Oh no...Skin Problems!
And there is so much of it!
by Karen Leshkivich, DVM

Whether it's itchy skin, infections or hair loss--any skin problem in bloodhounds can escalate into a major problem in a short time.  Bloodhounds tend to have an oilier coat than many other breeds, and this can lead to more problems.  More common skin problems in bloodhounds include skin infections (yeast or bacteria), allergies (flea, food inhalant or contact), hypothyroidism, skin fold infections and seborrhea.  Other skin problems include parasites (mange mite, worm larval infections) and cancer.

If your hound is itching, first check the obvious--fleas or flea dirt (that black pepper stuff).  Even if you don't see fleas, those little bugs can cause major skin problems.  An allergy to fleas (actually to the flea's saliva) can cause hair loss, course, or a change in hair, coat, skin infections and itchiness.  Often the areas affected are more toward the rear or tail, but it can crop up anywhere.  Since allergies are additive (i.e. flea allergy inhalant allergy can result in a skin reaction), often eliminating one of the causative agents may bring the reactive level of your hound's skin to a manageable level, or below the level that causes skin reactions.  Being sure your hound is flea free can often solve more than one problem.  Common sense dictates that you should use a product that prevents the flea from biting your hound (i.e. products that require a flea to bite in order to be exposed to the product won't do the job).

Allergies can also include inhalant allergies (weeds, pollens, grasses, etc.), food allergies or contact allergies.  If your hound gets itchy at certain times of the year, loses hair, develops a different hair coat, licks his paws, etc., it could be due to inhalant allergies (or atop).  In response to allergens (goldenrod, pollens, etc.) we sneeze, whereas your dog will itch, lick or lose hair.

If your hound is chewing or licking the paws, it could be inhalant allergies or it could be a yeast infection.  Bloodhounds get more than their share of ear infections due to their lovely, long, low-set ears.  When your dog scratches his ears, he transfers yeast from the ears to his paws.  Yeast can also cause skin infections on the ear flap, face, neck, chest, or whole body and cause hair loss, mild to severe itchiness, or redness.  Sometimes the skin will feel greasy or have a rancid odor associated with yeast infections.

Yeast skin infections can often be frustrating to treat and require vigilance in shampooing with Selsen Blue or Dermazole on a regular basis.  Skin fold or dewlap areas are frequently affected by yeast or bacterial infections.  Washing these areas regularly with an antibacterial shampoo, chlorhexidene solution, or even Selsen Blue will decrease the yeast and/or bacteria population on the skin.  Follow up by keeping the area dry (or as dry as possible considering the breed), by using a powder such as Gold Bond to protect the skin.

Other causes of hair loss on the face and neck or feet can be food allergies.  Certain components in foods, even as simple as wheat, corn, beef, etc., can cause an allergic reaction in some dogs.  I have one hound that kept losing all the hair on the ends of his ears.  It turned out to be a food allergy as well as a contact allergy.  Once I changed foods, all the hair grew back.

Certain parasites can cause hair loss, itchiness, or redness on the feet and elsewhere: these include Sarcoptic mange, Demondex mange, round, hook, or whip words to name a few.  Skin scrapes can properly identify the causative agent.

Bacterial infections can seem to pop up overnight.  You may only see on spot (often a 'hot spot' or moist bacterial skin infection), or it may occur as a generalized infection complete with red spots or crusts anywhere on the body.  Seborrhea, crusty, or greasy lesions, is often itchy too.  Ear tip seborrhea is a condition that bloodhounds are almost destined to be at risk for.  They drag their ears through everything, and the ears are often persistently wet, as a result a seborrheic condition occurs that results in the thickening or crusting of the tips of the ears.  Often, you may notice little splits occurring in the tips of the ears.  Washing the ear tips with sebulux shampoo or a tar based shampoo on a regular basis will control or cure the problem.  Sometimes softening the crusty tips with baby oil will help.   Ringworm can cause hair loss or just a red spot on the body or may appear as a raised area on the muzzle or nose.  In some areas of the country there are other fungal infections that can cause serious skin problems (i.e. Blasto or Histoplasmosis).

To properly treat any skin problem, it must be properly diagnosed.  Methods of diagnosis include a good physical, skin scrapes, impression smears, aspirates, cultures, or even biopsies.  To diagnose allergies, it is possible to do skin testing or blood testing (RAST) to determine the offending allergen or food component.  A summary table below serves as a guide, but be cautious not to generalize too quickly.  Skin problems are often complex and have more than one cause involved (i.e. allergy with secondary bacterial infection, or hypothyroidism with secondary yeast infection).

Keep your hounds skin healthy they've got lost of it!
Problem Symptoms (any or all may appear) Solution
Flea allergy Hair loss near tail, rear flea dirt, itching or chewing Flea control
+/- prednisone, +/-antibiotics
Food allergy Hair loss on face, around eyes, itching face, redness of muzzle, diagnosis by RAST test Restricted diet +/- prednisone
Inhalant allergy (atop) Itching, chewing or licking feet, ear infections, course or change in haircoat, hair loss diagnosis by intraderm skin test, RAST test Antihistamines and Omega fatty acids, +/- prednisone, +/- antibiotics, +/- Staph lysate or allergen injections
Yeast infections Greasy feel to skin or coat, hair loss on face, feet, ears, itchiness: diagnosis by impression of cytology Baths (Selsen Blue, Dermazole, chlorhexidine, or vinegar rinses), +/- treat ear infections, +/- oral meds (keta or itrakonazole) 
Seborrhea Greasy or crusty spots, itchiness Shampoo frequently (sebulux or tar component shampoo), +/- antibiotics
Mange-sarcoptic Itchy, hair loss; diagnosis: skin scrape +/- see mites  Topical dips, +/- ivermectin
Mange-demondex Hair loss; diagnosis:skin scrape-see mites  Topical (Goodwinol) +/- ivermectin, +/- Milbemycin
Parasites-worms Itchy feet, hair loss, redness; diagnosis:skin scrape--see larvae Dewormers, topicals
Bacterial infection (pyoderma) Itchy, +/- hair loss, +/- redness, spots, flakes, crusts Topical (antibacterial shampoos) antibiotics (treat 1 wk past resolution of all signs)
Hot spots (moist pyoderma) Itchy, wet or clumped hair; redness, hair loss topicals, +/- antibiotics
Skin fold pyoderma Moist, red dewlap or skin folds, hair loss Topicals (Selsen Blue, Oxydex), keep dry, +/- Gold Bond or other powders to keep dry
Cancer Can look like anything; diagnosis: aspirate, cytology, biopsy  Removal +/- chemotherapy