Eczema is an irritating and itchy inflammation of the skin that causes dogs to chew, lick and scratch their skin. If you have ever experienced eczema yourself or know somebody that has it, you probably already understand how annoying and irritating it can be. Your dog experiences these same irritations, so you need to treat the condition as soon as possible.
The skin condition comes in two forms; wet eczema and dry eczema. Wet eczema results in moist discharge from the affected area, while dry eczema usually causes dry, flaky skin that can be wrinkled. While these conditions are slightly different in appearance they will both cause severe itchiness and irritation.
Dogs will respond to eczema by scratching, chewing and licking it, which can cause self-inflicted wounds to appear. These wounds will be open to bacteria that can cause secondary infections. Additionally, due to the constant licking, biting and scratching dogs may experience hair/fur loss and matted coats.
What Causes Eczema In Dogs?
There are a number of different reasons why dogs develop eczema. The vast majority of eczema cases in dogs are caused by atopic dermatitis (atopy). This is an allergic reaction that causes the immune system to abnormally react to various substances. The result of this reaction is inflammation and eczema. Dogs that are sensitive to flea bites can often develop eczema. Below we have listed some of the many other reasons dogs may develop eczema.
- Extreme weather conditions
- Exposure to chemicals, plants and other substances that may be irritating to your dog
- Excessive licking, scratching or chewing
- Impacted anal sacs or anal sac disease
- Allergies to food
- Mites and parasites
- Bacterial, fungal or viral infections
- Deficiency in much needed vitamins and minerals
- Contact dermatitis
Are Certain Breeds More Likely To Develop Eczema?
Yes, some breeds are more likely to develop eczema. Breeds such as Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Chinese Shar Peis are more prone to developing the skin condition. But why are these breeds more likely to get eczema?
German Shepherds eczema typically starts on their rump, with the primary cause thought to be fleas. However, the initial irritation can also be due to impacted anal glands. Golden Retrievers on the other hand usually develop the condition under their ears, on the side of their face. The Shar Pei’s wrinkled skin makes the breed more likely to develop eczema.
What Are The Symptoms of Dog Eczema?
Eczema symptoms in canines can vary depending on whether the condition is dry or wet eczema. The symptoms of eczema can often resemble other conditions symptoms, such as the mange or normal allergies. For this reason, it is important to get the advice of your veterinarian as they can determine the cause and tell you what the condition is. Eczema will usually worsen as your dog licks, chews and bites the affected. We have created a list of some of the possible symptoms that are associated with eczema in dogs.
- Scratching, chewing, licking and biting of the skin
- Severe itchiness and irritation
- Hot spots
- Rash or redness around the affected area
- Dogs may rub themselves against furniture or other surfaces to relieve irritation
- In pain
- Thickened skin
- Discharge around the affected area
- Moist and matted hair
- Scaly or crusty skin
- Discoloured skin
- Sores or open wounds
- Secondary infection
Diagnosing Eczema In Dogs
To help your veterinarian develop and accurate diagnosis it is extremely important to give them a good picture of your dog’s condition, lifestyle, living arrangements and any medical problems. For example, a dog that loves to swim in the sea on a regular basis may start to develop eczema. This information is vital to a correct diagnoses and is important for a vet to know.
By telling your vet everything, including when the condition started, they should be able to work out what possible changes or environmental factors have caused the eczema. Once you understand the cause of the condition you can begin to treat it.
How To Treat Dog Eczema?
As we wrote above, treating dog eczema starts with identifying the underlying cause of the condition. For most dogs with eczema this means that the appropriate flea, tick, mite or parasite treatment is used. In other cases, such as eczema caused by food allergies the allergen must be removed from your dog’s diet. Other irritants like chemicals, household cleaners and other products may need to be eliminated from your dog’s environment as well, especially if they are a suspected cause.
If your dog is suspected to be suffering from food allergies of some sort, your vet may suggest using an elimination diet to work out what the culprit is. Hypersensitivity testing may be required to identify what household chemicals and products could be the cause of the condition.
Your vet may prescribe a course of steroids or antihistamines to help relieve the symptoms. It is important to reduce the skin irritation, regardless of whether the underlying cause can be diagnosed or not. This is because dogs will further worsen the condition by scratching, licking and chewing the affected area. If your dog is suffering from a secondary infection caused by condition, your veterinarian may prescribe a course of antibiotics as well.
A variety of other treatments may also be recommended. Topical treatments such as a mixture of sulphur, calamine and coal tar can be used on the skin. However, the affected area will need to have the hair removed before any topical treatment can be used. Additionally, your vet may also recommend using a vitamin supplement if the condition is thought to be caused by a vitamin deficiency.
Home Remedies and Prevention Tips For Dog Eczema
While going to see a vet and getting their advice is important, there are some other things you can do to help your dog recover. We have listed some of these below, however, we recommend that you always talk to your veterinarian about any treatment methods before you start using them.
Try some shampoo. Medicated shampoos with ingredients such as oatmeal and essential oils can help reduce the fungal and bacterial presence on the skin. They can help to calm some of the irritation and inflammation, which will make your dog’s recovery quicker.
Try some oils for flea prevention. As fleas are the number one cause of dog eczema, it is best to try and prevent them from infecting your dog. Essential oils are extremely effective at preventing fleas, however, they must be diluted first. Coconut oil is a great option as you can give it to your dog both topically or orally. The higher lauric acid content in the oil, the more effective it will be.
Give Vitamin E oil a go. Vitamin E is a very powerful antioxidant that can help to fight aging, but that’s not why you should use it. The antioxidant can also be used to moisturise your dog’s dry skin. Massage it into their skin and don’t worry if they try and lick it off.
Use flea prevention products. Like we said above, essential oils can be used to ward off fleas. There are a range of different products you can use from flea collars to products like this one from Bayer Animal Health.
Keep your dog well-groomed and their environment clean. Grooming your dog and checking for fleas on a regular basis can help prevent eczema from forming. Try and give them a bath once every fortnight and use a flea comb to check for fleas. However, do not wash your dog too much as this can cause them to develop eczema. Additionally, you should wash your dog’s bedding and clean the environment they are in on a regular basis.
Get them on a good diet. A dog’s diet is incredibly important. Feeding your dog poor quality food or food that does not suite them can lead to a range of problems, including skin condition issues. Talk to your vet about the food they would recommend for your canine.
Recovery of Dog Eczema
The good news with dog eczema is that it clears up pretty quickly once you get onto it. By acting quickly, you can stop the condition from getting any worse and help them recover quicker. The longer you wait, the worse the condition will get and it can cause other problems such as secondary infections.
Summing Up Dog Eczema
Eczema in dogs can be caused by a range of different things from food allergies to household chemicals, but the number one cause is due to fleas. You need to do your best to prevent fleas from infesting your dog and remove any potential irritants or allergens.
If you suspect your dog has eczema, we suggest that you see your veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to carry out a full diagnoses and recommend the best treatment plan for your dog.