Question: What are These Red Spots on My Dog?

My 10-month-old dog has red round spots on her belly. She does not lick or itch them. Here’s a picture.

-Sandra

red spots on dog's belly

Answer:

Dear Sandra,

Thanks for sending the great photos of your dog’s skin. I would describe the red spots as “papules,” meaning circumscribed, elevated solid lesion less than 1 cm in diameter. 

Skin lesions of this type are pretty common in dogs. It can be tough to make a diagnosis without doing some testing, but I’ll give you a list of realistic possible causes of papules in your pup.

Common Causes of Papules (“Red Spots”) on Dog Skin

Pyoderma

Pyoderma is the medical word for bacterial infection of the skin. Dogs normally have plenty of bacteria on and in their skin that doesn’t cause any problems. When conditions are right, those bacteria can overgrow and cause lesions like the ones on your dog’s belly.

To make a diagnosis, a veterinarian can perform a microscopic study of a surface skin sample. They may also want to do a culture to see what kind of bacteria is causing the problem.

Often, the bacteria is a Staphylococcus species. The standard strains usually respond well to treatment with antibiotics like cephalexin. Finding the underlying cause for why the skin is abnormal can be more challenging. Allergies to pollen, grass and even food may be the culprit.

Parasites

In particular, Demodex mites can start to show up in a 10-month-old puppy. These are non-contagious mites that live in the hair follicles. Most dogs probably have a few of these. Some dogs have a hereditary condition that prevents a strong enough immune response to keep the little buggers in check.

Demodex mites usually don’t cause itchy skin and they’re not contagious. Your vet can diagnose Demodicosis with a skin scraping and microscopic exam for mites. It’s a lifelong condition but most dogs go into long-term remission with the proper medicines.

Fungal Infection

Depending on where you live, this may be common. There are several fungi that can infect dogs (and other animals including humans). You may know the term “ringworm,” which is a general term for a fungal skin infection.

Ringworm is diagnosed mainly by doing a culture of the hair or a skin scraping. It is treated with topical and oral anti-fungal medications. Ringworm is fairly contagious to other pets and humans.

Your Veterinarian Can Help

Of course, there are many other possibilities. A visit to your veterinarian should help sort things out.

In the meantime, make sure that fleas are not an issue. Even if you don’t see fleas, they can bite your pup and cause irritation that can look like other diseases. If you live in an area known for flea problems, be suspicious!

Baths given once or twice a week with a mild oatmeal shampoo can be helpful for mild skin irritation.

Regards,

TB Thompson, DVM

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