You are petting your pooch, when you notice something concerning. You feel something rough. When you look down, you realize they have black scabs on their skin.
You are naturally worried, and wondering what you should do. Should you be worried? Do they need veterinary care? What causes black scabs on a dog?
Why are there black scabs on my dog?
There are several potential causes of black scabs on your dog. Scabs are caused by a scratch, lesion, or wound on your dog’s skin. The body creates a scab to protect the wound from germs and debris.
So, anything that causes an injury to your dog’s skin can cause a back scab. However, there are a few causes that are more common than others.
Why Black Scabs Occur
First, let’s take a look at why scabs form. When there’s a break in the skin, platelets rush to the area. The platelets will clot to stop bleeding. As the platelets dry, they form a scab.
If the scab is black, this typically means the scab has been there for a few days or longer. It starts out reddish brown, and turns black over time.
Scrapes or Cuts
The most obvious reason for a scab is a scrape or a cut. These are most common on the back, but it can occur anywhere on your dog’s body. A sharp piece of fence or even a branch, can cause a scrape. A fight with another animal can also cause this type of injury.
Parasites like fleas can also cause black scabs on your pooch. Fleas are fairly easy to identify. You may see the small black fleas on your dog.
You can also check for flea feces. If you see what looks like dirt on your dog’s skin, gather some onto a napkin. Wet it slightly. If it turns red, this is a sign of fleas. It’s known as flea dirt.
Fleas bite your dog’s skin, causing tiny sores. If they scratch them, this can cause broken skin and scabs.
Some dogs are allergic to flea bites. Fleas will cause them to have a rash or spots of broken skin, which causes black scabs.
Mites or Sarcoptic Mange
Mites are another parasite that can feed on your dog’s skin. They are known as mites, but the technical name for them is sarcoptes scabiei. A mite infestation is also known as sarcoptic mange.
They can affect many mammals, including humans. The mites burrow into the skin. This causes irritation, inflammation, and scabs to form.
Mites typically prefer areas with little to no hair. For this reason, the lesions are commonly seen around the face, ears, and neck. However, they can also be seen on the dog’s back.
Just like humans, dogs can have allergies. Food allergies and environmental allergies can cause black scabs. The most common food allergies for dogs are dairy, beef, chicken, and gluten. Most dog foods contain one or more of these ingredients.
Food allergies typically cause gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting or diarrhea. However, they can also cause a rash, which leads to scabs.
Environmental allergens can also cause an allergic rash and scabs. These allergens include dust, grass, and pollen.
Skin infections will also cause black scabs on your dog’s skin. A skin infection can be viral, bacterial, or fungal. The infection may be primary or secondary.
If the infection itself is the cause of the wound, this is a primary infection. However, secondary infections are more common. A secondary infection occurs when your dog gets broken skin for another reason, like a scratch or allergies.
The broken skin becomes a doorway for bacteria or viruses to enter. Because the infection wasn’t the initial cause of the sore, it is considered a secondary infection.
One common infection that can cause black scabs is Superficial bacterial folliculitis. This is an infection in the top layer of the hair follicle.
The symptoms of folliculitis include hyperpigmentation, hair loss, and scabs. There’s typically an underlying condition playing a role in the infection, so the symptoms can change based on the underlying issue.
It’s possible that those black scabs aren’t actually scabs. Hyperpigmentation causes the dog’s skin to become darker and thicker. It can lead to hair loss, and dark rough patches of thickened skin.
This can look like scabs. If you look closer, you’ll see that it’s not a scab at all, but thickened skin due to hyperpigmentation.
Is it normal for dogs to have black scabs?
No, it’s not normal for a dog to have black scabs. The good news is that it’s not typically a sign of a life threatening disease. However, it is an indication that something isn’t right with your pooch.
How do you treat black scabs on a dog?
This will vary greatly based on the cause of the scabs. There are a few general rules of thumb that apply to all causes, however. Some causes of black scabs require veterinary treatment, while a few can be treated at home.
Home Treatment for Scabs
Perhaps you want to treat your pooch at home, or simply want to soothe them until you can get to the vet. There are a few things you can do at home.
First, you’ll need to clean the scabs. You can do this with warm water. Just pour some warm water over the scab. Alternatively, you can apply a warm compress to soften the scab.
It’s a good idea to use antibacterial soap or wound wash to remove any dirt or debris.
Next, you can apply cream to the scab. Vitamin E is one option, and helps the skin to heal. Antibiotic cream can help treat or prevent infection.
Many dog owners swear by Vaseline. Vaseline provides moisture, which can calm itching and aid healing. It also creates a barrier, which can reduce infection risk.
Coconut oil can also help. Just apply coconut oil to the clean scab to provide moisture and healing.
Get a Checkup
If your pooch has black scabs, they will likely need to visit the vet. Not all causes of scabs require veterinary treatment. If they have fleas, you can treat this at home. Scratches can also be treated at home, as long as they aren’t infected. However, other causes need to be assessed by a vet.
If your pooch has fleas, they will need flea medication. Spot flea treatments are popular. They are applied to your dog’s shoulder area once a month.
They begin working within hours, and should kill any fleas on your dog. Oral flea medications are also effective, but must be prescribed by a vet.
Flea dips and shampoos can also help. However, they are only a temporary solution. They will kill any fleas on your dog, but they won’t keep fleas from returning long term.
In addition to treating your dog, you’ll need to treat your home. Flea sprays or powders can be used on upholstery and carpet. You’ll also need to vacuum, which can remove the fleas.
Bedding, both yours and your dogs, should be washed when you treat them for fleas.
Scrapes and Scratches
If your dog has a scab due to a scratch or cut, you can treat this yourself. Follow the directions above for easing the discomfort and keeping the scab clean.
If you see any signs of infection, this will require veterinary care. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pus, and heat.
If you suspect allergies are to blame, it’s best to seek your vet’s help. The truth is there are hundreds of potential allergens that could affect your pooch.
Your vet can perform allergy tests as a first step. They may also recommend an elimination diet. This involves removing common allergens from their diet. Your pooch may need a hypoallergenic food, if they are found to have food allergies.
Your vet may also prescribe an oral allergy medication or topical cream to help manage their allergies.
Mites or mange usually require veterinary treatment. They can confirm that mites are causing your dogs’ skin issues, and prescribe a cream to kill the mites.
They may also prescribe an antibiotic in case there’s a secondary skin infection.
If your pooch has a skin infection, your vet will prescribe antibiotics. This can include oral antibiotics, topical cream, or both. Follow the instructions, and treat your pooch as long as your vet recommends.
Stopping treatment when your dog begins to feel better can cause the infection to return.
Should I take my dog to a vet if there are black scabs?
Generally, yes. It’s a good idea to get your pooch checked out for two reasons. First, it’s often difficult to determine the cause of the scabs. A vet will perform a physical exam, ask about your dog’s health history, and perform skin tests to determine the cause.
The second reason is that some causes of black scabs require veterinary treatment. So, even if you do correctly determine the cause of the scabs, they will still need to visit the vet.