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 worsening symptoms. There are two forms of eczema 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 conditions cause severe itchiness, and when dogs attempt to relieve the itch by scratching or chewing, they can end up causing self-inflicted wounds that are open to bacterial infection. If you see the signs of dry or wet eczema in your dog, you should consult your veterinarian so they can diagnose the cause and form a treatment plan. Here is 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 depending on whether the condition is wet eczema or dry eczema. Often these symptoms are similar to other conditions like mange or normal skin allergies, which is why it is important to seek a veterinarian’s diagnosis. The signs of eczema 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 that 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 dishcharge
  • 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, resulting in inflammation. This is particularly common in dogs that are hypersensitive to flea bites. Here are several 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 identifying the underlying cause of the condition and removing it. For many dogs, this means getting appropriate 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.

Anti-inflammatory drugs such as steroids or NSAIDs may be prescribed to relieve symptoms. One of the goals of treatment is to reduce skin irritation, regardless of whether or not the underlying cause of the eczema can be found. Medicated shampoos that contain 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 by canine eczema, you will need to work closely with your veterinarian to determine the cause and remove it from your dog’s environment. Follow prescribed medical treatment for the full duration of the prescription and monitor your dog’s condition. There are some natural, homemade treatments that can help alleviate symptoms of allergies that can cause eczema, but you should always discuss these with your veterinarian first before you try them on your dog.

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