Eczema In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

A Moist Eczema, aka Hot Spots or Summer Sores, on a Golden Retriver's right shoulder just behind her green dog collar. This skin disorder which is oozing, moist and raw, is more likely caused by bacteria. These Hot Spots can appear spontaneously anywhere on a dog's body out of nowhere.

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Eczema in dogs is an itchy, irritating inflammation of the skin that often causes dogs to scratch, lick, or chew, leading to worsened symptoms. There are two forms of the condition in dogs; they are wet eczema and dry eczema. Both of these can cause different symptoms.

Wet eczema, for example, results in moist discharge from the affected area, while dry eczema causes flaky, sometimes wrinkled skin. Both cause severe itchiness, and when dogs try to relieve the itch by scratching or chewing, they can end up causing self-inflicted wounds that are open to infections.

If you see the signs of dry or wet eczema in your dog, you must talk to your veterinarian so they can diagnose the cause and form a treatment plan. Here’s what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for eczema in dogs.

Symptoms Of Eczema In Dogs

dog with fleas

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Symptoms of eczema in dogs can vary somewhat based on whether the condition is wet or dry eczema. Often the symptoms are similar to other problems, like mange or normal skin allergies, which is why you must seek a vet’s diagnosis.

The symptoms worsen as the condition progresses and as dogs lick, chew, or scratch at the affected areas.

Here are some of the symptoms often seen in dogs who suffer from eczema:

  • Redness or rash
  • Severe itchiness
  • Licking, scratching, or chewing at the skin
  • Rubbing against furniture or other surfaces
  • Alopecia
  • Signs of pain
  • Hot spots
  • Matted, moist hair
  • Oozing discharge
  • Crusty or scaly skin
  • Dry, flaky skin or dandruff
  • Skin discoloration
  • Thickened skin
  • Lesions
  • Open wounds or sores
  • Secondary infection

Causes Of Eczema In Dogs

Dog nibbling his leg

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There are several possible causes of eczema in dogs. The most common form of eczema is atopic dermatitis, also known as atopy.

Atopy is an allergic response where the immune system has an abnormal reaction to a certain substance, causing inflammation. This is particularly common in dogs who are hypersensitive to flea bites.

Here are some other reasons a dog might develop eczema:

  • Parasites or mites
  • Food allergies or sensitivity
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Impacted anal sacs or anal sac disease
  • Licking at an area that is in pain
  • Vitamin deficiency
  • Exposure to irritating chemicals, plants, or other substances
  • Extreme weather
  • Viral, bacterial, or fungal infection

Certain breeds are more at risk of developing canine eczema, including Chinese Shar Peis, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherds. Breeds that have wrinkled skin are more likely to develop the condition, as well.

Treatments For Eczema In Dogs

A dog being dried with a towel

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Treatment for eczema in dogs usually begins with finding the cause of the condition and removing it. For many dogs, this means getting the right treatment for fleas, mites, ticks, or parasites.

In other cases, food allergens must be removed from the diet, or other irritants like chemicals, perfumes, household cleaners, or other products must be eliminated from dogs’ environments.

Vets may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids or NSAIDs to relieve symptoms. One of the goals of treatment is to reduce skin irritation, whether or not the cause of the eczema can be found.

Medicated shampoos that have oatmeal and essential oils can reduce itchiness and help fight bacterial or fungal infections of the skin. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary infection is present, and antihistamines may provide some relief from allergy symptoms.

If your dog is affected, you’ll need to work closely with your vet to find the cause and remove it from your dog’s environment. Follow prescribed treatment for the full duration of the prescription and keep an eye on your dog’s condition.

There are some natural, homemade treatments that can help reduce symptoms of allergies that can cause eczema, but you should always discuss these with your vet first before you try them on your dog.

Does your dog suffer from eczema? How do you treat it? Let us know in the comments below!