Skin diseases in dogs This article is verified by a vet

dog skin disease

Severely reddened skin and fur loss can be the first signs of a skin disease that needs to be taken seriously.

Have you discovered that your dog has scales or is it scratching itself more often? Then you should take a closer look at its skin! Read here which skin diseases are common in dogs and how you can care for your dog’s skin.

How to take care of your dog’s skin in the right way

The condition of your dog’s skin depends on many different factors, such as the choice of dog food or your dog’s living conditions.

Why is good food important with skin diseases in dogs?

Essential amino acids and fatty acids like linoleic acid are described as essential with good reason. Since your dog cannot form them itself, it has to receive them through other means. This is the only way it can provide its skin and other organs with vital nutrients. If your dog consumes them in its food, they help to maintain muscle or gain energy, amongst other things.

Hence, you should focus on the additives in your dry or wet food. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are a valuable source for your dog, especially when cold-pressed.

If you use the BARF method to feed your dog, you should definitely calculate your dog’s nutrient requirements on an individual basis. If you don’t do this, deficiency symptoms or overdosing can lead to severe changes in the skin – or the other organs in the worst case.

If your canine friend already suffers from skin diseases, you can give it special foods with skin-nourishing ingredients, because they are particularly rich in essential fatty acids!

You can also find suitable foods and treats for skin diseases in dogs in the zooplus online store.

What influence do living conditions have?

If your dog is generally in good health, its skin will also be in good condition. In order to reduce the risk of skin diseases for your dog, you should make sure that it gets a balanced diet as well as keeping it in a species-appropriate manner.

Part of canine-friendly ownership is loosening dirty fur with a comb after walks. If the dirt is stubborn, you can carefully  remove it from the fur with a special dog shampoo when giving your dog a bath.

In addition, sufficient exercise and effective parasite prevention are further requirements for healthy dog skin. You can get more information from your vet about different parasite treatments like collars, tablets or spot-ons.

The most common skin diseases in dogs

The skin is a dog’s largest organ. Since it is influenced by the diet and all kinds of hormones, there are a lot of diseases that affect the health of the skin.

In order to give you a better overview of skin diseases in dogs, the following table divides the most common skin diseases into infectious and non-infectious causes:

Infectious causes

Non-infectious causes

Parasite infestation: mites (e.g. the autumn grass mite, ear mite, predatory mite, demodicosis), ticks, fleas, lice, biting lice, dirofilaria, leishmaniasis Hormonal diseases: hypothyroidism (hypothyreosis), adrenal gland subfunctions (Cushing’s syndrome)
Bacterial infections: mostly Staphylococcus pseudintermedius Tumours: squamous cell carcinoma, mast cell tumours, lymphosarcoma, melanoma
Cutaneous fungi: Malassezia dermatitis, trichophytosis, sporotrichosis Injuries: open wounds, bruising, bites, impaled foreign bodies
Viral diseases: canine papilloma virus, canine distemper virus Autoimmune diseases: Pemphigus foliaceus, Lupus erythematodes
Nutritional deficiency and lack of skincare


The causes mentioned above mostly lead to the skin becoming inflamed. This can be observed with allergies, for instance. With dogs, this mainly results in flea saliva, food or environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis).

In contrast, it can be observed with hormonal diseases that the fur falls out symmetrically or the entire coat becomes duller.

Flaky skin disease dog
Hair loss and scaly skin are mostly easily recognisable.

Symptoms: first signs of skin diseases in dogs

Dogs show different clinical symptoms depending on the underlying diseases. In addition, the duration of the symptoms also varies. Whilst hormonal diseases mostly lead to chronic (prolonged) symptoms, a bacterial skin infection is acute (sudden).

Some of the most common symptoms of skin diseases in dogs include:

  • Hair loss (alopecia) or thinning hair
  • Skin inflammation (dermatitis): the skin swells, reddens and warms up. If bacteria play a role, pus is commonly formed. If the bacterial inflammation encapsulates itself, a round abscess forms.
  • Formation of inflammatory hot spots that always flare up again
  • Thickening of the skin (keratosis)
  • Scratching and gnawing at areas of the skin
  • Formation of scales

Skin functions: why is the skin so important?

Your dog’s skin is of vital importance, which is why potential skin diseases in dogs absolutely must be cleared up. Dog skin is made up of three different cell layers and assumes important functions for the body:

The epidermis forms the upper protective layer. It is made up of horn cells, which are stored on top of one another in several layers. These cells are gradually newly formed so that the uppermost cells peel off as scales.

The dermis or corium is the middle skin layer that gives the skin its formative structure. It predominantly consists of taut connective tissue, blood vessels and sebaceous glands, which carry out the function of lubricating the skin and thereby protecting it from external influences.

The subcutis is formed by fat tissue and blood vessels. This allows it to store energy for the dog and keep it warm on cold days. Since the subcutaneous tissue can also store large quantities of water, the skin is additionally important for a dog’s water balance.

Franziska G., Veterinarian
Profilbild von Tierärztin Franziska Gütgeman mit Hund

At the Justus-Liebig-University of Giessen I was extensively trained as a veterinarian and was able to gain experience in various fields such as small animal, large animal and exotic animal medicine as well as pharmacology, pathology and food hygiene. Since then, I have been working not only as a veterinary author, but also on my scientifically driven dissertation. My goal is to better protect animals from pathogenic bacterial organisms in the future. Besides my veterinary knowledge, I also share my own experiences as a happy dog owner and can thus understand and enlighten fears and problems as well as other important questions about animal health.

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