause hormone imbalances can lead to rashes. For example, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) can change the skin's quality. Cushing's disease (overactive adrenal gland) can also cause your pup to get a rash.
Some dog breeds are more prone to developing rashes because of their genetics, including:
How to Diagnose a Dog Rash
A rash may look obvious, but it may not be so clear what's causing it. So before trying any treatments, take your dog to your veterinarian.
Your vet will closely examine your dog's skin and ask you for a history of the rash (e.g., when the rash first developed). Several diagnostic tests can help your vet determine the rash's cause:
- Skin samples
- Blood tests to identify underlying health conditions
- Skin cultures for bacteria and fungi
- Allergy testing
Of course, all of this testing is not always necessary. For example, if your dog got stung by a bee, you'd know that the bee sting caused the rash. However, it's always a good idea to talk to your vet first before starting any treatment plan.
Dog Rash Treatment and Home Remedies
Dog rash treatment can vary according to what caused the rash. In some cases, like an insect bite that isn't bothersome, the rash may go away on its own.
For rashes that don't go away on their own, veterinary treatments and home remedies are available. Your vet will recommend which treatment avenue to try, according to the rash's severity and cause.
Below are examples of veterinary treatment for rashes:
- Medications to treat skin infections (e.g., antibiotics)
- Thyroid medication to manage hypothyroidism
- Prescription medicated shampoos
- Medications that kill fleas, ticks, and mites
Many dog rashes can be cured at home without veterinary treatment.
Shampoos are a go-to for treating dog skin rashes at home. Those that contain colloidal oatmeal reduce skin redness, dryness, and itching. Over-the-counter medicated shampoos are also available to treat skin conditions that can cause rashes. The physical act of working shampoo into your dog's skin and fur can mechanically remove environmental allergens like dust and pollen.
Other than shampoo, aloe vera is a great home remedy for rashes. This plant's gel soothes the skin and helps it heal.
Rashes are common in dogs. If your dog has a rash, contact your veterinarian to seek guidance on how to treat the rash and give your dog much-needed relief.