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Common skin problems in dogs

Chances are, you’re not the only one in your household whose skin reacts to changes in the weather. Here are some signs to look for if your dog is having skin troubles as the seasons change.

Brown lab laying on floor

Skin problems in dogs can range from mere itchiness to major changes. Here are the most common:

Dry skin

Like many people, dogs commonly develop dry skin in the winter. According to the ASPCA, signs of the problem may include the following:

  • scratching, licking or chewing the skin
  • visible dry, flaky areas of the skin (sometimes all over the body)
  • hot spots (one particular area where itching is especially intense)
  • rubbing the face against furniture or carpeting

A high-quality moisturizing shampoo formulated specifically for dogs can be helpful in preventing dry skin in the winter — just be sure to use it only every two weeks or less. Your veterinarian may also prescribe an omega fatty acid supplement for your dog.

Stress or boredom

During the cold winter months, a dog may get less exercise or play time outdoors. This can lead to stress or boredom, which in turn can show up as a skin issue in which your dog indicates being itchy or uncomfortable. Excessive licking of the legs, especially, can be a sign that more activity or mental stimulation is needed. Play with your dog more, and offer her a challenging toy, such as a cage ball that can be filled with treats. This way, she can entertain herself even when you’re not around.

Seasonal allergies

Although sneezing and eye gunk are the first symptoms that come to mind when you think of seasonal allergies, in your dog, they may also show up as itchy skin. Irritants during the spring, summer and fall may include:

  • pollen
  • weeds
  • trees
  • mold
  • grasses

And any time of the year, dust and dust mite allergies can cause itchy skin flares as well. Other skin problem culprits can be man-made. Plastic food dishes, blankets, carpeting and even indoor plants can trigger an itchy skin reaction.

Food allergies

Isolated dog food

Your veterinarian likely has warned you against feeding your dog table food, even at the holidays or other special occasions. Not only are such treats bad for your dog’s weight and overall health (certain people foods, such as chocolate and grapes, are toxic to dogs), they can produce skin problems as well.

Don’t overlook problems with dog food, either. The more inexpensive the dog food, the more likely skin issues are likely to occur, according to T.J. Dunn, Jr., DVM and contributor to PetMD. Common dog food allergens include:

  • beef
  • chicken
  • wheat
  • corn
  • soy
  • fillers
  • colorings

“High-quality, meat-based dog foods seldom, if ever, create skin and coat irritation,” Dunn says. If you feed your dog dry commercial food, be sure that the first ingredient listed is meat, which may be beef, poultry, lamb or fish, he adds. In some cases, adding a supplement prescribed by your veterinarian, such as an omega fatty acid supplement, may help prevent hot spots and other skin problems.

Whatever your dog’s skin issues, be sure to consult a veterinarian for a firm diagnosis. Itchy skin behaviors can be a sign of a more serious problem in need of quick treatment.

More on dog health

Sickness warning signs to talk to your vet about
10 Healthy tricks for your dog’s body and mind
Toys that boost your dog’s health

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