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Common Skin Issues in Dogs

Common Skin Issues in Dogs

Yellow lab scratching ear

There are so many signs that your dog may have a skin issue. It can start out as an occasional itch, rubbing their head against something or the odd licking of the paw. When it becomes frequent and seems to not end, this is a sign that you need the help of your vet. 

Skin abnormalities in dogs can manifest in a few different ways. Consistent itching or licking is the most common sign that your dog’s skin may be irritated, however some other common signs and symptoms to look out for are: 

  • Dry skin with flakes
  • Scaly skin
  • Red areas on the skin
  • Skin lesions - scabs, scars
  • Bumps
  • Dandruff
  • Lumps
  • Rash
  • Excessive licking and/or scratching
  • Persistent and/or intense itching
  • Hair loss
  • Hot spot - areas of skin have less hair, red, moist, matted hair, discharge

5 common skin issues in dogs

white dog legs with several red skin lesions

Hot spots

These are areas of skin that look red, inflamed and may ooze liquid. Your vet will call it pyotraumatic dermatitis or acute moist dermatitis. These terms denote lesions that are inflamed, may ooze or have pus. Often the hair is missing or matted in these areas.

So many things can start hot spots: allergies, insect bites, infections to name a few. Bottom line is that any of these can cause excessive licking, which is the cause of the hot spot. The root cause will have to be determined by your veterinarian. They will likely give you a prescription for topical treatments, ointments, or in severe cases oral antibiotics. Sometimes bandaging will also likely be required.

black dog fur with white flakes

Flaky skin

Flakes from skin are usually due to it being dry. Dry skin has many causes: low humidity in the environment is one big culprit. This is often during the winter months when heating systems are blowing out hot air that is not moistened. Allergies can cause this as well. And not just food allergies. Environmental allergens like smoke, perfumes and pollen often cause flakes and tend to be one of the first signs of an allergic reaction. Dehydration is another cause of this. Make sure, even in the winter, your dog has access to a lot of fresh, clean water. 

Bacterial infections, fungal infections and endocrine disorders can also be causes of flaky skin. If you notice a sudden onset of flaky skin despite good humidity, it is time to get in to see your veterinarian to get a precise diagnosis and get a treatment plan. If left untreated, secondary infections can occur and lead to other health issues.

large fluffy dog with matted fur

Dull and dry coat

This is sometimes combined with flaky skin and can often be a sign of over bathing. Too many soapy baths and strong shampoos can dry the skin out and oils that normally go into keeping the fur or hair shiny are not around to do their job. This results in a dry coat, which can lead to brittle hair that will break and crack. 

A dull coat can also be due to lack of regular grooming. Especially, if a dog has an undercoat that is not ‘blown’ out regularly, dead skin cells accumulate, preventing the oils from distributing and disrupting growth of new hair shafts. Make sure you have a regular and consistent (ie daily, weekly) grooming routine! Some breeds, like Poodles, get matts that form and can lead to dry skin. 

Also, some endocrine disorders can cause a dry hair coat, as can dietary deficiencies. For example, if omega 3 oils are not high in a dog’s diet, this can be reflected in their dull coat. Omega 3’s are found the highest in fish oil and fish protein but also in chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp. 

tail of black dog with hairless circle region

Hair loss

The medical term for hair loss is alopecia. There are so many underlying issues that can lead to hair loss in dogs. Pressure sores are one cause and present as patches of hair loss. Look for reasons your dog may be putting consistent pressure in an area of hair loss. There are inherited disorders of alopecia (known as alopecia X) and other endocrine disorders that have hair loss as a consistent symptom. These disorders are Cushings Disease (hyperthyroidism) and Addison’s Disease (hypothyroidism). If you notice sudden hair loss in your pup, it's time to book an appointment with your veterinarian right away to check for metabolic diseases and discuss treatment options. 

leg of red dog with small pinkish-red lesion


Also known as atopic dermatitis (meaning a genetic tendency to get itchy skin), this condition is on the rise in all breeds of dogs. Usually it is due to an allergy to a food or an environmental allergen. Seasonal allergies often lead to dermatitis. As well, It is now clear that many chemicals in the home environment can also lead to dermatitis (1). 

Parasites such as fleas and ticks can also cause itching. Even one flea can cause a bout of itching. That’s why it is important to give vet prescribed antiparasitic medications to your dog regularly during the seasons when these bugs come out and proliferate.

Several holistic veterinarians notice these symptoms like dermatitis subside when synthetic preservatives, processed sources of grains, and toxic processing techniques in the diets owners feed their dogs are eliminated. This is why it is so important to feed your dog fresh, high quality, human grade ingredients like in Kabo and understand the consequences of poor nutrition.

large Afghan dog with long flowing healthy hair coat

Adding supportive supplements like omega 3 fatty acids to your dog’s diet can help with many of these skin symptoms. Kabo fresh dog food recipes have adequate amounts of omega 3 from wholesome sources. Having an overall understanding of canine nutrition is important to helping find solutions for your itchy dog and get them back to having healthy skin. Kabo has pet health experts, including animal scientists, food scientists, registered vet technicians and veterinarians. They are your friends in helping you navigate the world of healthy dog food, so your dog can live their best life! 

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February 20, 2024
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