Dermatitis in Dogs

Dermatitis in Dogs

Sometimes we humans develop skin rashes that are very annoying, often itchy, sore, and uncomfortable. Rashes may come and go quickly or be a chronic ongoing annoyance.

Many times, we and our doctors have to put our Sherlock Holmes deerstalker hat on and do a little detective work to figure out exactly what’s causing the irritation.


According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of dermatitis is simply, inflammation of the skin. This inflammation, however, can cause swelling, redness, itching, blisters, scaling, and scabbing, triggered by a wide variety of antagonists, hence the need for investigative work.

In dogs, we mostly notice their fur, whether it be long, short, straight, wavy, curly, coarse, or shiny. We often never consider that underneath all of that fur, dogs have skin too.

Did you know that canines can also develop dermatitis? In the following post will be information on dermatitis in dogsOpens in a new tab. and also dermatitis in dogs symptoms. I will also include, how to treat dermatitis in dogs at home.

To check your Dogs’ health status or their DNA checks, please visit the Embark vetOpens in a new tab. website for all the help you may need.

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Image from PixabayOpens in a new tab.

Dermatitis in Dogs Symptoms and Types of Dermatitis

First, your pup begins scratching an itch and then they keep on scratching. This cycle continues until the skin is red. inflamed and develops a rash.

It can even intensify to the point where the skin is broken open, raw and can lead to a full-blown skin infection.

This is why it’s very important to look through your dog’s fur to the skin if they continuously scratch to see if there’s a problem.

When a dog’s scratch and skin becomes itchy, inflamed, and painful, this can lead to dermatitis.

There are, however, several types of dermatitis with causes that are different from the others. Below are individual types of dermatitis.


Atopic Dermatitis

Also known as canine atopy, atopic dermatitis is allergic dermatitis caused by allergens such as pollen from trees, plants, and grasses, dust mites, and certain foods.

This is the second most common type of dermatitis and is a predisposition that is inherited, beginning between the ages of one and three, and when your pup is repeatedly exposed to an allergen, that is otherwise harmless to others. Symptoms gradually become worse and they can be:

  • Licking
  • Biting, Chewing
  • Rubbing
  • Itching and Scratching
  • Rashes
  • Crusty, dry skin
  • Oily, oozing skin
  • Red hot ear flaps
  • Prone to ear infections

Rashes are found in the groin area, armpits, feet, ears, and flanks. Often ear infections become recurrent and chronic.

Dermatitis in Dogs Symptoms and Types of Dermatitis
Image by Moi LolitaOpens in a new tab. from PixabayOpens in a new tab.

Malassezia Dermatitis

This is a very common type of dermatitis caused by the Malassezia Pachydermatis fungus. This is a type of fungus generally found on the skin of canines.

When there is an overgrowth of this fungus, it causes dermatitis. It is usually found around feet, armpits, legs, and neck and symptoms are:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Crusty, flaky, scaly skin
  • Greasy skin
  • Ear infections which are chronic

Overgrowth of the yeast can sometimes occur due to an immune deficiency or in dogs that need to take steroids which suppress the immune system make them more susceptible to Malassezia dermatitis.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is the most common type of dermatitis and is just what the name implies. When a substance comes in contact with your pup’s skin, it can cause irritation.

Causes can be carpet cleaners, cleaning products, bleach, dog shampoos, flea products, and even collars. Symptoms are:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Scratching
  • Rash
  • Painful burning
  • Blisters

If redness or a rash is all underneath their collar, especially a flea collar, then, bingo; the irritation is being caused by the collar.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most dogs are allergicOpens in a new tab., not to fleas or their bite, but to flea saliva. Fleas multiply very rapidly and where there’s one flea, you can most likely find many which can quickly develop into a full-blown flea infestation. Symptoms are:

  • Extremely intense itching
  • Redness
  • Rash
  • Broken skin which can lead to infection
  • Flea Dirt (looks like black coffee grounds)
  • Loss of fur from scratching

Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

Even though the name sounds “traumatic,” Pyotraumatic dermatitis is also called hot spots or acute moist dermatitis.

This can be caused by an underlying condition, allergies, or wet skin from moist environments, such as swimming or too much licking, like a nervous habit caused by boredom.

These hot spots can occur anywhere but are often found on hips, neck, face, and limbs, especially forepaws.

These can go away quickly if left alone or can continue into a bacterial infection. Some breeds are more susceptible to hot spots such as German shepherds, English bulldogs, and Golden retrievers,Opens in a new tab. Symptoms are:

  • Licking
  • Biting
  • Scratching
  • Redness and irritation
  • Moist area
  • Inflammation
  • The site may bleed or ooze
  • The area can quickly spread

Acral Lick Dermatitis

This type of dermatitis occurs in just one area as the definition of acral is “of or belonging to the extremities” and generally the foot, leg, or tail are affected.

Causes can be painful joints, boredom, or stress and result in constant licking of one area which leads to a wound and likely infection. Symptoms are:

  • Excessive Licking
  • Redness
  • Thickened Skin
  • Raw Skin
  • Sores
  • Infection

This can become an addiction for your pup and one that is difficult to break.

How To Treat Dermatitis in Dogs at Home

Often you can treat your dog’s dermatitis at home, but keep in mind if it does not go away or gets worse, it’s time to see your veterinarian. Here are some tips, ideas, and natural ways of treating dermatitis at home.

  • Since there are several types of dermatitis, determine what is causing it so you have an idea of how to treat it.
  • If dermatitis is caused by allergies

If dermatitis is caused by allergies, eliminating the source of the allergen should relieve symptoms and cure dermatitis. Pollen, of course, is a little hard to eliminate if your pup plays outdoors.

Bathing or wiping your pup down after outdoor romps can remove some pollen. If you suspect a food allergyOpens in a new tab., gradually changing your dog’s food should help.

Try to choose a food with minimal ingredients and additives. There are many hypoallergenic foods on the market to choose from as well.

  • Changing cleaners, rug shampoos, flea products, etc., can remove the symptoms of contact dermatitis.
  • If your pup is suffering from flea allergy dermatitis, due to a flea infestation, then eliminating the fleas is the answer! A flea bath or dip will be necessary to rid your dog of the fleas, plus washing all of their bedding and using a flea bomb or an exterminator to take care of your house.
  • Colloidal oatmeal baths and shampoos help to soothe and calm the pup’s irritated skin and relieve itching.
  • Vitamin E oil can help to moisturize your dog’s skin and help to heal it too.
  • Coconut oil topically applied to affected areas can moisturize and act as an anti-inflammatory and antiseptic.
  • Tea tree oil can be found as a cream containing 10% tea tree oil and acts as an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Do not use concentrated tea tree oil as this can be toxic to dogs.
  • Jojoba oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and will help heal dermatitis.
  • Shea nut butter is a balm that is rich and moisturizing. It soothes by reducing swelling and also acts as an antioxidant.
  • There are many natural shampoos at pet stores that can help soothe and eliminate dermatitis. Check reviews on these products.
  • Probiotics for dogs can help your pup’s immune system from the inside out, helping to relieve all types of dermatitis.

The above home remedies can be used on your dog to help relieve and cure dermatitis as long as it isn’t too severe. First, you must figure out the root cause of their skin irritation.

When using natural remedies, if at any time your dog’s skin is not getting better and becomes worse, discontinue the natural products and seek the help of your veterinarian.

Natural products can sometimes be a healthier way to treat conditions but other times they may do more harm than good depending on the scenario.

When dermatitis worsens or becomes severe, your pup may need something stronger than an herbal remedy such as prescription medications of antivirals, antifungals, antibiotics, allergy meds, or steroids.

At-home remedies can help, but if dermatitis doesn’t clear up, don’t take a chance with your Best Friend’s health.

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