- An angry, red rash on your dog’s belly may be alarming — But rashes are a common skin issue in dogs.
- Your dog’s skin isn’t as tough and resistant as you think — 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.
Picture this—your pooch flips over for a belly rub and 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.
Common signs of a dog belly rash
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 other, more intense types can cause oozing and seeping. If your pup develops a belly rash, you may notice the following signs:
- Red, pimple-like bumps
- Swelling and/or hives
- Ulcerated skin
- Skin that seeps fluid and pus
- Strong, foul odors
- Bald patches and hair loss
- Thickened skin
- Scabs and crusting
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 veterinarian.
Potential causes of a dog belly rash
Dogs get belly rashes for a variety 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 underlying cause. When your vet examines your dog, they’ll be searching for signs of certain causes as 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, or impetigo. It can cause pimple-like, pus-filled lesions and crusty, dry, flaky skin—this is especially common in younger dogs. A pyoderma infection, often caused by the staph species of bacteria, usually occurs because of bacterial infiltration that stems from the skin’s surface. If the skin has been traumatized, such as through a cut, licking, or chewing, bacteria can multiply.
Fungal skin infections
Fungal 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, but that isn’t always the case. 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.
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. To soothe the heat rash, soak a washcloth in cool or room temperature water and apply it to the affected area as it may provide temporary relief from any inflammation. Avoid applying true cold compresses, like ice packs, as these can cause vasoconstriction . Lastly, be sure to keep the area 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.
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 allergic reaction to grass, pollen, weeds, or trees, they can develop a belly rash after playing 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, 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 skin rashes in dogs, especially if your dog has a history of 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, because that’s where there’s the least amount of fur. 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. However, dog belly rashes caused by insect bites are much less common than rashes caused by grass, pollen, weeds, and trees—especially in more humid climates.
👉 Keep in mind that fleas like to hang out on your dog’s hind end, though, so they may not cause an abdominal rash.
Poison ivy, grass, pollen, weeds, and trees are common environmental causes of belly rashes in dogs. Many plants can have irritating sap or substances that can also cause your pup’s abdomen to break out. To help narrow down the cause, consider your climate and surroundings. For example, if poison ivy is rare in your area and you don’t walk your dog in the woods, it’s likely a reaction to grass or weeds. However, if your dog does develop a belly rash because of poison ivy, exercise caution when treating the rash because you can also contract it.
Some dog breeds are more prone to skin problems and rashes. If you own an American 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:
- West Highland white terriers
- French bulldogs
- Bull terriers
- German shepherds
- Fox red Labrador retrievers
- English cream golden retrievers
- Great Danes
- Springer spaniels
- Cocker spaniels
However, 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.
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.
Diagnosing your dog’s belly rash
It can be hard to determine what’s causing a certain dog 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 dog’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 testing. Using PCR technology, testing your dog’s hair for ringworm can take a couple of days to get results. If your vet uses a laboratory for traditional cultures, they’ll have results in two to three weeks. While you’re waiting on results, your vet may start treatment if they suspect ringworm.
- Skin scraping. A skin scraping will help detect 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 to help inform treatment options.
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.
Treating 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 oral or 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 infamous “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 overall skin health. However, it can take weeks of supplementation before you see results.
👉 Before beginning at-home remedies for your dog’s belly rash, consult your vet. They’ll let you know if any therapies are contraindicated with your dog’s history and current treatment.
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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 home remedy can I use for my dog’s belly 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.