Like humans, dogs are susceptible to many skin problems, ranging from allergic dermatitis to dry skin. Some dog breeds have more skin issues than others. In this article, we discuss the breeds that most frequently experience skin problems and the conditions that typically affect them.
Dog Breeds Prone to Skin Problems
Pet owners with the following breeds should be extra vigilant about their dog's coat health. You can keep your dog comfortable by watching for signs of dog skin problems and getting early treatment. You can also take precautions to keep your dog's skin as healthy as possible.
Golden Retrievers commonly suffer from skin allergies. They tend to develop canine atopic dermatitis, a predisposition to showing allergy symptoms to things otherwise harmless. This dog breed often has allergic reactions to mould, weeds, grasses and fleas, leading to intense biting and licking at an allergy site. The dog may develop dry, itchy areas and hot spots due to the attention focused on the itchy area, meaning the skin becomes inflamed.
Hot spots and allergies can be, at minimum, annoying. At worst, hot spots are quite painful and threatening to the dog's overall health.
Boxers are a high-energy breed that loves to play and run around outdoors. Unfortunately, their short coats make them more prone to skin problems, like skin infections. Boxers are also susceptible to allergies, especially tree and weed pollen allergies.
Since Boxers may be sensitive to high-grain food products, pet owners should also watch their dog's diet closely. For example, some Boxers have food allergies to dog foods with wheat or corn as an ingredient.
A Boxer experiencing an allergic reaction to food or environmental factors may have skin irritation, excessive scratching, lesions, vomiting, diarrhea or hair loss.
Labradors are an incredibly popular dog breed due to their friendly, outgoing nature. However, they are also one of the most predisposed to developing skin problems. This is largely due to their tendency to have food, flea and contact allergies.
Soy, eggs, beef, corn, fish, and chicken are all common food components that can cause allergies in Labradors. Dogs with food allergies often scratch at their skin intensely, which may cause bacterial infections, skin lesions and irritated skin. They may also have diarrhea and vomiting.
Pit Bull Terriers
Pit Bull Terriers are inclined to skin infections and discomfort due to environmental and food allergies. They may develop a food allergy to corn, wheat, beef, or rice. They often have flea allergies and reactions to grass, pollen and dust as well.
Pit Bull Terriers with skin or food allergies may display symptoms like excessive licking, chewing or scratching. Pit Bulls are also more apt to suffer from Demodectic Mange, a skin condition caused by tiny mites. Demodectic Mange can cause hair loss, itching and redness.
Spaniels are particularly susceptible to lip and ear fold infections because of their long, weighty ears and jowls. Their floppy ears are humid and warm, creating a perfect breeding ground for growing bacteria and yeast. That said, yeast infections are a concern. They also may have lip fold infections due to the numerous folds in their jowls, which also promote bacterial growth.
Additionally, they may suffer from environmental and food allergies, having sensitivities to things like pollen, sand, wool and plastic.
Bull Terriers often have sensitive skin and are known for suffering from atopic dermatitis. This dog breed commonly reacts negatively to pollen, detergents, mildew, dust and chemicals. Bull Terriers with itching or skin irritation should be promptly treated by a vet to prevent skin infection or sores.
Some people have claimed a correlation between white coats on dogs and skin problems, but there is little evidence to back up that claim. On the whole, it is an unfounded rumour. There is, however, one exception. Bull Terriers with white coats do seem to have a slightly higher likelihood of developing skin conditions.
When it comes to skin issues, Bichon Frise pups stand out due to the breed’s adverse response to insects, especially fleas. In addition to their tendency toward having a flea allergy, problems that affect dogs of the Bichon Frise breed include food and environmental allergies.
If you have a Bichon Frise family member, it’s more important to protect them from flea bites than other pets, as they may experience unrelenting itching when bitten. Keep them inside when possible. When outside, be sure to use flea protection as prescribed by your vet.
This large dog breed has an unfortunate predisposition for food allergies. Common products in dog food that trigger a reaction include dairy, chicken, soy, corn, beef and wheat. While not all German Shepherds have this issue, it’s essential to pay close attention to many German Shepherd's diets.
This intelligent dog breed may also suffer from flea allergies and environmental responses that leave them scratching and uncomfortable.
Occasionally afflicted by a hereditary condition called granulomatous sebaceous adenitis, some Standard Poodles may lose hair in a patchy, uneven manner. This is due to the condition's effects on the dog’s oil glands. Dogs with this condition need treatment from a vet, which may include topical and vitamin therapies, along with regular baths.
While there are no guaranteed cures, these remedies may help. The vet may also recommend antibiotic or antifungal treatments if scratching or biting leads to an infection.
With plenty of skin folds and naturally short hair, the likelihood of skin irritation for Chinese Shar-Peis is fairly high. Short hair increases the amount of skin contact with potential allergens. And the folds in the Chinese Shar-Peis skin can provide a breeding ground of humidity and warmth that is ideal for yeast growth and can lead to bacterial infection.
Regular grooming and protection from allergens can help prevent skin discomfort for Chinese Shar-Peis, but they may still develop skin problems that require treatment.
Both American and English Bulldogs have tendencies toward skin problems. Like other short-haired dogs with numerous folds in their skin, they are more likely to develop skin infections. This is due to increased bacteria between the folds and contact allergies due to poor protection from their short coat.
Additionally, some Bulldogs have a higher risk of skin disease and tumours. American Bulldogs specifically can have a genetic defect called canine ichthyosiform dermatoses that causes red and scaly skin.
Signs and Symptoms of Dog Skin ProblemsSkin problems in dogs can be caused by various things, from sensitivities or atopic dermatitis to parasites. If you own a breed that’s particularly susceptible to skin disease, it’s critical that you stay aware of their skin health and watch for the following signs and symptoms:
Dry, flaky skin
Rash or sores on the skin
Excessive scratching, licking or biting
Dull coat or scaly patches
If your dog displays these symptoms, take them to the vet so they can be properly diagnosed and treated.
When To See a Vet Quickly
If you notice any persistent or severe symptoms, it's always best to consult your veterinarian ASAP. The goal of any good pet owner is to nurture a healthy and active pup, and oftentimes consulting a vet is necessary to help you determine the cause of dog skin problems and find the best course of treatment.
Treating Skin Problems in Dogs
If you suspect your dog may be allergic to something in their diet, talk to your vet. They can help you figure out the cause of the allergies and recommend an appropriate treatment. Typically, this includes assessing the dog food your pet is consuming to find out which ingredient or ingredients they're responding negatively to.
Dogs can also be tested for different food sensitivities, just like people. However, testing is often costly.
Once you and your vet have nailed down a culprit, you can adjust the dog's intake accordingly, preventing them from eating inappropriate foods.
Like humans, canine allergies often occur after exposure to environmental allergens, like pollen, dust mites, insect bites and plants or trees. Dogs can also be allergic to things like chemicals and medications.
If your dog shows allergy symptoms, it's crucial to find the underlying cause and keep them away from the trigger. Some allergies may be seasonal, making adjustments and treatments minimal, while others affect a dog year-round.
Regular bathing with gentle or medicated shampoos to wash away allergens and maintain a healthy coat and skin can be helpful. The vet clinic may also prescribe therapies and medications or recommend a limit on outdoor time.
Treating a yeast infection or bacterial skin infections in dogs often includes a combination of antibiotics and antifungal medications. The type of medication will depend on the cause of the infection. Your dog may also need to take steroids to help reduce inflammation and itchiness in some cases.
If dogs have severe skin allergies or other skin diseases, they may need to be placed in an animal hospital to be closely monitored and treated. Treatment for severe allergies often includes the use of intravenous fluids and corticosteroids. Your dog may also require oxygen therapy.
No matter what type of skin problem your dog is dealing with, it's important to get them to the vet. With proper treatment, most dogs can achieve a healthy immune system and enjoy a happy, active life.
Other Tips for Preventing Dog's Skin Problems
If your vet approves, there are a few things you can do at home to help relieve your dog's skin problems.
Brush your dog routinely to help remove dead skin cells and promote circulation.
Use shampoo on your dog's coat designed for sensitive skin or medicated shampoo when appropriate.
Add omega-fatty acids to your pet's diet.
Keep your dog away from fleas and ticks or use flea control.
Vacuum or clean the dog's rest and play area, along with their toys, to eliminate dust, pollen, fleas and other small pests.
By following these tips, you can help reduce the chances of your dog developing skin problems and create the optimal environment for canine health, no matter the dog's breed.
By Dr. Guangda Xue (Danny), BSc, MRes, PhD
Animal scientist specialised in gut health development and inflammation management