My dog has bald spots from scratching and chewing at his skin. What next steps should I take to treat this?

Original Question: My dog is constantly scratching and chewing at his skin, so much so that he has spots where there is no hair. This has happened every summer for past 3 years. What should I do? - Angela

My dog has bald spots from scratching and chewing at his skin. What next steps should I take to treat this? Aug 11, 2018

Hi Angela,

Thanks for submitting your question. Sorry to hear that you’re dealing with this but I think I can help.

The most important thing here is to stop guessing. We need to start determining what’s going on. The first thing I want you to do is to visit your veterinarian and have a skin scraping performed. This is a quick, inexpensive test where they scrape the top layer of the affected skin and look at it under a microscope. This will determine whether bacteria, yeast or a skin parasite is present. It could identify an infectious agent and a treatment can be initiated.

If yeast is present then you can start shampooing daily with an anti-fungal shampoo. Leave the shampoo on for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing it off. You’ll have to do this for a number of weeks because yeast is very stubborn. If this doesn’t work, and that should be confirmed by a repeat skin scraping at the end of the treatment, then you can look into giving anti-fungal oral medication. This type of medication can be a bit hard on the liver so you’ll want to do some blood testing before starting and also during the treatment.

If the skin scraping reveals bacteria alone or in addition, I would recommend that you use an antibiotic concurrently. The shampoo may help resolve this as well. If the bacteria is still present on a repeat skin scraping then I would recommend you perform a culture and sensitivity on her skin. This is a test that will grow the bacteria that are present and tell you what type of antibiotic kills it. I’m seeing more and more cases of skin infections caused by resistant bacteria.

If there is a skin parasite present, it can be identified with the skin scraping and an appropriate treatment with medication can begin.

You’ll notice in my answer so far I have not mentioned allergies. You cannot be certain about allergies in any way at this point until the infections are evaluated, confirmed and eliminated. Allergies are much more complex and you’ll be able to watch our video and read our articles about allergy diagnosis and treatment. However, I recommend you have the above strategies performed first before proceeding to a diagnosis.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

Dr. Clayton Greenway

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