Diagnosing Dog Skin Conditions

There are a wide variety of dog skin conditions and diseases that afflict dogs of all ages, breeds and prior health conditions. It can be difficult to determine what is affecting your dog. Use the guidelines that follow to help diagnose the skin condition or disease that is troubling your pet.

Generally, canine skin conditions fall into one of four categories:

  1. Fungal or bacterial
  2. Hormonal
  3. Parasitic
  4. Allergic

A veterinarian will make a diagnosis based on the symptoms, duration and severity of the condition, as well as your pet's medical history and overall health.

Diagnosing Fungal or Bacterial Skin Conditions

Ringworm and staph are the two most common fungal and bacterial canine skin conditions. A staph infection results in red skin, open sores and oozing pustules. Most often, these infected areas are isolated to the chest and face. Ringworm results in dry and calloused areas around the head and front legs. Some hair loss may occur in the affected areas.

Ringworm, staph infections and other fungus- or bacteria-related skin conditions may be diagnosed through bacterial or fungal cultures. In most situations, the condition is common enough that a veterinarian will be able to diagnose the problem on sight.

Diagnosing Hormonal Skin Conditions

Hormonal irregularities or imbalances may cause canine skin conditions. In these cases, over- or underproduction of a particular hormone by your dog's body may result in mild to severe symptoms. These conditions usually alter the texture or color of your pet's coat or skin. While they may not cause your pet irritation, they can indicate potentially serious health risks. These hormonal imbalances often cause other underlying health concerns.

A veterinarian will diagnose your pet's hormone-related skin condition with the help of blood tests and full physical exams.

Diagnosing Parasite-Related Skin Conditions

Fleas, mites, ticks and other parasites can cause damage to your dog's skin. In these cases, redness, irritation and itchiness may be localized or spread throughout several parts of the dog's body. Because these conditions may take on very different forms, even between dogs suffering from the same parasite, a skin scraping is necessary to properly identify the source of the ailment. Using a sample of skin, a vet will test for the presence of potential parasites.

Diagnosing Allergy-Related Skin Conditions

Most dogs that suffer from allergies have extreme itching, open sores and lesions. The location and severity of these sores can help to indicate the source of the allergy. Different allergies flare during certain times of year and under certain conditions, and this information may also prove helpful in diagnosing the condition. A full allergy test may be necessary to isolate the particular offending allergen.

If you suspect that your dog has a skin condition of any kind, take note of his symptoms and have him examined by a veterinarian immediately. With adequate information about his condition, the vet will help to diagnose the condition and plan an effective treatment program.