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Dog Skin Care Questions

What should I do about the calluses on my dog’s elbows and back legs?

Callused skin is actually fairly common in dogs. Calluses, thick pads of tough, often hairless skin, are formed when skin repeatedly rubs against rough surfaces, such as concrete in a dog run or scratchy indoor-outdoor carpeting. Calluses don’t pose a serious health risk; they mostly just look unsightly and bother some pet owners. The best treatment for calluses is to protect your dog from abrasive surfaces. Monitor where he sits and lies; put padding down in his favorite sleeping places. If he is confined to an area such as a dog run or a basement for periods during the day, make sure he has a soft, clean, comfortable area to lie down, so he won’t lie on the concrete or the hard floor.

Aloe lotion can also soften the calluses and improve the appearance of your dog’s skin, but be careful when softening calluses. They develop as a way for the skin to protect itself against damage. If you soften your dog’s skin and it keeps coming into contact with rough surfaces, the skin could develop scrapes, sores, or other problems.

What is a hotspot?

“Hotspot” is a general term used to describe the angry reaction that your pet’s skin is displaying. It may also be referred to as “acute moist dermatitis.”

Hotspots have many causes, but are usually the result of self trauma and subsequent infection that occurs as your pet tries to relieve himself from a pain or itch. An underlying allergy is most often the cause of the pain or itch. Some breeds are more prone to seasonal allergies, so you may see hotspots at the same time each year.

There are three types of allergies that may lead to hotspots:

  • Inhaled allergy (pollens, dust, molds)
  • Insect allergy (fleas, bee sting, spider bite)
  • Ingested allergy (food)

Please discuss treatment options, which may include thorough cleaning, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents, with your veterinarian.

For more information, see Library Articles Skin Problems in Pets, Allergies and Spring Allergies.

This question was answered by AAHA Member Dr. Ed Foster of Charlotte, Michigan.

What is mange?

Mange is a year-round skin disease caused by an infestation of Sarcoptic mange mites. These little pests burrow into your dog’s skin and secrete substances (allergens) that cause allergic reactions and intense itching and irritation, which may lead to a lot of hair loss and skin infections. Mange is highly contagious: dogs can easily catch it from other dogs they come in contact with in shelters, in kennels, at the groomer, or in other situations.

The good news is that mange is treatable. There is a topical product on the market approved by the FDA, as well as a regimen of medicated shampoo baths followed by body dips that may take care of the problem. Unfortunately, getting rid of the mites entirely can be difficult and costly, and the medication can have side effects.

If one dog in a multi-dog household is diagnosed for mites, the other dogs will generally have to be treated as well. The best solution to mange is to catch the condition early, while it’s still easy to treat. If you notice your dog scratching or losing hair, consult your veterinarian right away to decide on the best course of action for your pet.

One word of cautiondhumans can develop an itchy rash from contact with a mange-infected dog. The rash will result in small raised bumps on the surface of the body. Usually this condition is only temporary and will go away once the affected dog has been treated. Consult a physician if the problem persists.

Why does my dog scratch himself silly?

The most common cause of constant itching is pollen allergy (such as mold, dust, etc.). Realize that allergies in pets, as in people, is genetic. Your pet may experience seasonal allergies. Your dog also may have parasites, like scabies or cheyletiella, or even a skin infection. If your dog is persistently scratching, visit your veterinarian. There are many treatments your veterinarian can administer to ease your pet.

What should I do to keep ticks off?

First off, if you’re not already treating your little guy with a flea-and-tick preventative, you should start. There are a number of collars, pills, chemical baths, and topical applications (gels or liquids that are put directly on the skin) that protect against fleas and ticks. You can talk to your veterinarian about which of these would be best for you and your pet. Also, be sure to check your dog for ticks every time you return from a walk through tick-heavy areas, such as woods or tall grass.

If you’re using an anti-tick medication and you’re still finding ticks, talk to your veterinarian about a stronger treatment. Veterinarians have stronger tick medications than you can buy over the counter. Additionally, they can check your pooch’s ears, toes, and other hidden areas for sneaky ticks. Depending on where you live, you veterinarian may also recommend a vaccination against Lyme disease, which is transmitted by a species of tick.


Information courtesy of The American Animal Hospital Association.