Grooming Your Pet For Better Skin Health

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 9 min

Skin issues are among the most prevalent health concerns in dogs and cats, and they can affect pets of all breeds and ages. These conditions can be uncomfortable for your furry companions and may lead to more severe health problems if left untreated. In this article, we will explore the most common skin issues in dogs and cats, their symptoms, and what to look for. Additionally, we will debunk some common myths surrounding skin problems in our four-legged friends and how grooming, with appropriate nutritional support such as oils rich in healthy Omega-3, becomes crucial to identifying, treating, and preventing skin issues.

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Common Skin Issues in Dogs and Cats

There are certain common skin problems to look for in your dog or cat. Among these are:

  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) 
    • Symptoms - Excessive itching, hair loss, inflamed skin, and small red bumps.
    • What to Look For - Fleas or their feces on your pet's fur, especially around the neck and tail.

  • Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis)
    • Symptoms - Itching, redness, scaly skin, and recurrent ear infections.
    • What to Look For - Environmental triggers like pollen, dust mites, or food allergies.

  • Hot Spots (Acute Moist Dermatitis)
    • Symptoms - Painful, moist, and red patches of skin that may appear suddenly.
    • What to Look For - Underlying causes like allergies, flea bites, or matted fur.

  • Ringworm (Dermatophytosis)
    • Symptoms - Circular patches of hair loss, scaly skin, and sometimes, itching.
    • What to Look For - Circular lesions and hair breakage, which may fluoresce under UV light.

  • Pyoderma (Bacterial Skin Infections)
    • Symptoms - Pustules, redness, hair loss, and a foul odor.
    • What to Look For - Oozing sores and the possibility of an underlying issue like allergies or hormonal imbalance.

  • Yeast Infections (Malassezia Dermatitis)
    • Symptoms - Itching, greasy skin, and a distinct odor.
    • What to Look For - Overgrowth of yeast in skin folds or ears.

Common Myths Regarding Skin Health in Cats and Dogs

Skin issues in cats and dogs are a common concern for pet owners, and it's crucial to separate fact from fiction. Myths surrounding these problems can often lead to well-intentioned but misguided actions, potentially exacerbating the issue.

  • Myth: All Itching is Due to Fleas

    While fleas are a common cause of itching, allergies and other skin conditions can also be responsible. It's essential to rule out other causes before assuming it's only fleas.

  • Myth: Pets Can't Get Sunburned

    Dogs and cats with light-colored or thin fur are susceptible to sunburn. Applying pet-safe sunscreen is crucial, especially in sunny weather.

  • Myth: Skin Issues Are Purely Cosmetic

    Skin problems can indicate underlying health issues. Ignoring them may lead to discomfort and more severe health problems.

  • Myth: You Can Use Human Medications on Pets

    Human medications can be toxic to pets. Always consult your veterinarian for safe and effective treatments.

  • Myth: Frequent Bathing Prevents Skin Issues

    Over-bathing can strip natural oils from your pet's skin, leading to dryness and irritation. Follow your veterinarian's recommendations for grooming.


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While skin health is crucial for any dog, certain breeds are more prone to them due to their genetics, coat type, and other factors. Understanding which breeds are at higher risk and the common skin problems they face can help pet owners be proactive in managing their pets' skin health.

Additionally, factors like weather, nutrition, hygiene products, and grooming practices play a significant role in the skin health of all dogs.

Bulldog Breeds (English Bulldog, French Bulldog, etc.)

Wrinkled skin makes them susceptible to intertrigo (skin fold dermatitis) and allergies. Their wrinkles create warm, moist environments ideal for yeast and bacterial growth.


Prone to allergies, especially food allergies, and sensitive skin.

Why They're Prone - Genetic predisposition to allergies and sensitive skin.


Prone to allergies, hot spots, and intervertebral disc disease.

Why They're Prone - Genetic factors and their elongated bodies make them prone to allergies and skin irritations.

Golden Retriever

Prone to allergies and hot spots.

Why They're Prone - Genetic predisposition to allergies and their active outdoor lifestyle.


Skin folds and wrinkles can lead to pyoderma and yeast infections.

Why They're Prone - Excessive skin folds create environments for bacterial and yeast growth.

Labrador Retriever

Prone to allergies and ear infections.

Why They're Prone - Genetic factors and their love for water make them susceptible to ear infections.

Poodle (and Poodle Mixes)

Prone to allergies and sebaceous adenitis.

Why They're Prone - Genetic factors and their dense, curly coats can trap allergens and bacteria.

Factors Affecting Skin Health in Dogs

  • Weather

    The weather plays a crucial role in skin health for dogs. Extreme temperatures, whether too hot or too cold, can exacerbate skin issues. In hot weather, dogs may be more prone to heat-related skin problems like hot spots and sunburn, while cold weather can lead to dry, flaky skin.

    Recommendations. Ensure your dog has access to shade and fresh water during hot weather. In cold climates, protect your dog from harsh winds and cold temperatures with appropriate clothing or shelter. A soothing lavender cream can be helpful in calming and nourishing dehydrated skin.

  • Nutrition

  • Nutrition is the foundation of healthy skin. A balanced diet with proper nutrients is essential for maintaining skin health in dogs. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, treats, or certain dog foods, play a crucial role in nourishing the skin and promoting a healthy coat.

    Recommendations. Consult with your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your dog's specific needs. High-quality commercial dog food or a balanced homemade diet with quality supplements, such as a kelp-enriched multivitamin can provide the necessary nutrients for skin health.

  • Hygiene Products

    Using appropriate pet-specific shampoos and grooming products is essential for maintaining skin health. Harsh or inappropriate products can strip the natural oils from a dog's skin, leading to dryness, irritation, and potential skin issues. 

    Recommendations. Choose hypo-allergenic shampoos and grooming products that are formulated for your dog's specific coat type and skin needs. Choose a tick/flea shampoo specially formulated for sensitive skin. When in doubt, consult with a veterinarian or professional groomer for product recommendations.

  • Grooming Practices

    Regular grooming is essential for preventing skin issues. Brushing your dog's coat helps remove loose fur, dirt, and debris, preventing matting and improving air circulation to the skin. A quality pin brush can help to reveal any parasites on the skin. However, avoid over-bathing which can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and vulnerability to skin problems.

    Recommendations. Establish a regular grooming routine based on your dog's breed and coat type. This includes brushing, nail trimming, and occasional baths as needed. Consult with a professional groomer for breed-specific grooming guidelines.

  • Allergen Management
  • Identifying and managing allergens is crucial for improving skin health, especially for breeds prone to allergies. Common allergens include food ingredients, pollen, dust mites, and more. Allergic reactions can manifest as itching, redness, or skin irritations which cause scooting.

    Recommendations. Work with your veterinarian to identify potential allergens through allergy testing or elimination diets. Once allergens are identified, follow a management plan that may include dietary changes, allergen avoidance, and medication as prescribed. To eliminate allergens as a potential cause of scooting I use Zesty Paws Scoot Away Chews as they contain bromelain, vita fiber & dandelion root for digestive support and gut health - and no more distressing itches for my precious pooch! Of course, if the problem persists, a quick trip to the vet or groomer is in order, to sort out those anal glands.

The Consequences of Leaving Your Dog or Cat's Skin Issues Unattended

Leaving your dog or cat's skin health problems unattended can have several negative consequences, ranging from discomfort and pain to more severe health complications. It's essential to address any signs of skin problems promptly to ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

  1. Discomfort and Pain. Skin issues often cause itching, redness, and discomfort. Pets may scratch, bite, or lick affected areas in an attempt to relieve the irritation. Persistent scratching can lead to open sores, making your pet even more uncomfortable and potentially causing pain.

  2. Infection. Scratching and open sores can create an entry point for bacteria, leading to secondary skin infections. These infections can be painful and may require antibiotic treatment. If left untreated, infections can spread and become more challenging to manage.

  3. Hair Loss. Many skin conditions result in hair loss. If left unaddressed, extensive hair loss can occur, leaving your pet with unsightly bald patches. In some cases, hair may not regrow properly, leading to permanent cosmetic changes.

  4. Chronic Skin Issues. Some skin problems, such as allergies, can become chronic if not managed appropriately. Chronic skin issues often require long-term treatment and can significantly affect your pet's quality of life.

  5. Worsening of Underlying Conditions. Skin problems can be indicative of underlying health issues, such as allergies or hormonal imbalances. Ignoring the skin issues may lead to the exacerbation of these underlying conditions, making treatment more complicated and costly.

  6. Behavioral Changes. Pets with untreated skin problems may exhibit changes in behavior. They can become irritable, anxious, or even aggressive due to the constant discomfort they experience.

  7. Secondary Health Complications. In severe cases, untreated skin issues can lead to more extensive health problems. For example, severe allergies left untreated can lead to respiratory issues, while untreated infections can spread to other parts of the body.

  8. Financial Costs. Delaying treatment for skin issues can result in increased veterinary expenses over time. The longer a skin problem persists, the more challenging and costly it may become to manage.

  9. Reduced Quality of Life. Ultimately, leaving your pet's skin issues unattended can lead to a reduced quality of life. Pets may become miserable, and their overall well-being can suffer.

How Regular Grooming Can Help Identify and Address Skin Issues Early On

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Regular grooming is not just about keeping your pet looking clean and well-groomed; it also plays a crucial role in maintaining their overall health, particularly their skin. Here's how regular grooming can help identify and address skin issues early on.

  • Early Detection of Skin Abnormalities
    • Visual Inspection - During grooming sessions, pet owners or professional groomers have an opportunity to closely examine a pet's skin. This close inspection can help detect any abnormalities, such as redness, lumps, bumps, or rashes, that might be indicative of an underlying skin issue.
    • Feeling for Lumps or Irritations - While brushing or combing your pet's coat, you can also feel for any lumps, cysts, or areas of tenderness that may not be immediately visible. Detecting these early can lead to timely medical evaluation and intervention.

  • Identification of Parasites
    • Flea and Tick Detection - Grooming sessions provide an excellent opportunity to check for fleas, ticks, and other external parasites. These pests can cause skin irritation and transmit diseases. Early detection allows for prompt treatment to prevent infestations and potential skin problems.

  • Management of Allergies
    • Removing Allergens - Regular brushing and bathing can help remove potential allergens such as pollen, dust, and other environmental irritants from your pet's fur. This can provide relief for pets with allergies, reducing the chances of skin reactions.

  • Preventing Matting and Overgrowth
    • Mat Prevention - Long-haired breeds are prone to matting, which in addition to being painful and restricting movement can trap moisture and debris close to the skin, leading to skin irritation and infections. Regular brushing can prevent mat formation, keeping the skin healthy.
    • Trimming and Hygiene - Grooming also involves trimming long fur in sensitive areas, such as around the paws and anus, to maintain cleanliness and prevent the buildup of dirt and bacteria.

  • Promoting Circulation
    • Brushing - Brushing your pet's coat not only removes loose fur but also stimulates blood circulation to the skin. Improved circulation can contribute to skin health and overall well-being.

  • Observing Changes Over Time
    • Baseline Comparison - Regular grooming establishes a baseline for your pet's skin health. By consistently observing your pet's skin condition, you can more easily notice any changes or abnormalities as they develop. This early recognition allows for prompt veterinary intervention.


In summary, regular grooming is an essential aspect of pet care that goes far beyond aesthetics. It serves as a proactive approach to maintaining your pet's skin health. Through visual inspection, parasite detection, allergen management, mat prevention, circulation promotion, and ongoing monitoring, grooming allows pet owners to identify and address skin issues early, potentially preventing more severe problems down the road. 

Collaboration between pet owners, professional groomers, and veterinarians can ensure that your furry friend enjoys the benefits of a healthy and comfortable skin.