Dermatological Conditions

3 min read
Aug 22, 2023

Any household dog can have skin problems, such as mange, allergies, and even acne. While several common dog skin conditions are not life-threatening, it’s important to see a vet to confirm a diagnosis and get the condition treated. Crusty dog skin conditions can be especially irritating and they may also indicate an underlying health concern.

Learn more about how to tell if your dog has a skin condition, treatment options, and how pet insurance could help you cover the cost of care for your furry friend.


Allergies, also called atopic dermatitis (AD), are a common skin condition in dogs. They’re usually caused by environmental factors, like pollen or smoke. Allergies in dogs can show up as itchiness, hair loss, skin lesions, hot spots, and ear inflammation. Since many of these symptoms align with other diseases, diagnosing AD requires allergen testing to help reveal the root cause.

Treating allergies

Once the allergen irritating your dog is identified, your vet will work with you on a course of treatment. They may recommend allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT), anti-allergy medications, and anti-itch medications. They may also encourage you to bathe your dog with medicated shampoos or recommend other home remedies for itchy skin.

Yeast Infection

Yeast is a natural member of the flora growing on your dog’s skin. A yeast infection occurs when there’s an overabundance of fungi on your dog’s skin. The condition is characterized by a sweet or musty odor, itchy skin, itchy ears, and otherwise irritated skin. Dogs may get yeast infections from atopic dermatitis, hormonal concerns, or a weak immune system.1

Treating yeast infections

You can treat yeast infections with topical antifungal creams, medicated shampoos, ear drops, or ear cleaners. In particularly bad cases, your vet may prescribe oral antifungal medications. Giving your dog’s skin a vinegar rinse may also help balance the pH and make it hostile to yeast.1

Pet Insurance May Help Cover Skin Condition Costs

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Ringworm is a fungal infection characterized by a raised red ring on your dog’s skin. It may also appear as circular patches of hair loss. Contrary to the name, ringworm isn’t a parasite, but a fungus. It’s not life-threatening, but it’s highly contagious — to humans and other animals — and can be a nuisance to get rid of.

Treating ringworm

Ringworm treatment is a three-part process and can take many months to fully clear up the infection. Your vet may put your dog on a medicated shampoo, ointment, or cream, as well as an oral antifungal medication. You’ll also need to disinfect all areas of your home that your infected dog may have touched. Ringworm spores can survive on surfaces and your pet’s fur for over a year, so it’s important to be diligent about cleaning contaminated areas.


Pyoderma is a bacterial skin condition that causes itchy skin. It can be the result of a staphylococcus (staph) infection, but it’s also a symptom of underlying health issues, like parasites, yeast infections, or skin cancer — to name a few. It’s often characterized by pimples, blisters, crusty patches of skin, and hair loss.

Puppy pyoderma — also known as impetigo — is another form of pyoderma that specifically impacts puppies. They typically experience pyoderma in areas of the body that have little-to-no hair, like the underarms or groin.2

Treating pyoderma

Depending on how bad the infection is, your vet may recommend letting it run its course or treating it. They might prescribe a topical cream or medicated shampoo. If it’s a severe case, they may also prescribe oral antibiotics to help clear up the infection.


Seborrhea is a condition where the skin either produces too much or too little sebum. This can cause dog dandruff, red skin, a greasy smell, scaly lesions, excessive earwax, and general itchiness. Breeds with skin folds are more prone to seborrhea.3

Treating seborrhea

Since seborrhea is often a chronic condition, you’ll need to create a long-term treatment regimen to help manage seborrhea symptoms throughout your dog's life. Treating the condition includes giving your dog frequent baths and using a medicated cleanser. Your vet may also prescribe prednisone during flare-ups.3


Alopecia is a condition that causes chronic fur loss and the inability to regrow fur properly. It can be the result of atopic dermatitis, parasites, spider bites, autoimmune disorders, or other environmental factors. Along with hair loss, alopecia can cause pimples or red, inflamed skin, as well as oozing at the site of the hair loss.4

Treating alopecia

Depending on the cause of the alopecia, your vet may recommend a variety of treatments . Topical antibiotics, antihistamines, or other medications are the most common. They may also recommend food trials, oral medications, or surgery. Additionally, melatonin is sometimes prescribed to help promote new hair growth.4


Mite infestations on a dog's skin cause mange. This skin disease is characterized by crusty skin, sores, lesions, and missing or matted fur. It’s often found in stray or neglected dogs. There are two types of mange — sarcoptic and demodectic:5

●      Sarcoptic mange: This type of mange is contagious to dogs and humans alike.

●      Demodectic mange: This type of mange occurs naturally on a dog’s skin. However, when a dog has a weakened immune system, the mites may cause mange.

Treating mange

Mange treatment includes medicated shampoo baths, topical creams, and oral medications, such as ivermectin.


Cancer in dogs can be the result of genetic predispositions, environmental factors, or old age. It shows up in various ways for different breeds, including tumors and even allergic reactions for some dogs. Other dogs may have no visible symptoms. There are several kinds of skin cancer dogs can get, including:6

  • Malignant melanoma: Raised lumps are found on a dog’s lips, in the mouth, or around their nail beds and toes.
  • Mast cell tumor: Irritation and itching can occur anywhere on a dog’s skin, but it’s most common on the limbs.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Firm lumps on the head, legs, or abdomen are typically found on senior dogs.
  • Histiocytic cell tremor: Red lumps on the skin typically impact breeds like Bernese mountain dogs, boxers, Boston terriers, greyhounds, and bulldogs.
  • Fibrosarcoma: Lumps may be felt on or under the skin and are typically found on older dogs’ limbs.

While not all skin abnormalities are cancer, it’s best to get them checked by a veterinarian. Skin cancer may be characterized by lumps, bumps, discoloration, or changes in existing skin tags.

Treating skin cancer

A cancer diagnosis may be scary, but there are treatment options. Available treatments will vary depending on your dog’s diagnosis, but the most common options are surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and medication. If your dog has been diagnosed with skin cancer, your vet will inform you of the best option for your dog’s specific case.


Like humans, dogs can get acne around their chin and muzzle. The acne can be hormonal or bacterial, and it can cause inflammation, swelling, and itchiness on your dog’s face. If not controlled, canine acne can also cause lesions in affected areas.

Treating acne

Your vet can prescribe antibiotics, antifungal creams, or other medicated shampoos to help mitigate your dog’s acne. Dog dishes, blankets, and beds can all hold bacteria that may cause acne, so it's important to opt for non-porous bowls and wash their bedding regularly to help control the condition.

Dog getting skin looked at


Folliculitis in dogs is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles are inflamed.7. Bacteria can cause folliculitis, but it can also be a symptom of other skin conditions, like mites or ringworm. Similar to humans, dog folliculitis appears as general itchiness, scabs, and red bumps on the skin where hair is located.

Treating folliculitis

If the root cause of folliculitis is bacteria, oral antibiotics are prescribed to clear up any infection.7 Treatment can vary depending on whether the condition is a symptom of another underlying issue. For example, a vet may opt for mite or ringworm treatment that can clear up folliculitis.


Similar to humans, dog vitiligo is a progressive but harmless skin condition that causes dogs to lose pigment in their skin and fur.8 Dogs with vitiligo typically have pink or white patches on their faces, and they’re diagnosed at 3 years old or younger.

Here are a few breeds genetically predisposed to vitiligo:8

  • Daschund
  • Old English bulldog
  • Rottweiler
  • Doberman pinscher

Treating vitiligo

Most vets won’t recommend treatment for vitiligo in dogs since it’s a cosmetic condition. However, some vets may recommend a steroid treatment to restore pigment and slow down pigment loss if it’s a concern.


Parasites — like ticks, fleas, and lice — can cause a host of issues for dogs. These parasites can cause itching, sores, skin infections, hair loss, as well as health issues beyond skin problems. What’s more, these critters can find their way onto humans, too. Parasite-infested bedding or infestations on fellow furry friends are usual culprits for a dog catching parasites.

Treating parasites

The best defense against parasites is prevention. Ensure your dog takes monthly flea and tick medication to mitigate their risk of carrying any unwanted pests. If your dog happens to get a skin parasite, there are different approaches for removal depending on the parasite.

If your dog has a tick, use tweezers to grab it, clean the area, and consult your vet for options to treat any skin issue your dog may be facing as a result. If your dog has fleas, lice, or mites, your vet will likely recommend a flea bath to get rid of any pests on your dog’s skin alongside other topical treatments to kill any remaining parasites.

Acral Lick Granuloma

Also known as acral lick dermatitis, acral lick granuloma is a skin condition caused by a dog’s obsessive licking of a specific area — typically the paws or wrists.9 Constant licking of an area causes inflammation, infection, and open wounds on a dog’s skin. This condition can come as the result of a bug bite, allergies, or pain in the area, but it can also be the result of behavioral concerns like anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), or boredom.

While all dogs can develop a lick granuloma, there are a few breeds that develop them more often than others, including boxers, Great Danes, and Doberman pinschers.

Treating acral lick granuloma

Treatment for acral lick granuloma relies heavily on treating the root cause to prevent recurring skin irritation. Training or medication to mitigate behavioral issues is typically recommended, but topical corticosteroids and antibiotics can help heal the lesions and get rid of any infection.

Other Skin Conditions

If your dog is experiencing redness, flaky skin, sores, or other changes to their skin, it may not mean they have one of the conditions mentioned. It might be as simple as an environmental allergy, a reaction to a new food, or it could be something more complex, like a genetic predisposition.

Monitor any changes in your pup’s skin and consult with a vet to confirm a diagnosis and determine treatment options.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Dog Skin Conditions?

MetLife Pet can help cover dog skin condition treatments. Here’s how one of our dog insurance policies helped a puppy owner from Arizona.

Since puppies have developing immune systems, they can be more vulnerable to staph infections. Goldendoodle puppy Alistar had a case of pyoderma, or puppy impetigo. His exam and treatments cost his owner about $900. His family’s MetLife Pet policy covered nearly $800 of it, and Alistar’s skin is now clear and irritation-free.10

Pet insurance can help you cover skin allergy treatments, dermatologist appointments, and more. Fetch your quote today to get started on your dog insurance journey.

Skin Conditions Making Your Dog Miserable? 

 Dr. Hunter Finn

Dr. Hunter Finn has been paid by MetLife to discuss the importance of choosing pet insurance. He is an integrative veterinary expert first, and social media star second. He  owns Pet Method in McKinney, Texas, where he cares for pets while prioritizing their emotional well-being. When he’s not at his clinic, he’s starring in viral videos on TikTok (2 million followers) and Instagram (500K followers) — where he’s been known to snuggle puppies and conquer the latest dance trends. 

**As with any insurance policy, coverage may vary. Review our coverage and exclusions.

1 “Yeast Infections in Dogs,” PetMD

2 “Pyoderma in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospital

3 “Seborrhea in Dogs,” PetMD

4 “Hair Loss in Dogs (Alopecia in Dogs),” PetMD

5 “Mange in Dogs: What You Need to Know,” American Kennel Club

6 “Dog Skin Cancer: Types, Symptoms, and Treatment,” American Kennel Club

7 “How to Spot and Treat Folliculitis in Dogs,” Daily Paws

8 “Vitiligo in Dogs,” Great Pet Care

9 “Lick Granuloma in Dogs,” VCA Animal Hospital

10 All claims paid amounts are based on MetLife internal claims data from October 2022. Story altered for illustrative purposes.

Coverage issued by Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, and Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 11333 N Scottsdale Rd, Ste 160, Scottsdale, AZ 85454. Coverage subject to restrictions, exclusions and limitations and application is subject to underwriting. See policy or contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC (“MetLife Pet”) for details. MetLife Pet is the policy administrator. It may operate under an alternate or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota) and MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois).

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