Skin fold dermatitis is a common problem in many breeds of dogs but one that is usually not too difficult to manage with a few adjustments to bathing, grooming and maintenance routines for the dog. Fold dermatitis is a skin condition that is caused by the contact of skin against skin and the rubbing and friction this can cause. Combining this with moisture and the presence of bacteria can lead to severe lesions and sores in the folds of the skin that can become serious if not treated.
Skin fold dermatitis can develop in different areas of the body depending on the breed of dog. In brachycephalic dogs or dogs with short, pushed in muzzles the dermatitis is often noticed in the folds of skin along the muzzle. This can be a serious problem especially if small amounts of food also find their way into these folds. The food will spoil, causing a foul odor and increasing the risk serious infections from various types of Staphylococci bacteria. Some of these dogs also have deep folds of skin where their tail meets their back, especially in breeds with a corkscrew shaped tail.
In Bloodhounds, Bassets, Mastiffs and other large breeds with loose skin the areas on the neck, trunk and legs are often most affected. In addition the wrinkles around the eyes and on the brow or forehead of these dogs can be a problem area. Shar Pei dogs are very well known for skin problems and fold dermatitis and those that have the extremely loose skin need to be very carefully and regularly checked. These breeds also have very loose lips that can develop lip fold dermatitis, which is made worse by the saliva and food particles from the mouth, that will accumulate and stay in the folds, making ideal growth areas for bacteria.
Female dogs that are obese also may develop vulvar fold dermatitis due to the folds of skin against the genital area. In some cases urine is actual trapped against the skin leading to scalding of the skin and increasing the risk of urinary tract infections. Any obese female dog is at risk for this condition.
Owners will notice a moist to damp feeling in the folds of skin often accompanied by a foul or putrid smell and the area is hot to the touch. In some cases there is an open looking sore or the hair may be gone from the area. When this is noted it is important to have a vet actually culture the bacteria to determine exactly which antibiotic will be the most effective as well as determine if this is secondary condition caused by an other allergy or more pervasive skin condition.
Treatment will include regular bathing of the area or dog using an antibacterial shampoo, complete drying using drying solutions, topical or oral antibiotic treatment for infections as well as careful monitoring for any reoccurrence. Regular cleaning of the folds of skin, especially facial and lip skin folds will often prevent any other problems. For some dogs weight loss may be important and for breeds with very deep or excessive wrinkles on the face surgery can be used to remove some of the excess skin, making cleaning and maintenance of the skin much easier.