Many diseases affect the dog’s skin, and in some cases, they can be manifestations of other health problems. Learn about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of the most common canine skin diseases.

What are canine dermatoses: types and causes

Many manifest similarly, so the diagnosis is a real challenge for the veterinarian and even more so for their owners. For this reason, we will try to clarify the symptoms and manifestations of the most common types and how to help our pets solve them.

These canine dermatological problems can be primary, a direct consequence of a skin problem, or secondary to other dermatoses or disorders in other organs.

Likewise, some skin and hair diseases are congenital (they appear from birth or shortly after that), while many others are acquired throughout the animal’s life.

Types of canine dermatoses

Skin diseases in dogs can be classified according to the cause that causes them or the symptom and central location of the lesions:

  • Infectious – Staphylococcus spp causes pyoderma (skin infection).
  • Parasitic: the most frequent are scabies, caused by mites, such as Sarcoptes or Demodex.
  • Allergic and immune-mediated: the immune system sometimes overreacts against foreign or own substances, as in the case of atopy, food allergy, flea bite allergy dermatitis (FAD), pemphigus, or canine lupus.
  • Neoplastic: benign tumors, such as mesothelioma, or malignant, such as squamous cell carcinoma, may appear on the skin.
  • Alopecia: some dermatopathies are characterized by partial or total loss of hair, and may be of inflammatory, endocrine origin (hypothyroidism, sex hormones), or congenital non-inflammatory (follicular dysplasia).
  • Seborrhea: affects the most superficial layer, causing desquamation. Some examples are sebaceous adenitis or primary seborrhea.

What are canine dermatoses: types and causes

Predisposing factors for dermatological problems according to the races

  • It is easy to diagnose atopy in West Highland white terriers or French bulldogs.
  • Deep pyoderma is typical of the German Shepherd.
  • The tumors such as melanoma appear in dogs like golden retrievers.

Dermatological lesions in dogs: symptoms and diagnosis

Since the dog’s skin is an external organ, it is easy to recognize its changes. However, the difficulty lies in the accurate diagnosis of canine dermatopathy since these diseases share signs and symptoms and can be confused with each other. 

Therefore, the first step in the veterinarian’s consultation is to gather information about the symptoms and injuries that we have seen in our pet, the moment of appearance if there is itching (itching). 

What are the dog’s habits (feeding, habitat), if you are dewormed correctly, and even if we have observed similar lesions on our skin, which may be indicative of an infectious or parasitic process?

Canine dermatological lesions and associated diseases

The signs and symptoms of the disease found in canine dermatological problems are given specific names. These are the main ones:

  • Pruritus: it is synonymous with itching, which induces the dog to scratch to relieve it, typical in allergic or infectious dermatopathies such as pyoderma, Malassezia overgrowth, or otitis.
  • Alopecia is the loss of hair derived from scratching or a failure in the follicle’s growth cycle, as in endocrine skin diseases (hypothyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome).
  • Erythema: it is the reddening of the skin, a sign of inflammation, common in allergic dermatoses, and infectious or parasitic.
  • Papules: they are small rounded elevations of the skin.
  • Pustules: Similar to pimples but with purulent content, typical of pyodermas and bacterial folliculitis.
  • Scabs: These are surface hardened scales resulting from wound healing or keratinization disorders. They can be seen in allergic and immune-mediated dermatoses, such as pemphigus, and even parasitic, such as leishmaniasis.
  • Nodules and masses are rounded or flattened, on or under the skin.

What are canine dermatoses: types and causes

Diagnosis of skin diseases or canine dermatoses

After data collection and examination of the dog for dermatological lesions, the next step is to perform tests to guide and confirm the diagnosis of canine dermatoses:

  • Cutaneous cytology: consists of taking a small sample of the lesion using a fine needle puncture (FAP) or apposition. It is fixed, stained, and viewed under a microscope to visualize inflammatory or tumor cells, bacteria, fungi, or parasites.
  • Skin scraping: a sample of the skin is taken with the help of a scalpel and then observed under a microscope. Some scabies mites can be diagnosed using this technique.
  • Trichography: consists of pulling out complete hair follicles to detect structural abnormalities (dysplasias) or the presence of dermatophyte fungi or scabies mites.
  • Culture and antibiogram: In a bacterial or fungal infection, a sample is sent to the laboratory to determine the pathogen and choose the most appropriate drug to eliminate it.
  • Biopsy: It takes a sample of the skin in its entirety to study it under a microscope. Essential for the diagnosis of neoplasms.
  • Antibody detection and intradermal reaction: commonly known as “allergy tests” to detect the response against allergens.