Common Skin Problems in Rescue Dogs

Canine dermatology textbooks list up to 160 different skin conditions. Given the vast array of possibilities, it can be challenging to correctly identify and treat some skin conditions in a dog. For rescue dogs, however, we tend to see some of the more typical and easily identifiable conditions which is good news for adoptive dog parents that want to treat their new pet effectively and prevent these conditions moving forward.

Fleas Cause More Than Itching 

We all know that fleas are parasites and that their bites leave a red, itchy bump on the skin. What you may not know is that many dogs are allergic to the saliva of fleas. This leads to a red rash visible on the less furry parts of your pet, such as the stomach or groin area. In addition to being itchy it can cause anxiety and restlessness. In severe cases, the body produces so much histamine that dogs go into anaphylactic shock which can result in death.

Preventative medication that prevents infestation is absolutely recommended year round no matter where you live. Topical and chew tablets are available with a prescription from your veterinarian. You may want to avoid topical treatments if you live with small children in the house as it is difficult to keep them from touching it before it is fully absorbed into the skin.

Mites and the Skin Infection Mange

Stray dogs or those who have been neglected by their previous owners are at high risk for mite infestation. The puppy or dog becomes infested with mites, of which there are several varieties, and the resulting skin infection is called mange. In mild cases, it often clears on its own without medical intervention though powerful shampoos are recommended to help things along. In more severe infections, dogs suffer horribly. It is painful and itchy in addition to leaving crust on the skin, causing patches of hair loss, and in the worst cases, even emaciation.

Keeping your dog healthy and clean will create an environment on which mites do not want to live. Treating mange can be a lengthy process but it is completely curable and even dogs with extreme infections can go on to have normal, healthy skin again. The first course of treatment is typically having the pet rinsed or dipped in a sulfurated lime combination every 5-7 days until cleared. If that is ineffective, the next step is to dip the animal in a chemical called Amitraz. As it is a toxin it can have side effects. Most dogs are lethargic following treatment and some experience diarrhea, vomiting, unsteadiness, and high blood pressure.

When Standard Treatments Don’t Work 

Occasionally rescue dogs are diagnosed and treated for the common conditions but treatments fail to clear the infection. In such cases, there could be an underlying issue that is not allowing the dog’s skin to clear. One possibility is an autoimmune skin disease called pemphigus. A drug called Azathioprine is often the first choice for vets to treat the condition but it comes with some potentially serious side effects so should be used with caution. Jaundice, loss of appetite, GI complications, lethargy, and secondary infections are possible. Food allergies may also be the problem and to determine that an elimination diet is needed. Beef, dairy, and wheat are the usual culprits but there can be others. The goal is to find a food that does not cause a reaction for at least 8-12 weeks straight.

You want nothing but the best life for your new pet who may not have had the best start. Speak to your vet about any concerns you have with your dog’s coat and skin so that your dog can be comfortable and calm and you can enjoy cozy cuddles with your healthy friend.


Article by: Jane Anderson, a freelance writer, editor and dog owner

Photo by Kieran White on Unsplash