How To Care for Your Dog's Skin

Bathing pet dog

Many conditions can affect your dog's skin, from dry weather to contagious skin diseases, causing itching, redness, infection and pain. Caring properly for your dog's skin is vital to his overall health, well-being and appearance.

  1. Choose the proper shampoo. There are many varieties of shampoo made specifically for dogs. If your dog has dry skin and flakiness, choose a moisturizing or sensitive skin shampoo. Also available for dry skin and associated itching are medicated shampoos with oatmeal, papaya or aloe. Use an antiseptic shampoo for inflamed skin to relieve excessive itching and prevent infection. There are also flea and tick shampoos, shed control shampoos and, if your dog is fearful of water, waterless shampoos. For certain skin conditions, a veterinarian will provide a prescription shampoo.
  2. Treat parasites quickly. Fleas, ticks, chiggers, mange and ringworm all affect your dog's skin.

    Fleas cause itching, skin irritation and, in some cases, allergic reactions. There are many flea shampoos and dips on the market to treat your dog for fleas but be sure to treat your whole house in addition to treating your dog. This may include a spray or powder for carpet and upholstery or a fogger for an entire room. Once you have rid your house and dog of fleas, you can use one of the convenient spot treatments on your dog once a month to prevent reinfestation.

    Ticks may carry diseases that are dangerous to humans and dogs in addition to causing itching and irritation. Many shampoos, dips and once-a-month spot treatments are labeled as effective for both fleas and ticks. To treat the house, treat the same as you would for fleas, but be sure the products are specifically labeled for killing ticks. To remove single ticks by hand from your dog, use tweezers and grab the tick as close to the skin as possible. Gently pull the tick out and apply antiseptic to the skin. Flush the tick down the toilet or immerse it in alcohol to kill it. Be sure to thoroughly clean your hands and sanitize the tweezers afterward to prevent the possible spread of diseases.

    Chiggers are mites that feed on a dog's blood and cause itching and irritation. They can be found most often around the head and neck and are red, orange or yellow. If you suspect chiggers, see a veterinarian for prescription creams to apply to the areas that are affected.

    Mange is a type of mite infestation under the skin that causes bald red patches and itching and could lead to secondary infection. A veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment is required to rid your dog of mange.

    Ringworm isn't actually a worm; it's a fungus that causes circular red or gray bald patches on a dog's skin. If your dog has ringworm, see the veterinarian for the treatment of medicated shampoo and ointments. Ringworm is contagious to humans, particularly children, so avoid contact with the area.

  3. Feed your dog the right food. A high quality dog food provides the correct balance of fatty acids and nutrients needed for healthy skin. There are many nutritional supplements for the care of a dog's skin but if your dog eats a quality dog food then supplementing may be unnecessary. To prevent an imbalance, give your dog nutritional supplements only under the advice of a veterinarian. Many dogs can also suffer from food allergies that cause itchy skin. A trip to the vet and possibly an elimination diet will determine if your dog has a food allergy.
  4. Brush your dog daily. The natural oils on a dog's skin are distributed by brushing. These oils keep your dog's skin and coat healthy and shiny. To better stimulate the skin's oil production without irritating the skin, use a brush with rubber bristles or a grooming glove.
  5. Inspect skin frequently. Check your dog's skin for anything out of the ordinary, such as lumps, discolored areas, sores, or painful spots. See a veterinarian if you find anything unusual.


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