From short-haired pups to dogs with fur so fluffy that they look like cotton balls, canines come in a variety of hair styles and volume. The fur of dogs is one characteristic that helps to distinguish a dog from all the other pups out there. But beneath it all, the anatomy of dogs is very similar, if not entirely identical, across breeds, meaning that the skin conditions your dog might run into are the same as other dogs across the board.
Whether your dog has long, flowing fur, or a short, trimmed coat, all dogs are susceptible to developing eczema. On that note, some canine companions are actually born with eczema, which is thought to be linked to genetic predispositions for dry skin. Many people experience eczema at some point in their lives, too, if not for the entirety of their lives. Dogs are much the same.
But other than being a skin condition, what is eczema? How does it affect our fluffy friends, and how can we treat canine eczema? We’ll dive into a full description of eczema for dogs and what it means if your dog has canine eczema. By talking about the symptoms of eczema, our hope is that you will be able to spot a possible case of canine eczema sooner than later, now that you know what to look for and how eczema appears on dogs.
From there, we will take you through the causes of eczema for dogs to help you be preventative about eczema and help your dog avoid experiencing another round of the skin condition in the future. It’s important to heal eczema when it arises, but how amazing would it be to prevent it from even happening in the first place? Your dog doesn’t have to accept a lifetime of endless canine eczema. There are ways to keep your puppy healthy and happy like they deserve. All it takes is a dash of knowledge and a dash of effort, and your dog will be one eczema-free canine. Let’s get started!
The Definition of Eczema
Often referred to as atopic dermatitis, eczema is the body’s response to a surface-level skin allergy. Atopic dermatitis is a type of eczema in dogs, but it’s not the only form of canine eczema. In fact, there are seven different variations of eczema for dogs, and it's important to know which type of eczema your dog has so that you can proceed appropriately. Seven sounds like quite the hefty number, but it's easier to take in than it sounds right off the bat. Let's break it down.
The first type of eczema for dogs, known as atopic dermatitis, is also the least concerning as well as the most commonly seen case of eczema in dogs. The reason that eczema for dogs is used so interchangeably with atopic dermatitis is that atopic dermatitis is the type of eczema that dog owners are most familiar with, so the words are synonymous with each other at this point. However, try to keep in mind the fact that atopic dermatitis is not the only type of canine eczema, and not every case of eczema in dogs is atopic dermatitis.
Anyway, atopic dermatitis occurs when an allergen in your dog's environment begins to trigger inflammation of your dog's skin. The root cause of your dog's eczema in the case of atopic dermatitis will not be something that touches your dog directly, like their dog tags or anti-flea spray, for example. Rather, atopic dermatitis is often the end result of something in the air, like pollen that your dog is allergic to, or an air freshener that contains chemicals that irritate your dog's coat.
If your dog’s canine eczema has been caused by direct physical contact with an allergen, then the type of eczema that your dog is experiencing is called contact dermatitis. Although very similar to atopic dermatitis in terms of symptoms and causes, the main distinguishing factor between atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis is that contact dermatitis literally involves direct contact between your dog's fur and the allergen.
A prime example of a contact-dermatitis-causing agent is your dog's collar. Since it rests on your dog's neck, it would be a case of contact dermatitis. Another example would be a dog rain coat that you put on your dog's back for a walk outside. If something about the rain coat irritates your dog's fur coat, the eczema that would result from this scenario is considered to be contact dermatitis.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
Another form of canine eczema is called flea allergy dermatitis. Whether you knew that there is an entire category of eczema attributed to flea allergies or not, there's no doubt you have heard of fleas being the reason behind your dog's excessive itching. Fleas are not uncommon among pets, dogs and cats in particular. Even if your dog isn't allergic to fleas, the little pests will still bother your pup and cause your dog to scratch like nobody's business.
However, some dogs are actually allergic to the saliva that fleas leave behind when they bite, and as a result, the allergy a dog has to flea spit will result in flea allergy dermatitis. Flea medications work very well for flea allergy dermatitis, though you also need to be aware of any hot spots that the flea allergy dermatitis has caused for your pet.
The hot spots we just mentioned when talking about flea allergy dermatitis also happen to be a form of canine dermatitis in and of themselves, which introduces another solid point about eczema in dogs. It is possible for one type of canine eczema to evolve into another form of dermatitis, and when this happens, it usually means that the original form of eczema has been exacerbated to a more intense version of canine eczema.
Hot spots are one of the seven types of canine eczema. Also called pyotraumatic dermatitis, hot spots re can arise from other "lesser" forms of canine eczema, if you will, because hot spots stem from dogs licking themselves too much in one spot for a long period of time. For example, let's say there's a dog that has flea allergy dermatitis. After fleas bite the skin of this dog enough to get the dog's attention and irritate the poor pup's fur, the dog will try to fix the problem by licking and scratching the bitten area of their fur.
The problem is that the dogs are trying to get rid of the irritant by grooming themselves, but there's nothing to get rid of in terms of flea bites. Instead, the only real cure is time, for the flea bites will eventually heal and the skin will recover naturally on its own. Dogs don't have this knowledge, though, so they'll act on their logic and lick and lick and lick. This constant licking just further irritates the skin, even though that's not a dog's intention.
Even so, the skin isn't able to recover and form new skin on top of the damaged skin, which further stalls the healing process. When there is so much licking and scratching going on, bacteria starts to pile up in the bothersome area, which is how hot spots are born. Dogs don't usually develop hot spots as an initial condition. Instead, pyotraumatic dermatitis arises from other forms of canine eczema.
Similar to flea allergy dermatitis, there are two types of canine eczema caused by mites. The first is known as sarcoptic mange, the mite that causes eczema is the Sarcoptic mite. Sarcoptic mange is also referred to by veterinarians as scabies. Sarcoptic mites do not mess around, for their bite marks are very irritating for your dog. As a parasite, the Sarcoptic mite goes deep into the skin of your dog in order to use your pup as an energy source. The burrowing that Sarcoptic mites do makes for an aggressive irritant for dogs.
In theory, this type of dog eczema should be harder to contract because it requires that your pup come in contact with this mite in particular. However, unfortunately for everyone, Sarcoptic mites live all over the place and they can be found on just about every continent imaginable. Dogs are not the only animals that can become infected, so that broadens the range of possible that dogs can contract sarcoptic mange from their animal friends, too. Sarcoptic mange is identifiable can also be transferred from your pup to you.
The other mite is known as demodex, it is inherited and does not have the ability to transfer from dog to people. Although the demodectic mites cannot be transferred they can be as aggressive and irritant to your pup.
Acral Lick Dermatitis
As we explained with hot spots, some types of canine eczema are self-created and perpetuated by dogs. Acral lick dermatitis is no different. The act of licking themselves over and over again in the same spot can be a cause for eczema on dogs. With acral lick dermatitis, the main cause of this type of canine eczema is the repeated movement of tongue and saliva against a paw, leg, tail, or other point of extremity of your dog. As seen with hot spots, dogs can lick themselves so intensely that they create a bald spot in place of healthy fur. Your dog's coat acts as a protective barrier between your dog's skin and the environment.
When canines don't have fur to protect their skin, the exposed skin becomes susceptible to an array of damaging outcomes, one of which is bacteria. The patch of skin that your dog won't leave alone will eventually harden, as though it is thickening, which is a sign of irritation and a lack of proper blood flow. Skin should be firm, but not thick, so if you notice your dog has areas of bare skin, consider talking to your vet about possible acral lick dermatitis on your dog’s extremities.
Some veterinarians will supply you with an Elizabethan cone for your dog to wear so that he or she cannot reach their sore spot while it heals. Cones are one of keeping dogs from licking themselves. Another supplemental option your vet might provide you with is some sort of protective wrap to put over your dog’s self-inflicted wound as it heals. This option is less common, seeing as the fabric would touch your dog’s exposed skin and could , but speak with your vet to see how they think you should proceed.
Last but not least, malassezia dermatitis is the seventh type of canine eczema on our list. Unlike the other six examples of canine eczema, malassezia dermatitis is caused by fungi. The most interesting detail about malassezia dermatitis is that it actually poses no danger to dogs when it exists in low quantities. However, when the fungus, malassezia, starts to repopulate at an uncontrollable rate, it can start to cause problems for your dog.
Canines that are predisposed to a hypersensitivity toward malassezia, or just skin allergies in general, are more likely to have a run-in with malassezia dermatitis at some point, though it is not an absolute. Like all the other forms of canine eczema, malassezia dermatitis captivates the attention of infected dogs, and they will always react by scratching, licking, biting, and gnawing at the irritated area of their skin.
What Does Eczema for Dogs Look Like?
Since eczema is an external skin condition, the symptoms are visible. This is very helpful in terms of diagnosing your dog because you'll be able to notice the symptoms right away. Eczema manifests as a patch of dry, flaky skin. Unlike internal health problems, like digestive issues or gastrointestinal problems, eczema can be seen just by taking a look at your dog's fur coat.
While each of the seven types of canine eczema have unique symptoms of their own, they also share underlying similarities.
Other symptoms of dog eczema include…
- Obsessively licking themselves
- Bright red open sores
- Patches of bald spots
- Flaky skin
- Damp fur and hot spots
- Uneven coloring of skin
- Balding in certain areas of the coat
- Tough skin where fur should be
- Whining or groaning in high-pitched ways
- Lack of energy
- Sleeping more often than usual
- Little to no appetite or desire to drink water
What Causes Eczema for Dogs?
Canine eczema has many different causes, but a case of dog eczema will either be the result of genetics at play or the environment. Examples of a genetic cause behind canine eczema would be a food allergy that your pup has had since birth. Most forms of eczema for dogs are either caused by a dog’s behavior or by an external factor, such as a parasite or an allergen floating around in the environment. To recap some of the causes behind canine eczema.
Here is a consolidated list of potential eczema problem starters…
- Parasitic mites
- Fleas and saliva
- Too much licking
- Constant scratching
- Further irritating exposed skin
- Buildup of bacteria
- Allergies to chemicals
Now let’s jump to the topic of preventative care for canine eczema. Truth be told, it is hard to actively prevent against eczema -- not only for dogs, but for cases of eczema in general. However, when it comes to your dog, we encourage you to do routine checks of your pup’s fur. These check-ins don’t need to be anything drastic either.
Simply feeling around for any odd bald patches or unusual patches of tough fur while petting your dog is enough. The one and only benefit of eczema is that it’s not a hidden disease or an invisible illness. Thankfully, it is visible and physical, making its presence more obvious and detectable. Because of this, eczema in dogs can be identified and resolved much sooner.
Natural Treatment Option for Canine Eczema
If you were to walk into a drug store and take a look at their medications for dogs with eczema, your first realization would probably be that there are so many different options for treating eczema with over-the-counter medicine. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with lab-made eczema medications for dogs, natural forms of treating eczema will always be safer.
Possibly the best all-natural way of handling symptoms of canine eczema is cannabidiol. Derived from both cannabis and hemp plants, CBD can be used for canines because it is 100% safe for dogs with eczema. CBD oil for dogs with eczema may reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and lower any stress levels that have been heightened as a result of the never ending itchy feeling your dog is enduring.
When it comes to figuring out how much CBD oil is enough for dogs with eczema, the appropriate dose is different on an individual level. Each form of CBD contains a unique CBD concentration, so you’ll want to look directly on the packaging of the product you purchase for your dog’s eczema. There will be information about servings and dosings either on or near the nutritional information label.
Healing Eczema with Cannabidiol: Your One-Stop Shop for Canine CBD
Innovet is the #1 place to purchase CBD for dogs with eczema. If you are looking for a natural eczema alternative, you cannot go wrong with CBD from Innovet. With oils, creams, snacks, and treats, Innovet has a variety of CBD products to choose from, meaning there is an option that will suit your dog very well. Try CBD for your dog with eczema today! Relief is on the way with Innovet.
Please do not ask for emergency or specific medical questions about your pets in the comments. Innovet Pet Products is unable to provide you with specific medical advice or counseling. A detailed physical exam, patient history, and an established veterinarian are required to provide specific medical advice. If you are worried that your pet requires emergency attention or if you have specific medical questions related to your pet’s current or chronic health conditions, please contact or visit your local/preferred veterinarian, an animal-specific poison control hotline, or your local emergency veterinary care center.
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Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM was raised in north Louisiana. She graduated from LA Tech in 2011 with a degree in animal science. She then moved to Grenada West Indies for veterinary school. She completed her clinical year at Louisiana State University and graduated in 2015 from St. George’s University. Since veterinary school she has been working at a small animal and exotic veterinary clinic in east Texas, where she has experience treating all species that walk in the hospital. In her free time, she likes to travel with her husband Greg, bake yummy desserts and spend time with her 4-legged fur kids, a dog Ruby, a cat Oliver James “OJ”, a rabbit BamBam and a tortoise MonkeyMan.
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