itchy dog with fleas

Common Dog Skin Problems and How to Help Them

Staying awake half the night, listening to your dog scratching and whimpering as he digs and bites at his itchy skin is painful to both you and your dog.  Dog skin problems can cause your dog to suffer greatly. 

 Is your dog scratching and licking his skin to the point it is red and bleeding?  Just like humans, dogs can and do have allergies and sensitivities to things in their surroundings.  This is known as environmental allergies.

This post may contain affiliate links which means if you make a purchase from a link on this site, I will earn a small commission.  This helps to support the site and keep it going but you will not pay a penny extra.

Symptoms of Common Dog Skin Problems

  • Dry itchy skin
  • Dog is biting paw, leg, base of tail or other affected areas
  • Dog is constantly licking the affected area
  • Inflamed skin
  • Open sores or bumps
  • Rash, usually on the stomach, groin and armpit area
  • Skin that smells or has a greasy feel
  • Recurrent ear infections or dog shaking head or tilting it to one side
  • Patchy loss of hair

Some skin problems that dogs are prone to require assistance from your veterinarian and others are less serious and can be helped at home.

I usually check with my Vet in most matters but here are some ideas to investigate first:

Fleas Can Be A Cause Of Itchy Skin In Your Dog

Fleas will often cause a dog to continually scratch his entire body if the infestation is wide-spread.  Sometimes the fleas can be concentrated in one area, particularly if the infestation is just beginning.  In this case, your dog will usually bite, scratch or lick at his leg, rump area around tail or neck area.  Inspect his body thoroughly, paying particular attention to his belly, inner leg and tail areas.

Use a flea comb, which has very narrowly spaced teeth to comb the area for fleas of “flea dirt”, which looks like tiny specks.  Do these checks several times.

My black Lab was scratching relentlessly a couple of years ago.  He was on flea prevention, so I assumed he would not have a flea problem.  I checked him out and when he didn’t stop scratching, I took him to the Vet.  The Vet also checked him thoroughly and flea-combed him.  She found no fleas, yet he continued to scratch and whine.  I decided to check him one more time and this time I found a single flea. Apparently, this flea had moved in and was causing my dog much misery because he had a flea sensitivity. I had been using Frontline Plus flea medication

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission but it won’t cost you a penny more) Click here for my full disclosure policy.

Frontline Plus for Dogs Medium Dog (23-44 pounds) Flea and Tick Treatment, 6 Doses

which seems to be working well but plan to switch to the Seresto collar on my Vet’s advice.

Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar for Large Dog- from 7 weeks onwards or over 18 lb, 8 Month Protection

The reason I am choosing to switch is because the Seresto collar lasts approximately eight months and I will not have to remember to apply the flea meds each month.

***Please, under no circumstances use over-the-counter flea medications such as Hartz or Sargeants.  These are usually found in grocery stores, discount stores, drug stores and some pet stores.  They have been linked to serious and sometimes deadly issues for dogs. 

If you prefer to go a more natural route in your dog’s flea control, this post on how to get rid of fleas naturally will be helpful to you.

Allergies are a Common Cause of Dog Skin Problems

Many dogs suffer from allergies just like humans.  But, while humans display a good deal of respiratory symptoms due to their allergies, dogs tend to display a larger number of skin problems due to their allergies.  Allergies can present as hives, itchy/scaly skin, red/inflamed skin or patchy hair loss.

Seasonal Allergies in Dogs Can Cause Dog Skin Problems 

With Spring and Summer comes gorgeous warm weather but it also is the opportune time for seasonal allergies in dogs.  Red, itchy skin, inflamed paws, ear infections, and hot spots are some of the symptoms of your dog may show when suffering from seasonal allergies.  

Mold, mildew, pollen, and dust are the top causes of dog seasonal allergies.  Fortunately, there are some dog seasonal allergy treatments and ways to help prevent the problem.

How to Help Your Dog With Seasonal Allergies

  • Regularly bathing your dog during the seasonal allergy months will help keep the allergens off his coat and skin.  Be sure to use a mild dog shampoo especially for sensitive, irritated skin.  I use and love this shampoo.  And, apparently, a lot of other users love it too, judging by the great reviews on Amazon.  It is made with natural ingredients. is hypoallergenic and detergent-free.  No harsh chemicals which only cause further problems for your dog’s sensitive skin.  This dog shampoo contains aloe and oatmeal to soothe your dog’s irritated skin.
  • Wash your dog’s paws after he has been outside.  Use warm water or wipe with paw pad wipes containing jojoba oil, coconut oil, and aloe to help soothe.  You can also use a paw balm containing coconut and jojoba oils to soften his paws.  These products are made in the USA of naturally-derived materials.
  • Wash your dog’s beds often in warm to hot water.  Use a hypoallergenic detergent to lessen any further irritants.
  • Allergies are an immune response.  Keep your dog’s immune system in tip-top shape by feeding a quality diet and avoiding over-vaccinating.  Your veterinarian can do a titre test to determine if your dog still has the protection of his past vaccines in his system.  If so, he may not need to be vaccinated as often.

Food Allergies In Dogs

Dogs can be allergic to just about any ingredient in their food.  The biggest culprits in dog food allergies seem to be chicken and grains.  One of my dogs was miserable with red itchy skin, biting at her paws.  We tried eliminating different ingredients.  Turns out chicken was the culprit in this dog’s case.  We switched to a beef and sometimes fish-based food and her paw biting slowly stopped.

Try a limited ingredient food in order to help isolate a meat protein allergy.

Once you discover what the allergen is, make sure your dog’s treats are also free of it.  You might consider treats such as carrots, green peppers or other veggies.  Some dogs love vegetables and other will just give you the stink eye when you offer them.

Some dogs seem to be more susceptible to food allergies.  Breeds including bulldogs, dachshunds, German Shepherds, Golden Retriever, Yorkshire Terriers, Pitbulls, Cocker Spaniels and West Highland Terriers seem to be affected most often.  Pitbulls particularly seems to suffer from skin issues related to allergies.

Indoor Environmental Allergens

Just as pollens and grasses can cause your dog to have an allergic reaction and skin problems, indoor irritants can also cause problems.  

Things That Cause Dog Skin Problems In Your Home

  • Detergents – Wash your dog’s bedding and any item he is in contact with, using a hypoallergenic detergent.  In fact, it could be beneficial to wash your own clothing with a non-allergenic detergent.
  • Do not use fabric softener on your dog’s items.  These wool dryer balls are a great environmentally-friendly way to soften your clothes without chemicals.  They leave the clothes smelling naturally fresh, no static and tumbles them well to help eliminate wrinkles.  They are quite economical too as they last for several years before needing to be replaced.  Regular dryer sheets will leave a film on your clothes, causing your towels to be less absorbent.
  • Avoid chemical-laden air fresheners.  The unnatural scents and propellants can cause respiratory problems for your dog as well as for yourself.  I thought I was safer with the plug-ins since they had no propellants.  WRONG!  I unplugged the one in my bedroom when vacuuming and set it on my dresser.  When I remembered it later that day, this is what I gound.  The white area is my dresser.  The brown is after it dissolved the paint where it was sitting.  If it dissolves paint, I sure don’t want my dog to breathe the air it scents.  Here are some natural ways to scent your home.
  • Use natural shampoos when bathing your dog.  Fleas and ticks can be controlled without harmful chemicals.  Check out these helpful ideas.

We may not be able to protect our dogs from all skin problems but by learning the causing and taking preventive measures, we can get them under control.  Identify the cause, use the right products, eliminate known allergens and parasites and most important of all, take your dog to his veterinarian for a definitive diagnosis.  By doing these things, you will stay on top of your dog’s skin problems.  And, you will sleep better without all the scratching, biting and licking.


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