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Common Skin and Coat Issues in Dogs

Nov 2, 2021

Your dog’s coat is a good indicator of its health. A healthy coat is bright and soft, and the skin is clear and pliable. A good coat comes from healthy nutrition and regular grooming, like bathing and brushing. However, health issues can take away the luster of your precious pup’s coat and might even start affecting the skin, in the form of itchy bumps and dandruff. Seasonal allergies can be the cause of itchy skin, and certain types of fungal infections can affect the coat and skin as well. 

Common Skin Reactions in Dogs by coat type 

All coats need grooming to some extent and many dogs enjoy being groomed so much that it can be a regular bonding experience. Now, let’s look at 6 different types of dog coats, and some of the common skin issues that dogs can have. 

1. Long coat

The long coat is one of the more demanding coat types since these coats not only tolerate, but welcome daily grooming. Long coats can be silky or coarse, but for each type it’s recommended that you use a detangler shampoo when bathing, to prevent hurting your dog from pulling on their long hair. Long, coarse coated dogs have a soft undercoat that needs to be brushed using a pin brush and a smooth bristle brush. Use conditioner after you shampoo your dog to replace any moisture lost from the hair and skin. This will also make your dog’s coat shinier and easier to brush in the future. If you’d like to go all out, use a blow dryer on your dog, and then brush out their coat once it’s dry.

While allergic dermatitis can affect dogs with all coat types, you may find it on dogs with long coats. If your dog has allergic dermatitis, they may be constantly scratching at a bad rash. You may need to look below your dog’s hair, especially if they have a thick coat, to see the rash on the skin. This condition can be most effectively treated by identifying the allergen and removing it or avoiding exposing your dog to it. The allergic reaction can be to products for grooming, food, seasonal allergies like pollens and molds, or insect bites. 

2. Double Coat

With a double-coated dog, you get two coats for the price of one. A double coat simply means that there are two layers to your dog’s coat. For example, Australian shepherds have a longer outer coat that is silky. This outer coat deflects water and dirt, whereas the short, softer undercoat protects their skin from spiny plants and insects. These coats require regular brushing from the skin out. Otherwise, their undercoat can get seriously matted and tangled. Another dog with a double coat is the Labrador Retriever, which has a short, coarse outer coat and a soft coat underneath.

One common skin issue that can affect all dogs, but also dogs with double coats is ringworm. Ringworm is a type of fungus that infects the skin of dogs, leaving red “rings” that are itchy and contagious. This infection can be found anywhere on your dog’s skin but is more often found on the head, paws, ears, and front legs. Indications of ringworm are inflammation, scaly patches, and hair loss surrounding the infected area. Your vet will prescribe you oral medication or a topical cream, and perhaps both, to fight this fungal infection. This kind of infection can spread to humans, so use gloves when applying any medication and wash your hands thoroughly after touching your dog. 

3. Curly coat

The most well-known curly-haired dog is the poodle, but there are several breeds of dogs with curly hair, such as the Bichon Frise, Curly Coated Retrievers, Portuguese Water Dogs, and the American Water Spaniel. The curl tightness will vary from breed to breed and dog to dog. While curly-haired dogs are low shedders, their coats do require a lot of care and attention. It’s easier for dirt to get caught in curly hair. Dirt and other debris need to be brushed out of your curly-haired dog’s coat, otherwise, it will stay there. 

Seborrhea is a condition you can sometimes see in dogs with a curly coat. While seborrhea may sound scary, all it means is that your dog has greasy skin and is developing dandruff or scales. Unless it’s a genetic condition, seborrhea usually occurs as the result of other medical conditions, like allergies or hormonal conditions. It’s important to not only treat seborrhea, but the underlying medical issue causing it. Seborrhea is easily treated with medicated shampoos. 

4. Wire coat

Wire-coated dogs have a coat of coarse, sometimes bristly hair. This kind of coat is a result of breeding because it is more protective than finer-haired coats. One benefit of this kind of coat is that dogs with wiry coats don’t shed. However, this kind of coat requires brushing because otherwise, the old dead hair will tangle with newly growing hair, making knots and snarls that are painful and time-consuming to remove. It is important that you brush from the skin out, otherwise the hair closest to the skin will become very tangled. 

One skin issue that can affect dogs with wire coats is folliculitis or superficial bacterial folliculitis. This is an infection of the skin that causes blisters and bumps that then scab over. In dogs with long hair, this can cause a dull coat, shedding, and scaly skin. Your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics, antibiotic ointments, or shampoos.  

5. Smooth/short coat

If you have a dog with a smooth or short coat, people have probably asked you what kind of pet you have at home because of pet hair on your clothes. Even if you regularly use a lint roller, dog hair from a dog with a smooth, short coat has an eternal element due to its fine texture and greasiness. There is a lot to be said for the smooth, short coat, however, and one positive benefit to this kind of coat is that it requires the least amount of grooming. 

If your dog seems excessively itchy, particularly at their ears, or is chewing constantly on their nails, they may have a yeast infection. You’ll need to take your dog to the vet to get a diagnosis and prescription for medicine. Your dog’s skin will look red and irritated and could look discolored if they have a skin yeast infection. Paws and ears are inviting places for yeast to grow. The good news is that yeast infections are both easy to diagnose and treat. You may be prescribed oral medications, topicals, or a medicated bath. 

6. Merle Coats

Merle is a reference to genetics. Dogs with merle patterned coats have the dominant merle allele or gene. This gene “dilutes” the color of random parts of a dog’s coat, giving them the beautiful multi-colored coats known as merle. The merle gene can, in addition to striking coloring, also cause certain health problems. Merle dogs can be prone to some skin problems, like sensitivity to the sun and higher rates of skin cancer. This is caused, in part, by the lack of pigment that comes from the merle gene. If you have a merle dog, congratulations, they are a more rare type of dog and very desirable because of their looks. Merle dogs are also generally very intelligent. It’s important to consider though that your dog is more sensitive to the sun because parts of its skin lack the pigment, melanin, that protects the skin from the sun’s UV rays. Because dogs likely won’t wear a sunhat, try to keep your merle dog out of direct sunlight and walk them when the UV rays are less intense, such as in the morning or evening. This is also healthier for you!

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