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essential tips
Dog laying on back showing belly

The essentials

  • An angry, red rash on your dog’s belly may appear alarming — But rashes are a common skin issue in dogs.
  • You may think your dog’s skin is tough and resistant — Skin is very sensitive to changes within your pup’s body and their environment.
  • Canine belly rashes can be caused by many things — From hormones to environmental allergens, many factors can cause an itchy rash, so it’s crucial to find and treat the cause.
  • At-home remedies may provide relief — Oatmeal baths, vitamin E supplements, and other therapies can help soothe your dog’s belly rash and repair their skin.

When your pooch flips over for a belly rub, you feel small, raised bumps through their thick fur. Upon closer inspection, you notice red, angry-looking skin and several oozing patches. Did your poor pup stumble into a patch of poison ivy? What’s causing this rash? And how do you treat it?

While they can be very uncomfortable for your furry friend, rashes are a very common skin problem in dogs. While belly rashes usually aren’t serious, they still require diagnosis and treatment. To treat your dog’s rash, you first need to know what’s causing it.

🚨 Some rashes, like ringworm or poison ivy, can transfer from pets to people. Always use caution when handling your pet or touching their rash.

What does a dog belly rash look like?

You may think of a rash as a swath of red, irritated skin, but not all rashes look the same. Some rashes have bumps that pop up, while others cause oozing and seeping. If your pup develops a belly rash, you may notice the following signs:

A belly rash can also make your dog compulsively lick or chew at the area, making their skin even more irritated, which can potentially lead to a secondary bacterial infection. If you notice your four-legged friend is nibbling away at their stomach, they may have a belly rash, which means it’s time to head to the vet.

Reasons dogs get belly rashes

Dogs get belly rashes for a whole host of reasons. Without pinpointing the exact cause, treatment can be ineffective and leave your pup still scratching and chewing, so it’s essential to find the trigger. When your vet examines your dog, they’ll be searching to see if one of the following causes is the culprit for their belly rash:

Bacterial skin infections

Skin infections are one of the most common causes of belly rashes in dogs. These infections can be caused by multiple pathogens, like bacteria or yeast. A common type of bacterial skin infection is pyoderma. It can cause pimple-like, pus-filled lesions and crusty, dry, flaky skin. Pyoderma usually occurs because of bacterial infiltration. If the skin has been traumatized, such as through a cut, licking, and chewing, bacteria can multiply.

Pyoderma frequently develops in young dogs. However, a bacterial infection can also develop because of excessive moisture, which typically affects a dog’s skin folds. Other types of bacterial skin infections include impetigo and staph infections, both of which can cause pus-filled bumps.

Fungal skin infections

Fungal skin infections, like ringworm and yeast infections, are also common. Ringworm is characterized by circular lesions that are usually hairless. These spots can appear red and scabby and generally don’t cause itching. Keep in mind that ringworm is contagious and can be passed from your pup to you and other pets in your household.

Yeast dermatitis, caused by the fungus Malassezia pachydermatis, can appear as thickened, scaly, or flaky skin. Changes in skin pigmentation, a musty smell, itching, and redness are also common.

Excessive heat

Like people, dogs can also develop heat rashes. Caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria, heat rashes can flare up in hot, humid weather. Heat rashes most commonly pop up in areas where the skin rubs, like under the tail, the neck, and the ears. Typically, a heat rash will start as mild skin irritation, which leads to excessive scratching. With time, it can progress to pimples or scabs that have a foul odor. Cooling your pup down with cold compresses can help alleviate a heat rash. You should also keep these areas dry to prevent trapped moisture and bacterial and yeast overgrowth.

👉 Don’t apply ice packs directly to your pet’s skin. Instead, wrap packs in a dry towel or washcloth to create a cold compress.

Allergies

A belly rash is a common sign of allergies in dogs, particularly in contact dermatitis cases. Pets who are allergic to certain fabrics, shampoos, cleaners, fertilizers, and other chemicals can develop itchy, red skin and pimple-like bumps on their stomach.

Seasonal allergies are another frequent troublemaker when it comes to belly rashes on your pup. If your dog has an allergy to grass pollen, they can develop a belly rash after laying in the yard.

Food allergies and sensitivities, such as to chicken, lamb, beef, or dairy products, can also cause your pooch to develop an itchy rash on their belly, ears, or back.

Parasites

Parasites, like fleas, ticks, and mites, can cause your pup to break out in a belly rash. Bug bites and stings from ants, bees, and wasps can also lead to irritated skin. Fleas are one of the top parasitic causes of rashes in dogs, especially if the dog has flea allergy dermatitis. You’ll likely notice hair loss, hot spots, scabs, or a rash on your dog’s lower back, hind legs, and tail base if they are allergic to fleas.

Bites and stings from other pests can also cause itchy red bumps, hair loss, hot spots, and more. It can be easier to see these problems on your pup’s belly, as that’s where there’s the least amount of hair. And, if your dog lays on an anthill when outside, their belly will be the spot that’s under attack. If your dog begins licking and chewing at their stomach after being outdoors, they may have encountered some irritating insects in the yard.

👉 Keep in mind that fleas like to hang out on your dog’s hind end, though, so they may not cause an abdominal rash.

Environmental causes

Poison ivy is one of the leading environmental causes of belly rashes in dogs. Many other plants can have irritating sap or substances that can also cause your pup’s abdomen to break out. If your dog develops a belly rash because of poison ivy or other plants, exercise caution when treating the rash because you can also contract it.

Genetics

Some dog breeds are more prone to skin problems and rashes. If you own an English bulldog, you likely know all about skin issues in dogs, as this breed is the poster child of skin conditions. Other breeds that are also more likely to develop belly rashes include:

  • Boxers
  • West Highland white terriers
  • Dalmatians
  • French bulldogs
  • Staffordshire bull terriers
  • German shepherds
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Newfoundlands
  • Great Danes
  • Springer spaniels
  • Cocker spaniels

But, any dog can develop a belly rash. Even if your pup isn’t on this list, they might still be at risk of developing an itchy stomach.

Hormonal imbalances

Endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can also play a role in your dog’s skin health. These diseases cause a hormonal imbalance in your dog’s body and require lifelong treatment. Skin issues are some of the first obvious symptoms that your dog has an endocrine disorder. You may notice a thin coat, loss of fur, flaky skin, or skin discoloration if your dog has a hormonal imbalance. Dogs with Cushing’s disease may have a pot-bellied appearance as well.

Work with your vet for a diagnosis

It can be hard to determine what’s causing your dog’s rash on your own. Your pup’s vet is your best bet for an accurate diagnosis. Then, they can recommend the best treatment to get rid of your dog’s itchy rash.

During your dog’s appointment, your vet will ask questions about their history. Your dog’s vet will want to know if they came in contact with any irritating substances, if they have a history of allergies, what food they’re eating, and if they’re on parasite prevention medications.

Once your vet has a rough idea of what might have caused your pup’s belly rash, they may recommend diagnostic tests. Potential tests include:

  • Allergy testing. In some cases, allergy testing may be warranted. Allergy testing may include blood testing or intradermal skin testing. Or, a dietary elimination trial may be necessary if your vet suspects a food allergy.
  • Blood tests. Your vet may want to check your dog for hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, which is determined through blood tests.
  • Parasite checks. Checking your dog for fleas or ticks is simple and can be an easy-to-treat cause of itchy skin.
  • Ringworm culture. Culturing your dog’s hair for ringworm can take a couple of weeks to get results, but it’s the most accurate form of testing. If your vet uses a reference laboratory, they’ll have results sooner — in just two to three days. While you’re waiting on results, your vet may start treatment if they suspect ringworm.
  • Skin scraping. A skin scraping will help detach mange mites from your dog’s skin. Your vet will look at the sample under a microscope and see if these tiny mites are the cause of your dog’s rash.
  • Skin cytology. Bacteria, yeast, inflammatory cells, and other organisms can be picked up by pressing a slide to your pet’s skin. Your vet will examine this slide under a microscope to see what might be the cause of your dog’s rash.

Once your veterinarian has diagnosed the cause of your dog’s belly rash, they can provide the best treatment and ensure your dog gets relief.

How to treat your dog’s belly rash

Treatment for your dog’s belly rash is tailored to the cause, so a correct diagnosis is important. Options for soothing your pup’s abdomen include:

  • Antibiotics. A course of antibiotics will tackle bacterial skin infections such as pyoderma and impetigo.
  • Antifungal medications and shampoos. Yeast and fungal skin infections respond well to antifungal medications, shampoos, sprays, and other topical therapies.
  • Ongoing vet treatment. Some conditions, like Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, will need more testing and monitoring. Your dog’s vet will help treat the condition causing your dog’s belly rash.
  • Elizabethan collar. Some dogs need the cone of shame to put a stop to their licking and chewing, allowing the rash time to heal.
  • Parasite prevention. Parasite prevention is a must for keeping your pup bug- and itch-free. Flea and tick prevention can also protect your dog from biting insects and mange mites.
  • Soothing skin balm. A soothing skin balm can calm irritated skin and is perfect for dogs with allergies. Our favorite skin balm is Natural Dog Company’s Skin Soother.

At-home remedies for soothing your dog’s belly rash

While you’re waiting for your veterinarian’s treatment to take effect, you can help soothe your dog’s belly rash with at-home remedies. Here are some options to try:

  • Cool bath. An itchy, irritating rash can benefit from a cool bath with oatmeal or medicated shampoo.
  • Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt has soothing and healing properties, making it ideal for bringing down inflammation and relieving irritated skin. Most frequently, epsom salt baths are used as foot soaks for managing pododermatitis.
  • Vitamin E. Vitamin E supplements, whether given as capsules or applied topically, promote skin health.

👉 Before beginning at-home remedies for your dog’s belly rash, ask your vet. They’ll let you know if any therapies are contraindicated with your dog’s history and current treatment.

Frequently asked questions

How do I treat a rash on my dog’s belly?

First, learn the cause of your dog’s belly rash. Your vet can then prescribe the appropriate treatment. Your pup may need antibiotics or antifungal medication, or they may need medication to manage an endocrine disorder or allergies. Flea and tick prevention, a medicated shampoo, or an Elizabethan collar may also be necessary for clearing up your dog’s belly rash.

What can I put on my dog’s skin rash?

A soothing skin balm, like Natural Dog Company’s Skin Soother, can help ease irritated skin. Vitamin E oil may also be beneficial. But, ask your vet first before applying any at-home remedies.

Why does my dog have a rash on their belly?

Your dog may have a rash because of an infection, allergies, parasites, hormonal imbalances, heat and humidity, or other environmental causes. Your pup may also be more prone to developing skin issues because of their breed and genetics.

What does a rash on a dog’s stomach mean?

If you spot pimple-like bumps and irritated skin on your dog’s belly, they may have a skin infection. They could also have allergies or an endocrine disorder, or they may have laid on an anthill, wasp nest, or patch of poison ivy. Your vet can help you determine the cause of your dog’s rash.