Diagnosing Canine Skin Infections

A canine skin infection can be a painful and uncomfortable health condition for your pet. Skin conditions run from localized and mild irritation that clears up in a few days without treatment all the way to full-body rashes and sores that require medical attention.

Without treatment, skin infections can cause a number of complications to your pet's health, the most serious being that the infection itself can spread throughout his body. Although skin infections themselves are rarely fatal, infections that spread to internal organs can be very harmful to your pet and may even be life-threatening. Read on for an overview of the diagnostic procedure for recognizing skin infections so that you can be best prepared to identify and treat any of these common canine ailments.

Symptoms of Canine Skin Infections

The first step toward diagnosing your pet's skin infection is to recognize his symptoms. Observant pet owners that recognize when their dogs display unusual behaviors or physical signs are more likely to detect skin infections early on and before the infections can cause any long term damage. Be on the lookout for the following symptoms of canine skin infections:

  • Irritation and redness, either in small, patchy areas or covering large parts of the body
  • Hair loss or thinning
  • Unusual scratching and itchiness
  • Bleeding or other discharge
  • Dry skin
  • Loss of coat color or sheen

If your dog displays any of these symptoms for more than a few days, take him to a veterinarian immediately. Before you go, collect a record of your pet's symptoms and their duration. This information will help your vet to quickly and accurately diagnose your dog's condition.

Diagnostic Process

When you take your pet to the veterinarian, present him with as much information about your pet's condition as possible. Be aware of your pet's symptoms, as well as any other existing health conditions that he may be experiencing and medicines that he is taking.

To begin the diagnostic process, your veterinarian will evaluate the physical symptoms that your pet presents. He'll check for signs of infection, parasites and other potential diseases that can lead to a similar set of signs. Next, he may take a small skin scraping or sample for further testing. This can be helpful in determining whether your pet's condition is due to parasites, bacterial infections or fungus. In certain cases, your vet will also take a blood sample for further testing.

Between these methods of evaluation, your veterinarian will be able to rule out and identify the majority of potential causes of your pet's symptoms. Following your vet's diagnosis, you can begin to discuss potential treatment options. Treatment for canine skin infections typically requires an antibiotic medicine to eliminate the source of the infection itself. In some cases, your vet may also recommend treatment methods to address the symptoms associated with the infection as well, including pain medicines and drugs to reduce inflammation and swelling. Properly addressing your pet's infection early on prevents the condition from spreading to other parts of his body and becoming more severe.