Dog Skin Rashes: Causes and Cures

Dogs may lick and bite at itchy skin.
Dogs may lick and bite at itchy skin. | Source

Just like people, dogs need good skin care too. Some dogs never have many skin problems and some deal with issues all their lives. If your dog is biting and scratching his skin, here are some common reasons for rash-like bumps on the skin and ways to treat them.

Dogs are most likely to have a skin rash from:

  • Fleas or other bug bites

  • Food Allergies/Sensitivities

  • Allergies (like hayfever)

  • Contact Allergies


Even with regular baths and treatments, some dogs may still get fleas. They can be especially pesky in warmer areas of the country or in places where the winter was especially mild.

The best flea products are available at your vet’s office or at better pet supply stores. Products such as Advantage and Revolution are more likely to work and keep working.

Some products even allow you to re-treat more often than once a month if there is an infestation.

Before you look for other causes, rule out fleas. You can bathe your pet and look for fleas in the bathwater or use a flea comb to search for the bugs and eggs.

Sometimes dogs can develop food allergies
Sometimes dogs can develop food allergies | Source

Food Allergies

Food allergies can also cause itchiness and rashes that are generalized and irritating. You may also notice other symptoms such as loose bowel movements or stomach distress. If you suspect food allergies a consultation with your vet may be the best route to take.

It doesn’t hurt to try, in the meantime, adjusting your pet’s food. Look for foods that are premium and high quality or ones that specifically say for sensitive stomachs. Foods that say “limited ingredients” are the best to start with.

A common culprit of food allergies in pets is corn which is often used as a filler in dry dog food. You can also try making your own food for your dog. There are many homemade dog food recipes on the web but the practice is controversial among some vets. If you do decide to do this, make sure you research your dog’s nutritional needs carefully.

Dog With Food Allergy and Itchy Skin

Allergies (Hayfever)

Pets can have allergies too. If your pet has inhaled allergies you may notice other signs along with the itching and rash such as sneezing and watery eyes.

If you suspect that your pet may be allergic to irritants in the air you can check the pollen index through a website like If pollen is high and your pet is exhibiting these symptoms and is itchy, he may have hay fever.

Your vet can prescribe antihistamines for your pet. Most dogs can tolerate over the counter medicines that have the active ingredient of Benadryl. According to, dogs can take .5 to 2 mg of Diphenhydramine for every pound they weigh. Doses should be given every eight hours.

You can always run your dog by the vet’s office for a quick weigh-in (something most vets will do for free).

Contact Allergies

Your dog’s rash could also be caused by something he’s come in contact with. Dogs can and do get poison ivy and poison oak. So if your dog has been outside or in the woods, the rash may be from a plant irritant.

But if that is not the culprit, check your own laundry room and cleaning supplies. Did you switch to a new carpet cleanser? Is the laundry detergent that you use full of perfumes?

Sometimes dogs, just like people, can’t handle dyes and perfumes. If your dog has a contact allergy caused by detergent, for example, his rash may be more on his belly where his blanket or bedding has been touching or where he has been laying on a rug or carpet.

Switching to non-perfumed, sensitive skin detergents and cleansers may give your dog relief.

Shampoo Allergies

Shampoos can also cause contact allergies. If you suspect that your dog's shampoo or grooming rituals are causing the issues, you’ll need to switch products. Ask your groomer to use a sensitive skin shampoo and to hold off on the perfumed powder and products.

If you groom your dog at home, try an unscented pet shampoo or one that is medicated. Medicated shampoos often provide itch relief right away for your pet as you work to get the other factors under control.

Hot Spots

Hot spots is simply a broad term for any red, irritated spot on your dog’s skin. It can be caused by any of the above conditions. Hot spots can also lead to infection. So if your dog's rash becomes inflamed, red, oozing, or is an open sore, you will want to seek vet attention. The site could be infected.

If the Bump is Under the Skin

If the bump is under the skin it could be a growth or lesion that needs to be biopsied. Sometimes even fatty tumors that are benign can irritate the dog and cause him to pick and scratch at it. But since there is a risk of cancer, your vet can check the bumps and tell you what the issue really is.

Pets with itchy skin can feel irritated and restless. It can be frustrating for both owner and dog. If the rash does not show signs of infection, you can try treating it at home. If the rash continues though, seeking veterinary advice and guidance will make your dog happier and healthier.

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Comments 12 comments

sheena koon 2 years ago

My dog went into the woods and came out with bumps all over her body

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LCDWriter 2 years ago from Florida Author

Sounds like she might have gotten into fleas, mosquitoes or even some kind of irritant like poison ivy. You may want to have your vet look at it.

Stacy 21 months ago

My dog gets a really bad rash on her upper hind legs right where they meet her belly, she only gets it when she runs or does any physical activity , what can i do for her? It is very painful for her and looks really bad.

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LCDWriter 21 months ago from Florida Author

You definitely should get her looked at by a vet. Sounds like it might be a heat rash of some type. Check your pet store for type of soothing shampoos or creams that are safe for dogs.

james 6 months ago

can some one help my pitbull axle has red spots around his iner legs and he gets mad when you try to touch it what do i do ?

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LCDWriter 6 months ago from Florida Author

It sounds like he needs to go to the vet. He may need antibiotics.

Anna 2 months ago

My dog lola is a pug she had a tick 2 days ago and now has red splotches on her butt tail and all over her belly and wont stop scooting what could be the issue

Jazzmine 2 months ago

My dog has a rash on his right hind leg, where the tarsus bone is. He keeps scratching it with his teeth. It's been there for a while, do i find lotion for him or just take him to the vet?

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LCDWriter 2 months ago from Florida Author

I would definitely recommend going to a vet to have him checked out and treated properly.

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LCDWriter 2 months ago from Florida Author

I would take her to the vet. Could also be worms or a blocked anal sack.

Tammy 8 weeks ago

My red nose pit is covered in what appears to be hives. The bumps are now covering her back. Can I give her Benadry?

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LCDWriter 8 weeks ago from Florida Author

Benadryl is usually safe for dogs. The dosages are easily found using a search engine. I would recommend having her checked out by a vet as soon as possible.

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