dog biting at rash

Key takeaway

Skin problems are fairly common in dogs just like in humans, and those skin problems may lead to a rash. Many rashes are minor, while others may be a sign of fleas, allergies, and infections. Rashes can be caused by heat, bacteria, yeast infections, and more. You can treat a rash by treating the underlying cause of the rash or using antihistamines or other medications.

It’s not unusual for dogs to scratch an itch, but there could be a problem if you notice your dog chewing paws or a rash developing. There are several conditions that can lead to a dog’s skin rash, whether your dog has fleas, allergies, or  a skin infection. It could even be that your dog is developing a rash as a side effect of medication, or as a result of a chronic condition.

The good news about dealing with a dog’s rash is that they generally go away with some simple changes. The main idea is to treat the underlying condition that’s causing your dog to be itchy or develop a rash. By figuring out what’s causing your dog’s rash, you can choose the right treatment option to get rid of it, whether that’s medication or something else.

Sometimes getting rid of a dog’s rash is as simple as taking steps to moisturize your dog’s skin and coat. If it’s been particularly dry outside or your dog has a problem with dry skin, a moisturizing shampoo or medicated bath can help restore some of that moisture to relieve dry, itchy skin. However, it’s important to note that dog rashes can be caused by a wide variety of medical issues and environmental factors, so it’s not easy to determine why your dog has a rash and how to treat it.

Before you do anything about your dog’s rash, it’s important to understand what can cause rashes, what signs you should look out for, and what proper dog rash treatment entails. Ultimately, it’s up to your veterinarian to decide what the best treatment option is for your dog, so you shouldn’t make any important decisions until you consult with a vet. If you want to learn more about dog rashes before you visit your vet for a diagnosis, here’s what you need to know.

When Is Scratching Normal?

You might think it’s strange that some dog owners are worried about their dog scratching excessively. After all, most dogs love the feeling of a good scratching, and you’ve probably noticed your dog scratching itself occasionally throughout the day. As a dog owner, it’s important to recognize what sort of behavior is normal and what’s out of the ordinary when it comes to a dog’s rash.

It’s not unusual for dogs to like the feeling of a good scratching. If you notice your dog occasionally uses a paw to scratch its ear or the side of its body, that’s not out of the ordinary. You may also notice that your dog seems particularly pleased when you’re giving it a good scratching. Your dog may even kick its leg when you scratch its side. Don’t worry, this is all completely normal behavior for a dog.

If you notice your dog scratching for long periods of time, or if your dog is scratching to the point it’s losing hair, then you should be worried. While dogs may enjoy the feeling of scratching an itch, they don’t typically scratch to the point of losing hair or causing a rash unless they’ve got a medical problem.

Because obsessive scratching can be a sign that your dog has a rash, it’s important to consider your dog’s normal behavior when you’re looking for a rash. Does your dog typically scratch itself a lot? If your dog is scratching itches a lot more than normal, chances are they’re dealing with dry skin or some other condition that’s leading to a rash.

Signs Your Dog Has a Rash

Keeping a close eye on your dog is an important job  as a dog owner. Your dog can’t tell you when they’re experiencing a medical problem, so it’s up to you to look for clues that might signal that something’s wrong. This is especially important with a dog rash because your dog will keep scratching and making the rash worse if you don’t get i treated . Here are some of the signs you should look out for when it comes to a dog rash:

  • Itching
  • Noticeable hair loss (alopecia)
  • Lesions or patches of small bumps on the skin (especially on the head, neck, and back)
  • Redness, swelling, or hardening of a patch of skin 
  • Barbering (hair-pulling)
  • Raw skin as a result of persistent scratching 

Keep in mind that different rashes may come with different symptoms, depending on what’s causing the rash. While these symptoms can tip you off that your dog may have a rash, it’s still important to rule out serious issues such as hypothyroidism.

It’s also important to note that your dog may exhibit some of the symptoms of a rash without actually having a rash. If your dog is losing hair or pulling its hair excessively but you can’t find a rash, it may be that your dog has anxiety or some other medical condition. Ultimately, it’s best to take your dog to a vet if you notice any of the symptoms of a rash, that way you can  determine the cause of your dog’s itching.

You should also try to keep track of how long your dog is experiencing the symptoms of a rash. It’s not uncommon for your dogs’ skin to be irritated by dryness or heat, but these types of rashes tend to go away in a relatively short time period. If you notice your dog has a rash that has persisted for several days or even weeks, you need to take them to a vet to figure out what’s wrong and get them treatment. .

What Should I Do If My Dog Has a Rash?

If your dog has a rash, the first thing you need to do is schedule an appointment with a vet. As a pet owner, you don’t have the expertise and resources to figure out what’s causing your dog’s rash, but a vet can run tests to find the primary cause. Plus, your vet can prescribe medication to help treat whatever is causing your dog’s rash. Here are some of the things you vet may do to help diagnose a dog rash:

  • Blood tests
  • Skin cultures
  • Ear swab
  • Food trials
  • Allergy tests

These tests give conclusive results that your vet can use to determine which medication to prescribe your dog, or which treatment option is most appropriate. For anxious dog breeds, your vet may encourage behavioral therapy as well as medication that helps deal with the anxiety. Make sure you follow any treatment your vet prescribes to the best of your ability, as this is an essential part of helping your dog get better.

As far as home treatment goes, you can find over-the-counter products that are designed to relieve itching, but it’s important to ask your vet before you use any of these products to treat a rash. You may also be able to give your dog some relief with Benadryl, although you should ask your vet before administering any medication. 

When you take your dog to the vet for a rash, it’s important to provide your vet with as much information as possible. If you’ve got poison oak or other plants in or near your yard, let your vet know so they can rule that out. You should also let your vet know about any toxins your dog may have ingested in your home.

Your vet may also want to know how long your dog has had a rash, as that can help them determine the severity of the rash. A dog rash that lasts for a couple of days and gets better isn’t typically a big deal, but rashes that last for a long time or don’t get better with treatment may be a sign of a bigger medical issue. When you take your dog to the vet, make sure you’re ready to provide as much information as possible to help your vet make an accurate diagnosis.

Potential Causes of Dog Rashes

Like most medical conditions, there’s no one-size-fits-all diagnosis for a dog’s rash. While some dogs may have a rash because their skin is itchy, others may have a rash because of an allergy or something they got into. Figuring out what caused your dog’s rash is the best way to find an effective treatment option. Here are some of the potential causes of dog rashes:

  • Heat Rash
  • Yeast Infection
  • Bacterial Infection
  • Genetic Predisposition
    • Breeds more prone to rashes:
      • Bulldogs
      • Golden retrievers
      • Cocker spaniels
      • German shepherds
      • Doberman pinschers
      • Any breed that has predominantly blue/grey fur
  • Allergies
  • Parasites
  • Poisonous Plants
    • Poison Ivy, Oak, or other plants 

Of course, it’s up to your vet to determine what caused your dog’s rash. Blood tests, skin cultures, and other tests are the only way for your vet to get conclusive results that allow them to choose the best treatment option for a dog rash.

In addition to these tests, you should also let your vet know if there are any environmental factors that may have caused a rash. For example, your dog may have a rash as a result of the food they’re eating, or they may have gotten into the poison oak that separates your yard from the woods nearby. Make sure your vet knows about any of these potential environmental risk factors, and discuss the duration of your dog’s rash. The more information you provide your vet, the easier it will be for them to make an accurate diagnosis.

How to Treat Your Dog’s Rash

There are a lot of questions you may have as a pet owner. Why won’t my dog stop itching? How do you treat a rash? If your dog has a rash, here are some of the commonly prescribed treatment options.

Medicated baths

For rashes that are caused by skin conditions, your vet may prescribe a medicated shampoo you can use to give your dog a bath. These medicated baths can treat dry skin and other common causes of dog rashes. There are different types of medicated baths, some of which are designed to treat dry skin and others that are made to treat other skin conditions. Before you give your dog a medicated bath, make sure you talk to your vet to make sure you’re using the right shampoo.

Flea control

If your dog has fleas, your vet may prescribe flea medication or a flea collar to get rid of them. For rashes caused by fleas, getting rid of the primary cause is an effective way to get rid of a rash. There are several options when it comes to flea control, including liquids and sprays, shampoos, flea collars, and more. If you’re not sure what type of flea control is best for your dog, ask your vet for a recommendation.

Antibiotics

Dog rashes that are caused by bacterial infections may require antibiotics. It’s important that you only use antibiotics if they’re prescribed by your vet, and make sure you complete the full course of treatment your vet prescribes. If you stop giving your dog their antibiotics once they stop scratching and exhibiting symptoms of a rash, you may not fully kill the bacterial infection that’s causing the rash. In some cases, this can lead to a more antibiotic-resistant infection that’s harder to get rid of.

Antifungal medication

Sometimes rashes are caused by fungal infections, in which case antifungal medications provide effective relief. Keep in mind that you should only give your dog antifungal medications that you’re prescribed by your vet. You should also follow any guidelines your vet provides  along with your dog’s prescription for the best results.

Antihistamines

Antihistamines such as Benadryl are designed for allergies, so they can be used to relieve itching in dogs. In fact, veterinarians may recommend a small dose of Benadryl to treat a handful of conditions in dogs, including anxiety.

As is the case with any medication, it’s important to talk to your vet before you give your dog antihistamines. While this may be an effective treatment option for some rashes, you don’t want to give your dog too much Benadryl or give them antihistamines they don’t need.

Dietary changes

If your dog is allergic to something in their food, their rash may go away when you switch to a new brand of food. Your dog could be allergic to a wide range of ingredients in their food, including chicken, beef, corn, dairy, wheat, and soy. Finding a food brand that doesn’t have the ingredients your dog is allergic to can provide near-instant relief for a dog rash. Please consult with a vet to find the best food for dogs who have allergies.

Corticosteroids and Other Allergy Medications

In severe cases of rash, corticosteroids may be prescribed for a short time to get the skin condition under control.

Again, it’s important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely  when using corticosteroids, because the last thing you want is to cause further medical problems.

Apoquel and Cytopoint are other allergy medications that may be utilized by your veterinarian to help manage the skin rash. These are usually used for long-term management of skin conditions.

dog licking paw

Avoidance of environmental irritants

If your dog’s rash is a result of excess heat or your dog getting into poison ivy, getting rid of those environmental irritants can give your dog time to heal up and stop itching. Search Google for a list of plants that are poisonous to dogs, and make sure you don’t have any of those plants around your yard. If you live next to the woods and your dog likes to explore them, you might even want to clear some of these plants out of the woods where your dog explores.

It’s also important to make sure you’re keeping any potential toxins away from your dog inside the house. If you’ve got medication or something else harmful that your dog could get into, put it up somewhere safe where your dog (and children) can’t get to it.

Dog Rashes: Frequently Asked Questions

How can I treat my dog’s rash?

If your dog has a rash, the best treatment depends on the cause of the rash. Rashes that are caused by fleas should be treated with flea control, while other dog rashes require antibiotics, medicated baths, and antifungal medications.

Ultimately, it’s important to take your dog to the vet if they’ve got a rash to determine the underlying cause. Your vet can make a definitive diagnosis, as well as the best course of treatment for your dog.

What could be causing my dog’s rash?

Causes of dog rashes range from skin conditions and allergies to bacterial infections, parasites, and more. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to figure out why your dog has a rash unless you have experience dealing with dog rashes.

If you notice your dog has a rash, we recommend you visit a vet as soon as possible. Your vet can figure out what’s causing the dog rash and what the best treatment option is, so you can keep your dog happy and healthy.

What can I put on my dog to relieve redness and itching on his or her rash?

If your dog has itchy, red skin, there are a few things you can try at home to make them feel more comfortable. Ask your vet if it’s okay to give your dog a small amount of Benadryl to relieve itching. 

There are also over-the-counter products that are designed to relieve itching in dogs, including both topical and oral medication. If you’re considering using any home remedies to relieve itching, redness, or a rash in a dog, make sure you contact your vet first to make sure it’s safe.

Final Notes

Dogs are great, but being a dog owner comes with responsibility . If you notice a rash on your dog, it’s important to figure out what’s causing it and get it treated as soon as possible. While most rashes go away fairly quickly with treatment, dog rashes that last for several days or weeks may be a sign of a more serious condition.

From how to train a dog to stop barking to how to treat a rash, your veterinarian can help you take the best care of your dog. With Dutch, getting in touch with a veterinarian has never been easier. We’ll connect you with a vet who can diagnose your dog rash and prescribe medication that’s sent to your front door. If you want to take the hassle out of taking care of your dog, contact Dutch today.

References

  1. Moriello, Karen A. “Dermatitis and Dermatologic Problems in Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, June 2018, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/dermatitis-and-dermatologic-problems-in-dogs. 

  2. Moriello, Karen A. “Itching (Pruritus) in Dogs.” MSD Veterinary Manual, MSD Veterinary Manual, June 2018, https://www.msdvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/itching-pruritus-in-dogs. 

  3. Diaz, Sandra. “Canine Atopic Dermatitis.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, Aug. 2020, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/integumentary-system/atopic-dermatitis/canine-atopic-dermatitis. 

  4. Dryden, Michael W. “Fleas of Dogs.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, June 2018, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/fleas-of-dogs.