My Dog Has Crusty Scabs On His Back

As a dog owner, nothing is more concerning than petting your furry friend and feeling something strange on their skin. Stumbling across scabs and scales on your dog’s skin can result in instant worry, causing you to wrack your brain for any potential causes. So why does your dog have crusty scabs on their back?

In this article we will get into the details of scabby skin in dogs, and help you better understand the various skin conditions our dogs can experience.

Why Does My Dog Have Crusty Scabs On His Back?

My Dog Has Crusty Scabs On His Back

Just like humans, dogs can struggle with multiple forms of skin conditions. Each of the factors below can lead to dry or scaly skin in our canine friends, often resulting in scabs due to constant scratching. To help you better understand why your dog has scabs on their back, let’s get to the details!

Skin Allergies

Allergies can deeply impact our furry friends. Similar to you and I, dogs can experience environmental allergies, food allergies, and contact allergies. The most common symptom of each category is unbearably itching skin, causing a dog to scratch and scratch to the point of causing scabs.

Environmental allergies are the most common form of allergies in dogs, and can be a result of virtually anything in a dog’s surroundings.

Environmental allergies in dogs can be linked to pollen, grass, fragrances, dust, and more. If it exists in the world around us, there may be a dog out there that is allergic to it.

Food allergies are not as common as environmental allergies in dogs, but it is a possible factor. One of the most common signs of a food allergy is red or itchy skin, leading to scabs if a dog scratches themselves to the point of injury.

The last form of allergy that can impact our pups are contact allergies. This is an allergy to something that has come in contact with their skin, resulting in a localized reaction on a dog’s body. For example, if a dog is allergic to a shampoo they were bathed in, they may soon develop itchy and irritated skin in the area the shampoo was saturated. Just like the other forms of canine allergies, this can cause the skin to scab.

Fleas

Fleas are one of the most common causes of flaky and irritated skin in our canine friends. Not only do fleas cause our dogs to itch as they crawl across their skin, but they can also cause a secondary flea allergy that leads to severe irritation.

Flea allergy dermatitis is extremely common in dogs, as they do not have to have a current flea infestation to suffer from it. Even one bite from a flea can cause an irritating reaction, often leading to scabs on the skin. 

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections are another possible cause of scabs on a dog’s skin, with ringworm being the most commonly seen. Fungus can often burrow into a dog’s hair follicles, leading to severe itching and fur loss in many cases.

Ringworm has a characteristic circular appearance that can mimic the look of scabs on the skin. While these scabs are actually ringworm lesions, they can certainly become dry and crusty as the condition progresses. Ringworm can also be passed on to humans, so fast treatment is important.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial skin infections in dogs can be an absolute nightmare. These bacterial infections are often a secondary result of initial skin irritation, and are introduced by a dog constantly biting or scratching at their skin. Bacterial skin infections can be so uncomfortable for a dog that they will continue to traumatize their skin in effort to relieve their itching. This often results in scabs on the skin, and even painful lesions known as ‘hot spots’.

Skin Mites

Skin mites are known to cause severe scabbing and hair loss in many canine friends. Often referred to as mange, different forms of skin mites can burrow into a dog’s hair follicles, causing serious damage to a dog’s skin and coat health. These pups often have a standard appearance, commonly sporting red and scaly skin.

The most common skin mites in dogs include demodex and sarcoptic mange. These conditions can be passed on to humans as well, making it important to get to the bottom of their scaly skin as soon as possible.

Autoimmune Disease

There are many forms of autoimmune diseases in our canine friends, some of which affect the skin. Not only can immune disorders target the skin in dogs, but these disorders can also exacerbate minor skin conditions in dogs with weakened immune systems. These conditions are often diagnosed after there have been multiple attempts to resolve the skin issue, and the pet is then sent to a dermatologist.

Diagnosing Crusty Scabs On Your Dog’s Back

The best way to get to the bottom of your dog’s crusty skin is by visiting your veterinarian. Your vet can not only narrow down the possibilities by gathering a thorough history, but can also perform a diagnostic skin scraping.

This test involves the vet scraping your dog’s skin with a small blade, and applying the skin cells to a slide. By doing this, they can search for any crawling critters or unwanted bacteria.

If your dog is known to have sensitive skin that is always irritated, your veterinarian may suggest a consult from a canine dermatologist. Because there are so many skin conditions that our dogs can suffer from, the advice of a skilled dermatologist may be needed in complicated cases.

Treatment For Crusty Scabs On Your Dog’s Back

Treatment for the scabs on your dog’s back will vary based on the specific cause. Adequate treatment will range from medicated baths to oral medications, so let’s break it down by each potential cause.

Skin Allergies

The treatment for skin allergies will vary based on how often your dog struggles, and the type of allergy in question.

In most situations, canine allergies can be managed with the addition of a prescribed allergy medication (Apoquel or Cytopoint), and medicated baths to help soothe their skin. Some dogs also improve with the use of daily antihistamines, with Benadryl and Zyrtec being the most common options.

Fleas

The only way to treat irritated skin due to fleas is by banishing the fleas themselves. This can be done by bathing your dog once in an approved shampoo to kill the living fleas (dish soap is often acceptable), starting them on a monthly flea prevention, and ridding their environment of fleas as well. If a dog has severe allergies to even one flea bite, your vet may need to prescribe an allergy medication that combats itching.

Fungal Infections

Fungal infections can be more tricky to resolve than the other conditions we’ve mentioned today. These infections may require multiple antifungal baths, antifungal sprays, as well as oral antifungal medications for severe cases. When dealing with any type of fungal infection, you always want to use prescribed treatment options.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial skin infections in dogs will often need to be addressed from multiple angles. First, your vet should first determine an initial cause of their skin irritation. Since most bacterial skin infections occur as a result of trauma to the skin, this usually means the pup has an underlying skin condition.

The best way to treat the infection itself is with the use of oral antibiotics, antibiotic sprays, and medicated shampoos. Some vets also recommended prebiotics and probiotics for dogs with skin infections, as gut health has been linked to skin and coat health in dogs.

Skin Mites

Skin mites are pesky critters that require dedication in the treatment process. Based on the type of mange that your dog has, your vet will determine the best bath and dip options, along with any additional oral medications. For example, dogs with mange will often find success when being bathed once weekly with a lime and sulfur dip. You can also speed up their recovery by using flea and tick prevention as an off label treatment, as these medications contain ivermectin.

Some of the most common oral medications that are used in mange cases include Bravecto, Simparica, and Sentinel. When used in combination with medicated baths, dogs can be free of their skin mites in 2-4 months.

Other Treatment Tips For Crusty Dog Skin

As you can see, there are many different treatment options for a dog’s crusty skin. While most of the options we discussed above involve the guidance of your veterinarian, there are some additional at home tips you can try as well. Just be sure to speak with your vet before trying, as you never want to hinder your dog’s recommended treatment plan.

  • Brush your dog daily, as this stimulates oil production on their skin. This can help to not only nourish your pup’s coat, but also relive some of their itchiness. 
  • Start offering your dog a daily omega fatty acid supplement. Omega fatty acids are known to improve skin and coat health, especially in dogs that struggle with allergies. 
  • Stay up to date on monthly flea and tick prevention. This simple action can save your pup from flea and tick allergies, along with preventing any diseases or parasites they carry. 
  • Try bathing your dog once a month with a gentle and soothing dog shampoo. Just be sure to show your vet the shampoo ingredients, as you never know what irritating ingredients could be hiding within the label. 
  • Speak to your vet about offering your dog an over the counter antihistamine to help relieve their allergy symptoms.

Final Thoughts

Crusty and scabbed skin in our canine friends can have multiple causes. Be sure to review the information we discussed above, and you can better help your itchy pup going forward!

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