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Common Coat and Skin Problems in Dogs.

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

A dog groomer should be able to recognise when something is wrong with a dog's skin and coat, and to understand what action to take. Often, it is a dog groomer that will first detect if the dog is suffering with a coat and skin problem.

Coat problems and skin disorders come in different forms, and are caused by a combination of factors, incorrectly breeding, food allergies, and parasites. If you recognise a skin problem it should be dealt with promptly, before it gets out of hand.

Certain skin disorders can give off a distinct odour. Some oily-coated breeds, such as the Italian Spinone can give off quite a strong odour with other breeds such as the Westie having a similar complaint. If the dog smells unusual, and you cannot identify the cause, it is worth bathing him in a mild shampoo and then if it returns quickly, consult your vet.

Prevention and early treatment is the answer.

Food Intolerance Allergy

Many dogs suffer from food intolerance without their owners knowing. Many dried, complete foods contain high levels of protein, that can start scratching and nibbling. However, all breeds can suffer a low tolerance to gluten, found in moist dog biscuits and dry foods. A rice and fish diet is often recommended for dogs with gluten intolerance, as rice is a grass and not a cereal; and the fish has Omega 3 oils in to help repair and condition skin.

Shampoo and Chemical Allergies

Some dogs can be allergic to the shampoo that is used. However a lot of the issues with shampoo allergies, is because the product is not rinsed of properly. Also it has been know that some people go over the top by spraying the dog with a perfume that has not been developed for the canine skin. If the dog rolls in something that he finds wonderful but that makes you cringe, bath him-don't try to cover it up with a fragrance spray.


Fleas, lice and mites are parasites that live on the dog, feeding from his blood. They can all cause the dog to become incredibly itchy, sometimes causing the dog to scratch so intensely

that coat and hair loss leave the dog looking almost bald, with his skin red, sore and bleeding. Prevention and early treatment is the answer, and using the correct preparation is essential. Fleas

Fleas cause a huge number of skin allergies, which is the most common parasite to invade the dog. Egg's are laid in the dog's bed and around the house. The secret is to analyse the problem as soon as the dog starts to itch. A good way to determine fleas are present is to comb through the coat with a fine-tooth comb. If fleas are present, lay the comb or its contents on a clean sheet of tissue and wet it. If they are present, the tissue will show red spots, and this will show you the blood sucked from the skin by the parasite.

Ticks Ticks look like a wart to begin with, and it gets bigger as their sac fills with blood sucked from their host. Surgical spirit and alcohol kill ticks and make them easy to remove. Be careful in removing ticks as they can land and focus on you. Dogs have dies from disease-carrying ticks and we can also catch Lymes Disease.

Tick on a dog.
Dogs pick up ticks from walking in woods and fields.

Mites If a dog appears to be itchy, but you can't see anything, it could be caused by mites. Mites can lurk in the folds of the skin or under the belly. It is quite possible the dog has picked up mites, particularly in and around the feet. If there are tiny red spots and the dog won't stop licking and biting that areas, this could be the early signs of harvest mites.

A natural remedy is to douse three times daily for five days in cider vinegar on the red spots. If that does not work then a visit to the vet will be necessary.

Skin Disorders

Sebaceous Adenitis Sebaceous Adenitis or SA for short is an uncommon skin disease that cannot be cured. It is more common in certain breeds than others. At it's worst, it can be severe, leading to itching, hair loss and coat change. In bad cases, secondary bacterial infection may occur, with extreme hair loss. Breeds that suffer with SA-

  • Border Collie

  • Poodle

  • Samoyed

  • Lhasa Apso

  • Springer Spaniel

Dogs suspected of having the disease should be not breed with. Treatment for the disorder can range from oil treatments to ant-bacterial therapy. The administration of pure cold pressed evening primrose oil, in conjunction with other fish oils is advisable.


Warts can cause discomfort. Trying to clip a dog with warts can be tricky with the tops being clipped off unintentionally and the bleeding can be quite extreme. Some breeds can suffer with warts more than others, but mainly warts are found on older dogs. Treatments should always be dealt with by a vet

Eczema and dermatitis Eczema and dermatitis can be attributed to a poor diet or a parasite invasion. Ectoparasites, which live on the skin, are a major cause of skin disease in dogs. Any sign of irritation needs to be investigated and must be recognised by the groomer. Signs are red, sore patches, scratching and feeling hot to the touch. The skin can sometimes weep and have a bad odour. Treatment needs to be sought at once, as the condition can get much worse, and if left gets worse.

If a dog suffers with either eczema or dermatitis, then it is likely to suffer with an ear complaint. Ear infections can be ongoing and are difficult to clear up. With high humidity, it is the ideal place to breed bacteria, moisture and wax. There is frequently a brown smell discharge from the ear and sometimes red sores and inflammation are obvious.

Around the time of harvest, it pays to be vigilant and recognise the signs for harvest mites. Harvest mites can bury their way into the ear, and can be very uncomfortable for the dog, causing severe itching and soreness.

A clean healthy dog's ear.
Be vigilant for Harvest Mites.

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