Why should I check for dog skin problems?

Many dogs pick up lumps and bump as they age and being familiar with what is ‘there’ and what is ‘new’ will help assess what is going on. Knowing how your dog feels ‘under the skin’ is also really important. Their fur covers a lot and we often have people reporting they have lost all this weight overnight. This is actually fairly unlikely as weight loss is a fairly slow process. Because it changes slowly, it isn’t very noticeable day to day but most people only start to ‘feel’ their animals once they are worried for other reasons. Knowing how much ‘meat on the ribs’ there is will help you catch any slow weight loss early and hopefully tackle the problem before it worsens.

How do I check for dog skin problems?

Check for dog skin problems by running your hands over the whole of their body twice:

1.The first time you should be assessing the skin and coat of your pet and looking for any signs of dog skin problems.

  • Does the coat feel smooth and healthy?
  • Can you feel any lumps either on the skin or in it?
  • Does your dog flinch when you run your hands over a specific area?
  • Are there any greasy or moist areas?
  • Does the skin move freely across your dog’s body?

2.The second time is assessing the ‘body’. This is a bit of a subjective thing but you are trying to assess as best you can what your dog feels like under all that fur. Is your dog quite bony, does he seem sore when you poke any of the bones? How does it feel as you run your hand over his rib cage? The changes are often subtle but can be important so understanding how your dog’s body fat, muscle, and bone feels normally will help you notice and changes.

image of a dog for vets now article on dog skin problems
Checking your dog's body regularly can help identify any dog skin problems or health conditions

What dog skin problems and body conditions should I look for?

Anything that is changing. As explained before, many animals will develop lumps and bumps as they age and knowing about them and what they are doing is important in assessing how significant they are. In general, with lumps, the following questions are useful to know:

  • Is it growing quickly?
  • Is it painful?
  • Is it bleeding?
  • Does it seem to be changing?
  • Is it irregular in its feel – hard, knobbly etc?
  • Is it causing problems because of it’s size?
  • Does it seem to be ‘attached’ to the body, deeper tissues (i.e. not freely moveable with the skin)?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then seek a veterinary opinion sooner rather than later. If no, then try and get an idea of what it’s doing so you can give your vet an idea of what has happened over a couple of weeks. However, if in doubt check it out!

With weight loss or body changes then these might be an indication that things are not quite right and worth bringing to the attention of your vet. Our short video will give you some handy tips on how to assess your dog’s weight and body quickly and easily at home.

Areas of moistness in the skin might be symptoms of skin infection.

Coat changes may indicate underlying problems and again worth bringing to the attention of your vet.

These checks are not meant to replace going to the vet but to help you identify what is normal for your pet and when things are ‘changing’ and may require more attention.

Find out more about health checks you can do at home.


How will my vet diagnose dog skin problems?

Your vet will ask you about your dog’s health, onset of signs, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. During the examination, your vet will carefully observe how your dog breathes, and will listen to his chest for evidence of a heart murmur or fluid in the lungs. Your dog’s gum colour will be evaluated, as this can indicate whether oxygen is being delivered to the organs effectively, or if it there is a low red blood cell count (anaemia).  Your vet may try to get your dog to cough by pressing on its windpipe.  If your dog is having extreme difficulty breathing, the vet or nurse may take your dog straight out to the back area to enable them to give your dog oxygen to help him breathe and settle down before doing any more examinations or tests.

Most cases will require blood tests to check for underlying disease conditions and xrays or ultrasound to examine the lungs and heart.


Treatment will depend on the diagnosis your vet makes for your dog’s breathing problems. Most breathing problems require admittance into the hospital until your dog’s breathing has significantly improved.