What Causes Dog Belly Rashes?

Key takeaway

There are many different types of belly rashes on dogs, ranging in appearance from small scabs to blisters and large bumps. Redness, itchiness, and discomfort are common symptoms of belly rashes, and while they’re not usually cause for immediate concern, they should be treated by a vet as soon as possible.

Dogs can have redness, inflammation, and itchiness anywhere on their bodies. However, it's most noticeable on their bellies, which have less fur. The belly is a common location for rashes in dogs, and while they might look uncomfortable, they're fairly common, and many causes are treatable. Common causes of dog belly rashes include skin infections, allergies, and genetic disorders. 

There are many different types of dog belly rashes, ranging from small red bumps to hot spots and dry, flaky skin. The symptoms of your dog's belly rash depend on the cause. Understanding what causes dog rashes can help you determine when it's time to take your dog to the vet and what to expect. 

Causes Of Belly Rashes On Dogs

Many dogs have skin conditions that result in bumps, redness, irritation, and itching. However, there are many causes of belly rashes in dogs, each with different symptoms. In addition, some rashes may be a symptom of a larger skin or health condition. Here are a few common causes of dog red skin, itchiness, and bumps on the belly: 

Genetic Factors

Some dogs are predisposed to belly rashes because they commonly have skin conditions. Cocker Spaniels, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Bulldogs, Dobermans, and Poodles, are some popular breeds that suffer from skin conditions, including allergies, dermatitis, and dandruff, which can cause itchy rashes on their bellies.1 Another common genetic condition, alopecia in dogs, causes patchy hair loss and itching. 

Allergies

Another common cause of a dog belly rash is dog allergies. Contact dermatitis and allergic reactions to things in the environment, such as fertilizer, cleaning products, poison ivy, and fleas, can cause itchy bumps and rashes.1 In addition, dog food allergies often lead to itchy skin and ear infections in dogs. 

Allergies are fairly common in dogs and are associated with several symptoms, including GI issues, itchiness, hair loss, skin infections, and red eyes.1 Talk to your vet if you believe your dog has allergies because they can cause discomfort and lead to worsening symptoms if not treated. 

Infections

Bacterial, fungal, and yeast infection rashes on a dog's belly can cause itchiness and skin irritation. Bacterial skin infections may cause small raised bumps and/or dry and flaky skin, hair loss, and itchiness. Dogs can get bacterial infections due to a cut that was infected, increased moisture, or as a secondary symptom related to another illness.1 These infections are more likely in areas of the body that retain moisture, causing dog groin rashes and underarm irritation.

Fungal infections, including yeast infections, are also common in dogs, causing a condition known as yeast dermatitis.1 The symptoms associated with this infection include:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Crusty, flaky skin
  • Chronic ear infections1

Ringworm is another type of fungal infection that can cause dog belly rashes with symptoms including circular lesions that may scab. Dogs with ringworm may also experience hair loss and inflammation.1 Ringworm should be treated as soon as possible because the infection can spread to other pets and humans. 

Parasites & Pests

Parasites and other pests can cause rashes on your dog's belly. Fleas, ticks, and mites cause irritation and itchiness in dogs. While ticks aren't necessarily itchy, dogs may scratch at them if they feel them on their skin. In addition, these pests expose your dog to several types of infections that can cause rashes. Many of these pests prefer dark areas on your dog's body that retain moisture, including the groin, belly, and underarms.1 

Medical Conditions

Some medical conditions cause belly rashes and skin conditions in dogs. For example, hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease are caused by hormonal imbalances, leading to skin issues like thinning hair, hair loss, skin changes, and rashes.1

Environmental Causes

Things in your dog's environment may cause belly rashes, especially if your dog has an allergy to them. For example, contact dermatitis can occur when pets brush up against poison ivy, grass awns, or cleaning products you use in your home. In addition, things like clipper burn, when a dog is shaved too closely, can cause a rash due to skin irritation. 

Meanwhile, humidity can also play a role in your dog's skin health. Heat rash can occur in hot and humid weather and causes itchiness, discomfort, and redness in the form of scabs, boils, and bumps.2 Heat rash on a dog's belly occurs when the sweat pores cannot properly eliminate waste from the body, and tropical climates with hot and humid weather can cause an accumulation of moisture in the skin, preventing the pores from eliminating the toxins.2 Heat rash forms in the skin folds of the belly and groin and can be tender to the touch. 

Other Skin Problems For Dogs

Unfortunately, rashes aren't the only skin conditions that affect dogs. Some skin problems are accompanied by rashes, while others can occur on their own. Some common skin problems in dogs include: 

Scabs/Flaky Skin

Scabs and flaky skin may occur as a primary condition or as a symptom of another condition. Scabs can occur for many reasons, including mites and fleas, skin infections, and injury.3 If you notice a scab on your dog, look for other skin issues that may be causing pain, inflammation, or irritation. If a minor injury caused your dog's scab, a vet might suggest applying topical creams and covering the area. However, if your dog is suffering from fleas or mites, they will require treatment. 

Red Spots

Red spots are another common skin condition in dogs. They typically occur in the late spring and early summer and may be caused by fly bites.3 Red spots are typically flat and don't cause pain or itchiness in dogs. Since they can be confused with the rash caused by ringworm, you should never assume fly bites cause red spots. However, some indicators can tell you whether red spots on your dog's belly are due to bug bites or ringworm. For example, symptoms like itchiness and irritation likely indicate ringworm.3

Red Bumps

Red bumps can either be small or large. Small red bumps have several causes, including bacterial skin infections and bug bites. Meanwhile, large red bumps are typically flatter and often hives due to an allergic reaction.3 Hives go away on their own, but your vet may give your dog antihistamines or steroids to prevent itchiness. 

Itchy Skin 

Rashes on dogs' bellies may cause itchiness due to inflammation. However, itchy skin can also be a condition on its own. Itchy skin is often caused by allergies or fleas and mites,3 but dry skin can also cause itchiness, redness, and irritation on your dog's belly. In addition, since dogs with itchy skin may lick themselves excessively, it can lead to other skin conditions and infections. 

Hot Spots

Hot spots are another common condition in dogs and occur when dogs excessively lick or chew an area of their skin.3 Dogs can excessively lick for many reasons, but hot spots are most commonly associated with other skin conditions that make the skin itchy, forcing dogs to lick and bite it to relieve the discomfort. Hot spots can also occur in anxious dogs that use licking as a displacement behavior. Hot spots are common in humid climates but can occur on any dog, no matter where they live. Therefore, after swimming or bathing your dog, always dry them off completely to prevent the build-up of bacteria that can cause itchy skin and lead to hot spots. 

How To Diagnose Your Dog's Belly Rash

You should never try to diagnose or treat your dog's belly rash without consulting a vet. A vet can determine the cause of the rash and the best course of treatment. Depending on your dog's symptoms, your vet may use skin samples, blood tests, and allergy testing to diagnose your dog's skin condition.1

In addition, depending on your dog's symptoms, you may be able to ease some of their discomfort at home. Of course, never give your dog medication or use a topical cream without first consulting your vet. 

Belly Rash Treatment For Dogs

Once your vet diagnoses your dog's skin condition, they'll be able to create a treatment plan. Since belly rashes typically indicate a health concern, they must be treated. When left untreated, they can worsen and develop into a painful skin infection. Treatment of dog belly rashes depends on the cause, but common methods include: 

  • Antifungal medications and shampoos for fungal infections like yeast infections. 
  • Antihistamines for allergies, depending on the type of allergy. 
  • Antibiotics for bacterial skin infections. 
  • Treatment for primary health conditions that cause rashes, such as Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism.1
  • Medicated shampoos for mites. 
  • Preventative treatment for pests. 

If your dog's skin condition isn't caused by an underlying health condition, your vet may recommend different ways to properly care for your dog's skin, such as moisturizing shampoos and topical medications for dry skin.  

Pet parent giving dog a belly rub

Final Notes

There are many causes of dog belly rashes, and you should never try to diagnose and treat them without first consulting a vet. Treating your dog's skin condition incorrectly can result in more pain and potentially dangerous infections. Instead, consult a Dutch vet next time you're worried about your dog's skin. 

We can help diagnose, treat, and manage skin conditions in dogs, with causes ranging from underlying medical issues to pests and skin infections. Try Dutch today. 

References

  1. Burke, Anna. “Dog Belly Rash: What to Do.” American Kennel Club, 23 Sept. 2021, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-belly-rash/.

  2. Winnie, Dr. “Dog Heat Rash (on Belly): Causes, Treatment.” Dogs, Cats, Pets, 11 July 2022, https://dogscatspets.org/dogs/dog-heat-rash-on-belly-pictures-treatment/.

  3. “Dog Skin Conditions, from Belly Rashes to Scabs and Sores.” PetMD, https://www.petmd.com/dog/centers/nutrition/evr_dg_common-dog-skin-problems.