Us vets are very familiar with canine skin issues, as skin disease is the number one reason an owner brings their dog to the clinic. Red spots or bumps on the belly or stomach can have a multitude of causes, and getting to the bottom of things should ensure your dog is on the right treatment plan.
If your dog’s belly is looking different, it’s time to schedule a vet check. This is especially true if they seem itchy or uncomfortable. Your vet will work with you and your dog to get some clear answers and hopefully resolve any new red spots or bumps.
Red spots or bumps on the belly: is it serious?
Red bumps or lumps are a very common occurrence on the belly, so it is important not to panic if they’re seen. Yes, we need to make a note of them and to schedule a visit, but the majority of the time we’re not dealing with anything sinister.
From infections to itchy allergies, there are a number of things to consider when a dog presents with red lesions on their belly or stomach. Let’s have a look at the most likely causes.
Help – my dog has red spots or bumps on his belly! What is it?
Dog skin allergies are rampant in the canine population, with many dogs starting to show signs before their 3rd Birthday. Though any breed can be affected, Pedigrees including the Westie, Frenchie, Pug and Labrador are most at risk.
Signs may start off subtly, getting worse with time. Typical areas affected include the face, belly and paws. Skin can be pink and we may see red spots or bumps on the stomach, especially if there is a secondary infection, as is likely in this photo of a dog with food allergies:
Those with allergies are very itchy and irritated and may spend a lot of time scratching, chewing and licking at their skin. While we cannot cure allergies, they can usually be well managed. The aim here is to minimize allergic flare-ups and to keep a dog as comfortable as possible.
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Most patients benefit from ongoing allergy medicine such as steroids or Apoquel. While Apoquel is more costly than steroids, it is associated with less side effects and is better tolerated by most dogs.
Ideally, we’d identify the trigger and avoid it. This may mean feeding a hydrolyzed diet, sticking to the pavement when out walking, and bathing paws and belly when we return from the dog park. For some dogs, immunotherapy injections are an option. Unfortunately, though, not every owner can afford these as the total treatment cost typically amounts to several thousand dollars.
Learn more about dog skin allergies with pictures & veterinarian information.
2. Fungal infection
There are a number of fungal infections that can cause red bumps or red spots on a dog’s belly, including ringworm and Malasezzia yeast overgrowth. When the infection worsens, over time, the skin can change color and may thicken like ‘elephant skin’. The technical term for this is lichenification.
We typically see malassezia overgrowth in those with severe and uncontrolled allergies. As well as bathing with antifungal shampoo, we need to get on top of the allergies, before we are likely to see much improvement. Ringworm is generally not itchy and lesions tend to be quite small and localized.
We usually see ringworm in younger pets, particularly those who have contact with cats or farm animals. Ringworm can be passed on to humans, who can develop ‘target lesions’ on their skin. The vet will diagnose ringworm with a skin pluck and will also check if the skin lesion “glows’ under a special type of fungus-detecting lamp called a Wood’s lamp. View more pictures of ringworm in dogs and learn about the best treatments.
Treatment: While more localized ringworm infections can be managed with topical washes and antifungal creams, some dogs would need oral medicine.
Learn more about skin infections in dogs & how to treat.
3. Bacterial folliculitis
Folliculitis is a very common skin condition of dogs that often affects the belly and causes red and raised lesions. It can be linked to a number of medical issues including allergies, acne and hormonal disorders. As well as red and raised skin, we may see some hyperpigmentation and minor swelling. Patients are generally quite itchy and irritated, trying to rub their belly along the floor.
Your vet will assess your dog’s skin and may also run some dermatological tests such as a skin scrape and swab. If your dog has other symptoms (such as excessive thirst or panting), a hormonal blood profile may be run.
Treatment: The treatment consists of several weeks of oral antibiotics, alongside a medicated wash. Any underlying issues will have to be managed, to prevent the folliculitis from returning.
View more pictures of folliculitis – with recommendations from our veterinarian director.
Fur loss associated with itchy red spots on the belly could be a sign of dog mites. Mange is caused by mites and it can affect dogs of any age, though puppies are the most likely to be infested. Mites can cause crusting and the skin may look wrinkled in severe infestations.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
As the little critters burrow under the skin, they cause intense irritation and inflammation. They can affect any part of the body but we tend to find mites on the face, elbows, ankles, paws and belly.
Giving steroids to a dog with mites can make signs worse, which is why getting a diagnosis early on is so crucial. We can detect mites by performing a skin scrape. This is when a sharp blade is run along the skin repeatedly and the ooze and blood are placed onto a microscope slide. When looking under the microscope, we should be able to see any mites.
Treatment involves anti-parasite dips and prescription oral treatment such as Nexgard Spectra. These medicines are only available through the vet. Any in-contact animals would also sometimes have to be treated too.
Learn more with our veterinarian article: what dog mites (mange) look like, and what to do.
When are red spots on a belly a reason for concern?
When your dog is itchy, uncomfortable, and unhappy then they need to be seen ASAP. It dramatically affects a dog’s quality of life if they are constantly feeling the urge to lick and scratch at their skin.
Broken or oozing skin is a worry and is a sign that your dog needs to be assessed sooner rather than later. Skin infections can quickly spread and the longer they go on, the harder they are to eradicate.
When red spots on belly are likely NOT a reason for concern
If you have just noticed a few red spots on your dog’s belly but your dog is not bothered by them, you do not need to rush for an emergency appointment. It could be that your pet has rubbed off a plant or has had a few insect bites. Keep a close eye on the area, and have your pet seen by the vet if the skin is not getting better.
Home remedies to try
In some instances, it is worth trying some at-home remedies, particularly if your dog’s signs are mild and their skin is not badly affected.
Firstly, ensure your dog is up to date with effective flea and mite prevention. Those bought from supermarkets won’t always cut the mustard, so discuss the best choice for your dog with your vet.
If you’ve noticed a slightly raised rash or some red bumps on your dog’s abdomen, I’d try a medicated wash like Chrlohexidine, which helps to remove excess yeast and bacteria. We dilute neat Chlorhexidine 1:10 with water and use cotton wool to apply it to the affected skin. It should be left on for 5 minutes, before rinsing it off. This can be done daily for 3-5 days.
It also helps to stop any licking or chewing, which may mean investing in a buster collar. Dogs tend to prefer softer ones over the plastic variety.
If food allergies are suspected, it is sensible to do a food allergy trial. This is easiest to do by offering a hydrolyzed diet as the sole source of food. The proteins in these diets are broken down, so the dog should not react to them. Hills z/d is one example of these foods.
With any at-home remedy, we should be watching closely to ensure signs are improving. If at any point your dog seems uncomfortable or the skin is worsening, it is time to get booked into the vet.
How would your vet diagnose & what it will likely cost
When it comes to skin issues, many look the same and getting the right diagnosis is key for treatment. As well as getting a medical history from you and examining the skin, your vet may perform an in-house skin smear ($60-100), fur pluck ($50-100) and/or skin scrape ($50-100). Any areas of infection might be cultured and sent to the lab ($150-200). Finally, blood tests may be run to check for allergies ($300-600) or to rule out any hormonal disorders ($150-200).
Treatments will be specific to the condition we are dealing with and starting on the wrong treatment can mean recovery is delayed for quite some time.
Many dogs with red bumps that are itchy would benefit from anti-itch medicine such as steroids and Apoquel. A short course of steroids is very inexpensive; about $20. Apoquel is more costly, with a two-week course for a medium dog costing closer to $60.
Infections are usually treated with both a medicated wash ($30-50) and oral antibiotics ($30-120) or anti-fungals ($40-100). When allergies are involved, the treatment should include allergen avoidance and/or a prescription diet, once triggers have been identified. Immunotherapy may be an option for some, but costs about $600-$800.
How fast do dogs recover from red spots on the belly?
Recovery will depend on the condition, but most skin disease starts to improve within a few days of starting the right treatment.
Deep skin infections take several weeks to resolve, and the same is true for mange. Mild skin allergies, however, can improve within just a couple of days of therapy. The sooner we start treatment, the quicker it tends to work.
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