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David Janssen
David Janssen,
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4125
Experience:  Veterinarian, owner at West Side Veterinary Clinic
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What causes scabs on a dogs back and sides?

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My dog has small scabs down his back and sides, and has larger white-ish crusty scabs on his tail, butt and back legs. The small scabs pick off without removing much hair, the larger scabs also pick off but remove a lot of skin and hair with them. This started in march (with just the larger scabs) got better and seems to be getting worse again. The small scabs were not present during the first outbreak. My vet prescribed 14 days of cephalexin the first time which did not help much. Then my vet prescribed 3 weeks of amoxicillin which seemed to help but did not get rid of everything. Is this a flea allergy or some sort of infection?

Type of Dog: American Pit Bull Terrier
Gender: Male
Age: 3.5

Hello, and thanks for writing in.

There are a few possibilities, including a bacterial infection, a fungal infection, allergies, fleas (even if you aren't seeing any), skin mites, or less likely an auto-immune disorder. Ideally, he would have a skin scrape performed to check for mites, impressions smear of the skin to look for certain organisms, and a fungal culture to check for ringworm or other fungal infections. A skin biopsy may also be needed at some point, if things are not clearing up. For bacterial infections of the skin, usually a good skin antibiotic is needed for at least 3 weeks. Unfortunately, amoxicillin is not a great skin antibiotic. Cephalexin is very good for the skin, but needs to be used for at least three weeks in most cases (sometimes longer). In addition, a good dog medicated shampoo from your veterinarian needs to be used that will remove the crusts and scabs. This shampoo should be used twice weekly for at least two weeks. If he is itchy, you can try plain over the counter Benadryl at 1mg per pound of body weight, every 8-12 hours. It may cause drowsiness. I would also recommend a good monthly flea/tick product, such as Frontline Plus, or Vectra 3D. Beyond that, it just depends on what the tests show, as far as specific treatment that may be needed.

I hope this helps.

Dr. Dave

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Scabs on my dog's back

Thanks. Yeah I am a little frustrated with my vet since I’ve had my dog (Remy) in there twice for the same issue and he never did a skin scrape. both times he just said "it's a secondary bacterial infection being caused by something else" and put him on antibiotics. Remy is already on flea control (advantix II I think). He has been laying on the couch with me and I have been picking at his scabs since March. Are there any possibilities you outlined above that could be eliminated since it hasn't been spread to me? I am thinking of just trying the medicated shampoo regularly along with some Benadryl for the next couple of weeks to see if that helps before going back to the vet. After the last round of antibiotics and a good bath his skin seemed to clear up. It actually started to break back out after I gave him the Advantix II a couple of weeks ago. He's been on the Advantix II for at least a year though and has never had any problems. when the skin problem first broke out in march all he had were the crusty scabs (see attached picture) that would peel and looked like they were almost blistering. Then the skin would turn red in the surrounding area for a while after the scab peeled off. The scabs this time are either different or just not as bad (yet).

Thanks for your reply, and the picture. From what I can see, it looks very suspicious of a bacterial pyoderma (skin infection). It may also have an underlying cause, such as allergies (fleas allergies, food allergies, or other allergies), mites, etc.

It's good that you are using a topical flea product, like Advantix - keep it up!

Unfortunately, none of the possibilities can be ruled out, since you don't have any problems yourself.

You can certainly try the medicated shampoo twice weekly, along with the Benadryl to see if there is a positive response to treatment. If there is not, then Remy really needs to get back into the clinic for additional treatment (i.e. further testing, stronger antibiotics, longer treatment time with the antibiotics, etc.)

Dr. Dave

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Until about a month ago, Remy was on taste of the wild pacific stream formula dry food. this food was recently recalled for possible salmonella contamination. At first, I didn’t change his food because he wasn’t sick like I would have expected if his food was actually contaminated. Then I read somewhere that the effects of salmonella vary depending on the dog and that skin disease is a possible symptom. at that time, I switched him to Iams low intestinal residue formula (which is what my other dog is on). have you ever seen skin disease on a dog that resulted from salmonella?

I have not seen skin problems from the Salmonella dog food recalls. Skin infections in dogs are most commonly a Staph. infection (different Staph. than people have).

Let me know if I can help further.

Dr. Dave

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