A skin rash is a general term you use on that reddish, itchy, and obviously irritated area on your dog’s skin. Rashes can be quite spread out or localized to a small area on the skin, and they can also appear as spots or bumps. And while a red rash on dog’s stomach can be a pretty common sight, you can’t always diagnose it straightaway since it can be a symptom of many different conditions.

Like me when I find a rash and my dog is always scratching but doesn’t have fleas, I’d definitely start entertaining other possible problems, such as allergies, bacterial infections, and endocrine conditions. Because of these many possibilities, it is imperative that you bring your dog to a veterinarian for the correct diagnosis.


What are the signs of skin rash?

What does a rash in dogs look like? A rash on your dog’s skin will initially be visible as reddish patchy areas or reddish small spots on the skin, which can be found all over or affecting only a certain body part. The affected area may become itchy, swollen, blistered, flaky, scabby, cracked, chapped, warm, or painful.

You may also find yourself dealing with scabs on dogs, bleeding due to intense scratching, foul smell, uncontrollable skin chewing, dog allergies skin bumps, depression, and anxiety. If the underlying condition is left undiagnosed and untreated, these symptoms may eventually lead to secondary problems.


What causes skin rash in dogs?

Generally, your dog reacts to changes within its body and the environment, and this reaction often shows as rashes or eruptions on the skin. Skin rashes can be brought about by any of the following:

  1. The presence of skin parasites in dogs can cause a long list of diseases, most of which start with skin rashes. The area bitten by fleas, ticks, or mites will show as red spots or marks with reddish surrounding skin and will feel itchy and sore, which makes your dog want to scratch excessively.  If it happens that your dog is allergic to flea saliva, the rashes and itching will even get worse. Ticks, on the other hand, won’t only cause skin irritations and rashes. They also carry an added risk of transmitting Lyme’s disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Mites can invade the skin and hair follicles, and cause mange and scabies.


  1. Food allergy is another leading cause of itching and rashes in dogs. While food allergy also sometimes causes vomiting or loose stools in dogs, appearance of rashes and intense itching are often the first noticeable signs.


  1. Atopy or environmental allergy – such as allergy triggered by high level of pollen and dust mites in the air – is another cause of rashes in dogs. Dog allergy symptoms look very similar, but atopy is distinguishable from food allergy because it usually starts or aggravates with the changing of the seasons, while the latter can occur any time of the year.


  1. Contact dermatitis is an irritation of the skin which may also appear as a rash. It is caused by something that your dog has touched from the surroundings, possibly poison ivy or ice-melting chemicals.


  1. Bacterial infections, like pyoderma and heat rash exacerbated by staphylococcus infection, appear as pimple-like or bumpy rash that’s itchy and painful. These can later develop to moist pus-filled hotspots if untreated and continuously irritated by the dog’s scratching.


  1. Fungal infection, such as yeast dermatitis and ringworm, can also be the culprit of an innocent-looking rash. Vets easily recognize a suspected yeast infection by the skin’s redness, itchiness, and musty smell. Ringworms, on the other hand, are lesions that have that distinctive circular shape.


How do veterinarians diagnose your dog’s skin rash?

It’s routine for the vet to check your dog’s medical history, and take note of some information about the rash, such as when it was first observed, your dog’s exposure to other dogs with similar symptoms, its diet, its drinking and urination habits, and other similar details. This initial assessment already yields a better picture for the vet to base his diagnosis from.

Some laboratory workup may be done, such as a complete blood count, bacterial culture, and skin biopsy. Patch test can also be performed for cases of suspected contact dermatitis. These procedures help rule out unlikely causes and narrow down to one or two possible reasons for the rashes.

A skin rash caused by food allergies is not as easy to diagnose because it may require several weeks of a method called elimination diet trial to confirm the condition and identify the allergen.

How is a skin rash treated?

Correct diagnosis is said to be the first step in treating rash, or any health issue for that matter. Next step would be to treat the cause of the skin rash, not just pacify the irritated skin. Messing with those two important steps will only complicate your dog’s condition, so get it right the first time.

For parasite infestations, the approach has to be holistic – isolate the affected pets, apply anti-parasitic medications formulated for the particular parasite (ticks, fleas, or mites), provide medications for the inflammation and itching to reduce your dog’s discomfort, and get rid of these parasites from your house and surroundings by cleaning, using sprays, or hiring pest control professionals for cases of extensive infestation.

Treating yeast infections require administering antifungal medications and avoiding certain foods, for instance sugar and other food high in carbohydrates. Hydrocortisone cream and antibiotic spray or pill may also be prescribed by a veterinarian for hotspots and bacterial infections.

After the lengthy procedure of diagnosing food allergies, treating it is quite simple – avoiding the allergen in anything that your dog eats or takes by the mouth. So what is the best dog food for dogs with allergies? It depends on your dog – on what it’s not allergic to and on what it finds acceptable or palatable. Usually, the best dog food for skin problems caused by food allergy contain only one or two ingredients, and these don’t contain the usual allergens, like chicken, beef, dairy, grains, and preservatives.

Another important thing to remember about rashes: while they start disappearing pretty fast once the correct treatment has been administered, it doesn’t mean that you can stop the medication. The full course or dose of the treatment must be completed over the required period to prevent any recurrence.