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Pet Skin Problems: Cat and Dog Skin Sores

Pet Skin Problems: Cat and Dog Skin Sores

Have you noticed your pet licking, chewing, biting or scratching at her skin? While it's normal for dogs and cats to groom themselves regularly, excessive attention to their skin could indicate a skin sore. Check under her fur for sores, redness, scabs, hair loss or other abnormalities, and then review this information on how to offer your pet some relief.

Visible sores on the skin can range from small pimple-like bumps to large raw wounds. Some minor sores clear up within a few days, but larger or deeper sores can be painful and may need the attention of your veterinarian. In some cases, you may not notice any symptoms, even though your pet is excessively licking, chewing, biting or scratching. It's always a good idea to consult with your veterinarian just to be safe.

Causes of Skin Sores

Your pet can create sores by licking or scratching her skin to relieve such pesky problems as fleas, parasites, ringworm or allergies. Yeast or bacterial infections, tumors or illness can also result in sores on your pet's skin. Dogs, especially large active breeds, may relentlessly lick their skin out of boredom and create sores called “lick granulomas.” They usually target spots on their front legs, and the constant attention from their wet tongue can eventually cause sores that resemble calluses.

Other skin problems, such as flea allergies, can cause pets to nibble at their tender hides. Raw, infected sores called “hot spots” can occur in a matter of hours if your pet bites or chews her skin to ease the itch. Serious conditions that can cause cat or dog skin sores include immune system disorders and cancer.

What You Can Do at Home

If your pet is scratching and causing sores, use a flea comb to inspect her for fleas. A bath with a flea and tick shampoo, immediately followed by a monthly topical or oral flea preventive, will help rid your pet of fleas. Be sure to use flea products specifically formulated for the type of pet you have. Don't forget to treat your home and yard to prevent reinfestation. Medicated anti-itch shampoos and conditioners may help soothe pets with allergies, and anti-itch sprays or ointments can relieve minor sores.

When to Call Your Veterinarian

Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian anytime you notice anything abnormal with your pet's skin, including hair loss, flaking, scaling, redness, inflammation or if your pet develops raw wounds or is excessively scratching. Additional symptoms such as decreased appetite or lethargy are signs your pet needs immediate veterinary care.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do

Your veterinarian will examine your pet's skin and may perform skin scrapings, a skin biopsy or a culture to determine what's causing the sores. If your veterinarian suspects allergies, he or she may recommend skin or blood tests to identify the allergens affecting your pet. Treatment will depend on the cause, but can include medicated shampoos, antibiotics or ointments to clear up sores. Once you treat the culprit, your pet's coat will feel as good as new.


While you can't always prevent skin sores on your pet, there are a few basic steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood:

  • Always feed your pet a high-quality, complete and balanced diet.
  • Brush your pet regularly to prevent matting and to remove loose dirt and debris.
  • Regularly inspect your dog or cat for any abnormalities and contact your veterinarian anytime you have a concern.
  • Protect your pet from fleas and ticks with year-round protection, including on your pet, in your home and in your yard.
  • Stay current with your pet's vaccinations and annual check-ups.Wash your pet's bedding regularly and vacuum areas they spend time in.