Skin rashes that occur throughout time and that are directly caused by contact with a particular type of irritant are often classed as chronic eczema in dogs. These conditions will occur throughout a dog's life but often become more obvious and chronic in nature as the dog matures or if it is ill or stressed. All breeds of dogs can have chronic eczema but breeds that are most known for the skin condition include the German Shepherd, Dalmatian and the hairless breeds of dogs such as the Chinese Crested and the Mexican Hairless. Some Basenji dogs that have very sensitive skin are also prone to eczema.
Different types of dogs and the different causes of the skin condition will cause different types of chronic eczema. In the case of dry eczema the owner will notice dry, scaly patches of skin that start relatively small and then expand rapidly over the entire body of the dog, or they may stay fairly localized in one area. Often this dry scaly type of eczema is caused by a reaction to flea bites and is further irritated by the dog constantly scratching the area. Once the dog actually ruptures the skin's surface or begins to lick the area constantly there is a far greater chance of a bacterial infection taking hold, which will then lead to a wet eczema condition often known as a hot spot.
Besides fleas there are several other conditions that can lead to skin dryness or moist eczema in dogs. Diet can have a huge impact on the skin as dogs, just like people, can be allergic to additives in their food. Often wheat or corn allergies may be a problem for dogs that have chronic eczema. Finding a good, balanced, high quality food that does not contain these ingredients will be key in preventing the constant dry skin and itching. Shampoos, conditioners, cleaning products in the home, herbicides or pesticides in the garden or yard or even air-borne allergens can cause either dry or wet eczema in sensitive dogs.
The first thing to do if you notice any dry, flaky, scaly or bare spots on your dog's skin is to immediately take the dog into the vet. While you may assume this is an eczema problem, it can also be a severe allergy or even mange, both which will require different treatments. After the vet has confirmed that the condition is eczema, it is important to remove the irritant from the environment if at all possible, which may involve a fair amount of trial and error. Pay particular attention to new additions to the environment or changes in diet, as these are often the triggers. In the case of chronic eczema it may be a flea allergy, so effective and ongoing flea treatment of the dog and living area is essential.
There are a variety of moisturizing and antibacterial eczema creams, lotions and even shampoos that are available through your vet. Some herbal treatments such as aloe vera are effective with some dogs, but avoid using any herbal or human skin products without first talking to your vet. Keeping the skin dry and free from debris as well as possibly clipping the area to help with drying in the moist eczema conditions may also be recommended by the vet. In very severe cases the vet may recommend steroids or corticosteriods to stop the itching and scratching immediately but these treatments are typically only used very short term and in serious cases.