German Shepherd With Skin Condition

Reader Question

We live in Central PA in a neighborhood with wetlands. Some of the trees near our house have obvious some form of growth on their bark. Our dog is an inside dog with the exception of walks and potty trips outside. Our home is very clean inside where she spends most of her time but we do have carpeting.

Ever since we have lived in this location, every dog we have had quickly develops a severe skin irritation. Visually the skin begins to darken in spots and this spreads. Pours/follicles appear to have some sort of black matter in them. The dog itches and chews herself as a result of the irritation.

Our vet has done skin scrapes and told us she has bacteria on her skin but nothing else. We were given antibiotics (cephalexin 500 mg twice a day) and allergy/anxiety meds (atarax 50 mg twice a day). This has not done much if anything to help.

We have taken her to the groomers who have suggested it looks like fungus and they bathe her with a anti fungal/bacterial shampoo which we provide. This lightens the dark spots slightly and soothes her slightly but needs to be repeated every week and still does not solve the problem.

We use a topical spray on her as well, vetericyn whenever we catch her chewing herself and are considering making it a more regimented thing, i.e. every 12 hours regardless of itching.

She is only fed a grain free, high quality dog food (taste of the wild).

We would be thrilled if you are able to offer any insight
as nothing we have tried to date has had much of an effect.

Reader Question:


Diagnosing and treating skin conditions in dogs can be frustrating, in part because their skin tends to produce similar lesions no matter what the underlying cause is. Therefore, diagnostic testing (and sometimes extensive testing) is usually necessary to get to a diagnosis and plan effective treatment.

If your dog were my patient, I would address her chronic skin problem in the following way. First, I would perform a complete physical examination and run a few simple tests, including skin scrapings to look for mange mites, skin cytology to diagnose infections caused by yeast (a type of fungi) or bacteria, and run a fungal culture for ringworm. The fungal culture can take a few weeks to complete, so while we wait for those results, I typically treat for anything I’ve found and sometimes will put the dog on a broad spectrum parasiticide like Revolution to deal with some of the parasites that can be hard to diagnose.

My next step would depend on the dog’s response to treatment and what I think the most likely diagnosis might be if questions still remain. I might recommend testing for environmental allergies (e.g., pollen, mold, house mites) or a food trial to rule out dietary allergies. In some cases, skin biopsies are necessary.

As you can see, getting to the bottom of some skin problems in dogs is not a simple endeavor. Consider making an appointment with a veterinary dermatologist if your “regular” vet is unable to give you the answers you need.

Best of luck,
Jennifer Coates, DVM

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