Skin is the largest organ on your puppy's body and is the barrier between the outside world that keeps him safe. But injury, fungal or bacterial infection, bug bites, parasites, and even pollens and molds can result in all sorts of skin problems. These articles describe the different kinds of skin problems, what they look like, and how they're diagnosed and treated—including home care options you can perform yourself.
- 01 of 12
Seasonal Skin Allergies
During hay fever season when people sneeze, have runny, itchy eyes and become miserable from pollen and dust in the air, dogs also can suffer from these inhaled allergens. Dog's allergies tend to affect their skin more than their respiratory tracts. It's more accurately called atopy and is a seasonal allergy that can make your puppy itch and scratch with misery.
- 02 of 12
Food Allergies and Itchy Skin
Puppies and dogs can suffer from several types of allergies, including sensitivity to foods. It's not the brand of food necessarily, but the ingredients in the diet--most commonly chicken or beef. Despite common misconception, it is extremely rare for dogs to be allergic to grains. While you may think that a food allergy would cause digestive upset (and some do), in many cases the food allergies can also cause skin problems.
- 03 of 12
Contact allergies are much more common in people than in puppies. That's because the fur appears to help protect your puppy from contact with irritating surfaces or substances. But the puppy's tummy, where there's less fur, can be sensitive to contact with some substances, such as cleaning materials on the floor or fire retardant on carpets.
- 04 of 12
Mange is caused by a skin mite that burrows into the hair follicles. Some types of mange mites, such as the demodex mite, actually are a normal part of the dog's skin. But puppies that don't have a fully mature immune system can develop skin problems as a result of overgrowth of the mite population which can cause irritation. When localized to small areas of the skin, this skin disease isn't serious and most puppies outgrow the problem, however the infection can often spread to affect the entire dog and secondary infections can occur which can be very uncomfortable. In addition, when this condition occurs in adult dogs, it is usually a sign of another, more serious health problem suppressing your dog's immune system.
- 05 of 12
Sarcoptic mange also is caused by a skin might that cannot be seen without magnification. This type of mange is very contagious between dogs—it may even affect you!—and causes severe itching so that puppies scratch and can damage their own skin trying to relieve the discomfort. The veterinarian must diagnose the problem before you can treat it.
- 06 of 12
Ringworm isn't actually a worm. It's a type of fungus that's found in the environment, and most animals (and people) have immune systems that prevent ringworm spores from causing problems. In puppies that haven't yet developed a strong immune defense, though, they may be susceptible to infection. You could call ringworm the great pretender because it can look like any number of other skin problems, and is very contagious between pets—and people, especially kids and immune compromised individuals.
- 07 of 12
You may notice a soft-to-hard or warm, painful swelling on your puppy, following an injury, and this may be a skin abscess. An abscess is a pocket of infection beneath the skin. When the skin heals over bacteria that were introduced into a wound, the infection gets sealed in and can swell up and cause serious problems. While most abscesses require veterinary attention and medicine to heal, there also are home care tips that help speed the healing such as warm compresses to the area.
- 08 of 12
In this day and age of terrific flea preventive medications, most puppies don't have to contend with flea bites. But some are so highly allergic; it takes only a single bite for them to break out and itch all over their body.
- 09 of 12
Tick bites leave skin sores that can become infected, especially if the head of the tick is left in the skin. Many of the flea prevention treatments also protect puppies from ticks.
- 10 of 12
Fur protects most puppies from sunburn pain. But the sparsely furred bridge of the nose and tummy can become painful if overexposed during sunny days. Dogs with white fur and light skin are at highest risk. In most cases, you can prevent sunburn and offer first aid treatment at home.
- 11 of 12
Hot spots are a type of skin infection that becomes moist, hot to the touch and itchy-painful. They may begin from any skin injury—a scratch or bug bite or sting, for instance, could introduce bacteria and from there the infection grows, usually due to the dog continue to scratch and traumatize the skin. Severe cases require veterinary help. But some home care and first aid can relieve the discomfort.
- 12 of 12
Yes, frostbite can cause skin problems. Frostbite occurs when tissue freezes—typically that's the tips of the ears or tails or toes, extremities more exposed to cold. Freezing damages the skin so that when the injury thaws, the tissue becomes weepy and sore, and can even die and slough off.