May 22, 2024

Most pet owners have dealt with some type of skin issue affecting their furry friends. However, understanding the cause of these conditions and finding an effective treatment can be daunting. This article aims to provide an overview of pets’ top 10 common skin conditions and how veterinary dermatology plays a crucial role in diagnosing and treating these problems.

Ectoparasite Infestation

One of the primary causes of skin conditions in pets is ectoparasite infestation. These pesky critters can wreak havoc on your pet’s skin and cause a variety of symptoms. Some of the most common ectoparasites affecting pets include:


Fleas are a widespread issue that can cause severe itching, hair loss, and even anemia in severe cases. Regular use of flea preventative treatments and maintaining a clean environment can help keep these pests at bay.


There are several types of mites that can infest your pet’s skin, leading to conditions such as demodicosis and sarcoptic mange. These tiny parasites can cause itching, hair loss, and crusty skin lesions. Timely treatment and regular grooming are essential to prevent and manage these conditions.

Lice, Cheyletiella and Other Ectoparasites

Lice, Cheyletiella, and other ectoparasites can cause a range of skin conditions, including itching, inflammation, and secondary bacterial infections. Consult a vet dermatologist specialist to help diagnose and treat these infestations effectively.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Ectoparasitic Infections

Veterinary dermatology offers a variety of treatments for ectoparasitic infections based on the type and severity of the infestation. Some common treatment options include:

  • Topical therapies: medicated shampoos, creams, and sprays can kill the parasites and alleviate symptoms.
  • Systemic medications: oral medications like isoxazoline-based products can help target a broad range of ectoparasites when necessary.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial skin infections, commonly referred to as pyoderma, can be classified as either superficial or deep. They can occur due to various factors, such as a weakened immune system or an existing skin issue that creates an opportunity for bacteria to colonize the skin.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Bacterial Infections

When treating bacterial skin infections, topical and systemic therapies can be used. Some common treatments include:

  • Topical Therapy: products containing chlorhexidine or antibacterial shampoos help manage mild to moderate bacterial infections.
  • Systemic Therapy: first-tier antibiotics like cephalexin can be prescribed for more severe cases or those that don’t respond to topical treatments.

Yeast (Malassezia) Infections

Malassezia dermatitis is a common yeast infection that affects pets, causing redness, itching, and inflammation. The condition usually results from an imbalance in the skin’s natural flora and may be secondary to another issue.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Malassezia Infections

Different treatments can be utilized to address Malassezia infections, including:

  • Topical Therapy: antifungal shampoos or azole treatments help control yeast overgrowth on the skin.
  • Systemic Therapy: medications like ketoconazole or itraconazole can be prescribed for more severe infections or cases that don’t respond to topical treatments.

Dermatophytoses (Ringworm)

Dermatophytosis, commonly known as ringworm, is a contagious fungal infection that affects pets’ skin, hair, and nails. It can cause hair loss, scaly skin, and circular lesions that can be itchy and inflamed.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Dermatophytoses

Ringworm can be treated with a combination of topical and systemic therapies, such as:

  • Topical Treatments: anti-fungal shampoos or lime sulfur dips can help to kill the fungus and alleviate accompanying symptoms.
  • Systemic Therapy: medications like itraconazole or terbinafine can be prescribed to eliminate the infection.


Various factors, such as food, environmental allergens, or contact with irritants, can trigger allergic reactions in pets. The most common types of allergies include atopic dermatitis, food allergies, and contact allergies. Each of these may present with different symptoms and require specific treatments.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Allergies in Pets

Depending on the type of allergy and its severity, a range of short-term and long-term treatments can be implemented:

  • Short-term Treatments: medications like oclacitinib (Apoquel), lokivetmab (Cytopoint), or glucocorticoids can provide rapid relief from itching and inflammation.
  • Long-term Treatments: allergen-specific immunotherapy, antihistamines, essential fatty acids, or dietary changes can help to manage chronic allergies and reduce flare-ups.

Immune-mediated Skin Conditions

Autoimmune skin disorders like pemphigus and lupus occur when the pet’s immune system mistakenly attacks its skin cells. These conditions can lead to painful and inflamed skin lesions that may require specialized veterinary care.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Immune-mediated Skin Conditions

Treatment for immune-mediated skin conditions typically involves:

  • Glucocorticoids suppress the overactive immune response.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs to help manage symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

Seborrhea and Keratinization Disorders

Seborrheic dermatitis and congenital keratinization disorders can cause issues with the pet’s skin and coat, leading to flaking, greasiness, and inflammation. Vet dermatology treatments for these conditions may include:

  • Medicated shampoos help control sebum production and reduce inflammation.
  • Nutritional supplements and moisturizers improve the skin’s condition and maintain its overall health.

Acral Lick Granuloma

Acral lick granuloma is a frustrating skin condition caused by excessive licking and chewing of a specific area of the body. This behavior may lead to the development of a raised, hairless, and thickened lesion on the skin.

Vet Dermatology Treatments for Acral Lick Granuloma

Several treatment options can be employed to manage acral lick granuloma, including:

  • Behavioral modification to address the underlying cause of the excessive licking.
  • Topical treatments and systemic medications alleviate inflammation and promote healing.
  • Physical barriers, such as bandages or Elizabethan collars, prevent further trauma to the area.


Pododermatitis, or inflammation of the paws, can be caused by various factors including allergies, infections, or trauma. Depending on the underlying cause, several vet dermatology treatments, such as topical therapies, systemic medications, and management of any underlying conditions, may be used.

Veterinary Cold Laser Therapy

For some pet skin conditions, a new treatment option called cold laser therapy for pets is available. This non-invasive, painless therapy uses specific wavelengths of light to stimulate cellular regeneration, promote healing, and reduce inflammation in the affected area. It can be a useful adjunct therapy for various skin conditions like allergies, infections, and chronic skin issues.

Pet Hospice and End of Life Care

Pets with chronic or terminal skin conditions may require compassionate end-of-life care. Hospice services for dogs can provide supportive care to improve the pet’s quality of remaining life and help pet owners make the best decisions for their beloved companions in their final days.


Awareness of the common skin conditions in pets and the various vet dermatology treatments available can help pet owners maintain their pets’ skin health. It is always essential to consult with a qualified veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to each pet’s needs.