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Skin problems and conditions in dogs

A dog's skin provides a clear indication of their general health. Your dog's skin should be lovely and thick (depending on the breed) with a shiny coat. If you can see broken hairs, bald patches, dandruff or tight dry skin, your dog may have underlying health problems. Other symptoms include crusting, itching, and infected or hot and inflamed areas.

Here are some of the most common causes of skin conditions in your furry friends.

Environmental

Dogs can sometimes develop a sensitivity to some environmental factors, this can include your home. For example, during winter when the heating is on, the higher temperature can cause your dog's skin to become itchy, as can dust and other pathogens like mould. Dogs can also develop a sensitivity to lawn grass, this can manifest as itching. Dogs with thick or long coats are more common to getting moisture trapped on the skin causing them to develop what is known as 'hot spots'.

Nutritional

Food allergies in dogs are rare but can sometimes come from proteins in beef and dairy, as well as plant-based proteins from wheat. The main sign of a nutritional allergy is excessive scratching, however they can have some side effects such as vomiting and diarrhoea. If you're concerned your dog has an allergy, it is best to contact your vet for diagnosis and treatment.

Skin parasites

Mites, fleas, ticks and lice are common skin parasites on dogs. They can cause itchiness, inflammation, skin lesions and hair loss. It is important to treat your dog regularly to avoid these impacts on the skin as well as other health issues caused by parasites.

Over grooming

Some dogs can demonstrate over-grooming which may indicate an underlying issue such as pain from a sore joint. Another cause of over grooming may be related to behavioural problems or anxiety.

Treatment for skin conditions

There are a variety of treatments for dogs with skin problems, depending on the severity and source of the problem.

Dry, flaky skin may not be a serious problem and could be managed with a shampoo or spray to restore moisture and soothe the skin. If environmental factors are at play in your home, it may help to have a humidifier to help keep your dog more comfortable.

Consider your dog's diet to help manage skin conditions. Diets that are high in omega- 3 fatty acids can help reduce itching and inflammation.

Your dog will have different needs during summer and winter. During summer it is important to be aware of UVA and UVB rays; thin haired dogs are particularly prone to sunburn. If this is the case, you can use a powder formulation sunblock to protect them from harmful rays without any mess. In the winter mud can make life difficult for long haired dogs; make sure you keep them clean by regular washing with a good pet shampoo or a dry shampoo.

Skin conditions can make your dog uncomfortable and miserable, so it is important to treat and manage them. Severe cases should be referred to your vets for appropriate diagnosis and treatment.