Dog skin problems are the most common reason for a visit to the vet’s office-accounting for almost one quarter of visits.

Being aware of some of the most common skin conditions your dog might face can help you keep him healthier and can help the vet narrow down the cause to figure out the best plan for treatment.

Environmental

Dogs can develop sensitivities to common elements like lawn grasses, dust, pollen, mold and mildew. These allergens might make your dog itchy and uncomfortable. Moisture can also get trapped on the skin which causes ‘hot spots’, which is a painful moist reddish inflamed area of skin. Hot spots can spread quickly, so it’s best to treat them as soon as possible.

Nutritional

Food allergies are not as common, but when food allergies do occur, they are usually caused by proteins, both meat-based and plant-based. Beef, dairy and wheat are the most common allergens. The main symptom of food-based allergies is excessive itching/scratching and skin irritation, but it can also cause digestive issues.

Parasitic

Flea bites can also cause allergic reactions in dogs-this is known as parasitic dermatitis. Excessive itching, inflammation and hair loss are common symptoms of this, though tick bites and mites can also cause a similar reaction.

Infectious

Infections can also cause dermatitis in dogs. The infection can be bacterial, fungal (such as ringworm), or yeast infections. Yeast infections are common in warmer weather and are often misdiagnosed as allergies. Itchy ears and paws are most often caused by yeast infections. Bacterial infections are often secondary infections to allergies, caused by sores from excessive scratching.

How to help

Parasitic dermatitis is the easiest of the causes to deal with – treat your home and your pets for fleas, and make sure they’re on a flea preventative. Once the fleas are eliminated, the itching will be too. Other allergies and irritants are more difficult to pinpoint though, so if the fleas are under control and your dog is still suffering, a vet visit is the best way to narrow down the possible culprits. Environmental allergens can be treated with medication or shots; food allergies can be managed by transitioning to a new food, recommended by your vet. It may require some trial and error to figure out the underlying cause, but your patience will be rewarded once your dog is feeling better!