Australian shepherds are highly intelligent making them easy to train. They are also friendly, loyal affectionate, and make wonderful family dogs.
The Australian shepherd is also well endowed with a thick luxurious double coat. This coat protects the skin by keeping dirt, water, and the harmful UV rays of the sun out.
How thick, shiny, and full their fur is often indicated how healthy your shepherd is and if they are receiving the right amount of vitamins and nutrients.
While the coat does protect their skin, the skin is often overlooked because it’s hard to see with so much fur.
The skin is considered the largest organ in the body and can also be an indication of overall health. We often don’t look at our pup’s skin until they begin scratching or licking madly.
This post will deal with Australian shepherd skin problems. I will also delve into Australian shepherd itching and losing hair and what can cause Australian shepherd skin scabs.
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Australians’ Shepherd Skin Problems
Australian shepherds can have problems with their skin and that’s why, even though you may have trouble seeing their skin, it’s very important to check it out from time to time, especially when bathing them.
If you see scratching, biting, or licking, be sure to see if there are any signs of a skin condition.
An Australian shepherd’s skin conditions can be due to three different categories. They may be caused by an underlying disease, allergy, or infection.
Each category often displays some of the same symptoms of red irritated skin, itching, scratching, and often loss of hair.
Because of these shared symptoms, diagnosis can be tricky. Below are some skin conditions in these three main areas.
To check your shepherds’ health status or their DNA checks, please visit the Embark vet website for all the help you may need.
Australian shepherds disease caused skin issues
Hypothyroidism skin in Australian shepherds
hypothyroidism – Hypothyroidism is a disease in which your Australian shepherd’s thyroid gland does not work properly by not producing enough thyroid hormone. This disease is also found in humans and can be quite severe if undiagnosed.
If there is insufficient thyroid hormone, symptoms can range from weight gain, cold intolerance, lethargy, dry itchy skin, and hair loss, and skin may darken in areas or patches, becoming almost black This is called hyperpigmentation.
Treatment for replacing the hormone is available and your pup will have to take a daily tablet of levothyroxine that will regulate the thyroid and its metabolism. This medication will be needed for life and their blood will be checked regularly. Dosages may change, but levothyroxine removes the symptoms.
Dermatitis Skin in Australian shepherds
dermatitis – Dermatitis can be caused by substances your Australian shepherd comes in contact with, causing a reaction. This is called “contact” dermatitis but this condition can also have underlying causes due to disease.
Dermatitis, which is an inflammation of the skin, is sometimes associated with conditions of the pancreas, liver, and kidneys as well as diabetes.
Symptoms can be red irritated skin, oozing sores, crusting scabs, and loss of fur, often on legs, feet, and face. Treating the underlying disorder will generally clear dermatitis.
Steroid creams or ointments may be needed especially if the offender is something your pup came in contact with. Either way, it’s best to seek a diagnosis and treatment promptly.
Cushing’s disease is a disease in which the adrenal glands become overactive causing hair loss, deposits of calcium in the skin, seborrhea, darkening of pigment, and often skin infections. Cushing’s disease occurs in middle-aged and senior dogs.
Treatments are the removal of an adrenal tumor if this is the cause or FDA-approved medication for this disease.
Demodicosis in the Australian shepherd
demodicosis – This is a type of mange caused by Demodex, which are parasites, a certain kind of mite. They can live in your shepherd’s oil glands and hair.
This may sound disgusting but all dogs have a small amount of these mites. It is when your pup has a compromised immune system that this becomes a problem.
Demodicosis can present in a localized area or in larger areas. Symptoms are extremely itchy red/brown skin, the skin may be scaly and the fur will thin.
When appearing in a local area, it usually occurs on the face, legs, or trunk, but in severe cases may involve the entire body. With widespread demodicosis, your pup may also display lethargy and appetite loss.
Localized demodicosis often resolves itself without medication but if widespread it will require medications that are oral, topical, or both, and sometimes an antibiotic.
Australian shepherd Allergy cause skin problems
Australian shepherds are prone to skin allergies. Many times the allergic reactions can be genetic in nature which means passed down from their parents.
Regardless of the cause, the number one symptom is usually itching, sometimes itching all over or in a localized area.
Often it takes some detective work to pinpoint the exact allergen. Below are a few of those allergens.
contact dermatitis – This type of dermatitis as stated above is caused by an allergen that comes in contact with your pup in a localized area and is not an underlying disease. The spot may be red, irritated, inflamed, swollen, rash-like, blistery, ooze, and itch.
Causes may be an outdoor plant or pollen, a new bed, blanket or toy, and even fabric softener as in human allergies. Figuring it out is another story. Often steroid cream and avoidance of the substance will clear things up.
food and environmental allergies
food and environmental allergies – These two types of allergies can produce similar skin symptoms in your Australian shepherd.
Intense itching and scratching often on knees, flanks, ears, the underside of paws, or the carpus with redness, rashes, and moist hot spots.
Ear infections can be the result of allergies and if your Aussie also suffers from stomach upset and diarrhea along with the above symptoms, this may indicate a food allergy.
Changing your pup’s diet should remedy this. For environmental allergies such as pollen and dust mites, allergy medications may be needed.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
flea allergy dermatitis – If your Australian shepherd has fleas and there is intense itching and scratching, this may be due to a flea allergy.
Dogs are usually allergic to the saliva of fleas. Check your pup for fleas and the excretions of fleas, which are dark and crusty, resembling coffee grounds.
Curing flea allergy dermatitis is a matter of eliminating fleas with a flea dip or bath with flea shampoo. Don’t forget to treat your home and wash your shepherd’s bedding or re-infestation will occur.
Infection causing skin problems
Any of the above-mentioned causes of skin problems can eventually lead to skin infections. If there is constant irritation and scratching and the skin becomes broken and raw, it will allow bacteria in and leave the skin vulnerable to infection.
Pyoderma in Australian shepherd dogs
Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection that displays symptoms of itching, scratching, blisters or pustules, red irritated skin, crusty skin, skin scabs, skin that is warm to the touch, and loss of fur. Staph infections, one type, are common in dogs.
Treatment is usually an oral antibiotic such as cephalexin, clindamycin, or amoxicillin. A skin culture may be performed to see exactly what type of bacteria is present to decide which antibiotic would be the most effective. Sometimes topical sprays or antibacterial or medicated shampoos are also prescribed.
yeast dermatitis – This is very common in dogs and is not contagious. It is usually found between skin folds, around or in ears, and in any moist areas.
If your Aussie has an autoimmune disease or already has contact dermatitis they are more prone to yeast dermatitis. Symptoms are a skin odor, sores, oily coat, itching, red, or flaky skin, yellow or green discharge, and ear infections.
Treatment would be an anti-fungal medication such as itraconazole, fluconazole, or ketoconazole. Medicated or anti-fungal shampoos may be all that is needed as well.
By keeping your Australian shepherd healthy with a high-quality diet, exercise, consistent grooming, and regular veterinary care you can also keep their skin healthy.
Australian shepherd itching and skin problems can be caused by diet, environmental allergens, parasites, or underlying disease and any of these can lead to a skin infection.
Make sure to check your Australian shepherd’s skin from time to time to ensure a healthy and robust Aussie.