How To Treat Skin Problems Of The German Shepherd

German Shepherds can suffer from any number of common skin infections.

The infection can be limited primarily to the outer skin layer, or may penetrate deeper into the subcutaneous levels. In extreme cases, the infection actually occurs under the skin and spreads upward. The result is usually some kind of lesion resulting in a hot spot.

Hot spots are a common and easily recognizable problem that are associated with Pyoderma. They appear as red, moist and often itchy spots where hair has been lost or scraped away.

The severity of a hot spot can vary depending as much on location as any other cause. Treatment with Neomycin or other common antibiotics is relatively simple and the sore can heal within a few days if left undisturbed. But the challenge is to keep the dog from continuing to irritate the wound by scratching, rolling or other mechanical scraping.

If it occurs on a foot or leg, a simple gauze wrap, held in place by vet wrap is usually effective. ‘Vet wrap’ is a 3M product, a type of breathable, elastic bandage that comes in various thicknesses. It’s not adhesive but does stick to itself partially. Securing the gauze/vet wrap by white medical tape is quick, easy and sure.

For hot spots in other areas, such as the neck or back, it may be helpful to find a big t-shirt to pull over the dog. Sometimes, it’s necessary to bind socks onto the dog’s feet with velcro straps. In extreme cases, a plastic cone collar (or other style) is needed to prevent scratching the affected area.

Skin problems can occur for reasons other than bacterial infection. Often they’re the result of diet. Many German Shepherds are sensitive to wheat in their food, a main ingredient of many commercial dog foods.

Dogs are carnivores by nature. Their stomachs are relatively straight, making it more difficult for them to digest vegetable matter. It takes longer for that material to break down, which is why humans and other omnivores have evolved very long, convoluted digestive tracts. Their ancestors might ingest some plant matter while feeding on the stomach of prey, but the amount was already partially pre-digested and/or a small portion of the total.

Sensitivity to wheat, corn and other plants can manifest itself as itchy skin. The dog scratches the itch and, voila, a hot spot. Treatment is the same as above, with one additional step needed: changing the diet.

Even though the initial problem isn’t bacterial, once the wound is created, antibiotics are needed to prevent infection. Keeping it gauze/vet wrap wrapped is important for healing. But at the same time, the dog’s diet should be changed. Consider an all meat diet, or at least change dog food brands. Not all use the same proportion of ingredients.

Treating skin problems is easier if you don’t let the problem, literally, fester. Quick treatment keeps the problem small and more easily cured.

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14 Responses

  1. George S Alarcon
    | Reply

    I like your website for the variety of information related to pets. Keep up the great posts. I’ll be sure to come back.

  2. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    Hi George ..

    Feel free to subscribe to our RSS feed! Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Rickerman
    | Reply

    I have a 2 year old German Shepherd with severe skin allergies: both diet related and environmental. He is allergic to chicken so I switched him to Avoderm Lamb & Rice which has a lot of Omega-3, I also give him three tablets of Fresh Factors by Springtime, Inc. in his food. I think another thing that has helped also is giving him 1/4 cup of plain yogurt–he still has seasonal itchiness, but he is no longer chewing himself raw in spots and with oatmeal based shampoos, he is doing much better.

  4. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    Hi Rickerman .. thanks for sharing and glad your pet is doing much better!

  5. Lee
    | Reply

    My GSD had a scratch under his eye. I tried putting vitamin E on it which seemed to help. Then I put some Omega3 directly on the wound and the surrounding area. Its possible I am noticing things that were already there, but the area around where I put the Omega 3, the fur seems lighter or slightly discolored after two weeks. Is this possible? Will the fur return to the lustrous black he had before?

  6. C.B.
    | Reply

    I have a 5 yr old German Shepard Male and never had a skin condition until almost 2 weeks ago. I was brushing his fur when I noticed red, hairless areas around his neck where the collar fits. I’ve used a couple itmes to treat it but, the hair loss and areas are getting bigger. I even took his collar off. Anyone else have any ideas to help his healing. I’ve ordered a cone collar, antibiotic, bandages and ointments. I even got him a harness collar to wear instead of a regular neck collar.

  7. victoria
    | Reply

    I have a white german shepard five yrs old. Bad skin infection smells very bad, dry scally. And also his ears infection smelly yeasty also hair is coming off, shedding or falling out,what do Ido please help my dog.

    • Laila
      | Reply


      My white Shepherd had the exact same symptoms plus – skin infection, hair falling out, smelly boils, smelly ear discharge, hair dry and oily at the same time, hot spots and licksores, scratching. The allopathic vet threw antibiotics and steroids at her – no result. Checked the thyroid – no result. My gorgeous dog looked like something out of a Dickens poorhouse novel. I was really in despair.

      However, my homeopathic vet diagnosed grain allergy and vaccine damage I took Daisy off grain and gave her the remedy my vet recommended, thuja, and she got 95% better very quickly, and still is. Plus it’s way cheaper to go the homeopathic route.Hallelujah!

      Check out for more info. This is an honest plug – I don’t get anything for suggesting this site. I’d really love to spare other ppl and dogs the same suffering we went through.

      By the way, we handled a case of open pyometra in one night – her temp had dropped to normal by the wee hours and she was back to her chipper self in a couple of days. Meanwhile, the vet had pressured me to spay, spay, spay. (Her cure cost less than $200 as compared to over $1,000 for surgery.)

  8. HART (1-800-HART)
    | Reply

    @victoria … what did your veterinarian say when you took your German Shepherd in for diagnosis and/or treatment?

    (PS // that was also a hint if you did not do that yet)

  9. victoria
    | Reply

    The dr. took blood work,thyriod,needs to take medication.ear problem yeast infection.

  10. Lincoln Kern
    | Reply

    Same problem here with my German Shepherd, which I found to be diet-caused. Diagnosis is hard because it could be fungal, bacterial, flea allergy, etc. Trial and error showed it was diet.

    Now I make my own with good results. I use cooked white rice, frozen mixed vegetables, ground beef or chicken breast, a tablespoon of vegetable oil per serving and a little weak broth. When I left the salt out, my dog had seizures after a few months on this diet. As soon as we added the salt (in the broth), he was fine.

    I have to feed him twice a day because there is very little fiber content to fill him up, but it\’s worth it. This has made a huge difference in the appearance of his coat, doesn\’t have hair falling out any more and itching is minimal.

  11. Becky
    | Reply

    My German Shepherd, Lexi, is 3 years old. Abit of background info about her, her mother was extremely ill when Lexi was born so the owners were bottle feeding the pups due to the mother being unable to. She has always being in good health. When she was about 1 we noticed a red irritation under her neck but it didn’t seem to worry her and she left it alone. We changed her collar and forgot about it. However within the last year her skin has flared up, sometime being very red and irritated and other times looking okay. She has developed a really strong odour, with regular bathing making no difference. She also is losing ridiculous amounts of skin daily. She scratches her sides all the time and has now worn nearly all of the fur off her sides. Her fur in general seems a lot thinner, She also shakes her head and tries to scratch her ears regularly. her appetite is fine and in herself she seems the normal Lexi, but its horrible seeing her in such a bad way. We have used tea tree shampoo to bath her, and rub her in aqueous cream with tea tree oil in it after every bath. Her fur can feel greasy but dry all at the same time. We also spray her with water that has lavender and tea tree oil in to try and soothe and calm her skin. We don’t know what else to try and I am so upset to see her in this condition.. PLEASE HELP ME AND MY BABY

  12. HART (aka PetLvr Admin)
    | Reply

    @Becky .. not that I want to repeat the February 2010 comment but … I will ..

    “what did your veterinarian say when you took your German Shepherd in for diagnosis and/or treatment?

    (PS // that was also a hint if you did not do that yet)”

  13. Dibin
    | Reply

    My german shepherd is now one year old he is struggling from skin infection and now holes have been spotted in his back feeling tensed what to do we are providing petben shampoo and tick tox still there’s is no change

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