Scabs on dogs can be a common but concerning issue for pet owners. Whether they appear as black crusts, come off with clumps of hair, or cover large areas of your dog's body, understanding why they occur is crucial to effectively managing and treating them.

In this article, we'll delve into the various causes of scabs on dogs, as highlighted by Dr. Ingrid Balsa, DVM, an expert on canine wound care. We'll also explore how proper care can prevent and treat these issues effectively, ensuring your dog stays healthy and comfortable.

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  1. Why Does My Dog Have Scabs
  2. Scabs on Dog's Back
  3. Crusty Scabs on Edge of Dog's Ears
  4. Dog Has Scabs on Head
  5. How to Treat Crusty Scabs on Dog
  6. FAQs
  7. Conclusion

Why Does My Dog Have Scabs

Research on canine dermatology shows that scabs on dogs can arise from a variety of conditions ranging from minor irritations to more serious health issues.

Dr. Ingrid Balsa, DVM explains what scabs are, writing:

"During the repair phase of wound healing, fibroblasts play a critical role in laying down new collagen, essential for strengthening the newly formed tissue. The dynamic interplay of cellular activities not only repairs the damaged area but also prepares the wound environment for the crucial phases of healing."

Common causes for dog scabs include:

Injury and Trauma

Physical damage from accidents or excessive scratching due to itchy skin (possibly from atopic dermatitis or allergies) can lead to scab formation.

Skin Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections, such as pyoderma, often seen in breeds like German Shepherds, can cause scabs. Another common example is skin fold dermatitis in dogs with wrinkles like Bulldogs.

Hormonal Issues

Conditions like diabetes, Cushing’s disease, or hypothyroidism may manifest as skin problems, including scabs. This is a common reason why old dogs may lose hair in patches and scabs.

Parasitic Infestations

Mange caused by mites can lead to severe itching and subsequent scabbing. Ticks can also leave a scab called an eschar that could mean an infection.

Immune Disorders

Autoimmune diseases like vasculitis, puppy strangles (cellulitis), and pemphigus can disrupt skin health and cause lesions and scabs.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Certain deficiencies, such as zinc deficiency commonly seen in Huskies, can affect skin health.

Skin Cancers

Some forms of cancer can first appear as scabs or changes in the skin’s appearance.

Each of these causes can affect your dog differently, leading to a variety of symptoms like hair loss in patches, crusty bumps, and dry flaky skin with scabs. It's important to observe your dog closely and seek veterinary advice if you notice persistent skin problems.

To keep an eye on your dog, especially if they're prone to skin issues, consider installing a Petcube Pet Cam. This device can help you monitor your dog’s behavior and skin condition in real time, ensuring that you don’t miss any signs of distress or discomfort.

Scabs on Dog's Back

Scabs on a dog's back can be particularly troublesome and indicative of several underlying health issues. When you notice scabs forming in this area, it's essential to consider the possible causes to address the root problem effectively. Here are some of the most common causes of scabs on a dog's back:


This is an inflammation of the hair follicles, often caused by a bacterial infection. It results in sores, bumps, and scabs as the hair follicles become infected and inflamed.

Yeast Infections

These infections cause itchy, irritated skin that can lead to scabbing when the dog scratches. Yeast infections are typically secondary to another condition like allergies that disrupt the skin's normal barriers.

Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis

Allergies can cause severe itching and discomfort, leading to excessive scratching or biting at the skin, which results in scabs. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic skin condition associated with allergies and characterized by inflammation and scabs.

Cutaneous Lymphoma

Although less common, cutaneous lymphoma, a type of skin cancer, can initially appear as scaly patches or crusty scabs that might be mistaken for less serious conditions.


Flea bites are very itchy and can cause a dog to scratch vigorously, damaging the skin and forming scabs. Flea allergy dermatitis is an allergic reaction to flea bites and often results in scabs along the back.


This fungal infection presents as circular, crusty patches on the skin that may develop into scabs. It's contagious and requires prompt treatment.

Identifying the exact cause of scabs on your dog's back is crucial for effective treatment. It often involves a visit to the vet for a proper diagnosis and appropriate medication or treatment plan.

For dog owners concerned about their pet's well-being, especially when you are not around to watch them, a GPS tracker can be a valuable tool. The Petcube GPS Tracker allows you to monitor your dog’s activities and location, ensuring that they are safe and not worsening any skin conditions by escaping and potentially aggravating their skin issues in an unsafe environment. This level of vigilance is particularly crucial for dogs suffering from skin conditions that might wander and scratch excessively while exploring outdoors.

Crusty Scabs on Edge of Dog's Ears

Noticing crusty scabs on your dog’s ear edges can be concerning. Research shows this is often indicative of ear edge dermatitis, this condition encompasses various symptoms and can be caused by different factors including immune responses, environmental irritants, or infections.

What is Ear Margin Dermatosis

Ear margin dermatosis manifests through several symptoms:

  • Scaly Skin – The ear edges might display flaky, scaly skin.
  • Hair Loss – Bald patches can appear around the scabbed areas.
  • Oily or Dry Skin – The skin can appear unusually oily or severely dry.
  • Scabs – Crusty scabs are common and may cover substantial areas of the ear edges.
  • Sores and Tissue Damage – In advanced cases, open sores or necrotic tissue can be present.
  • Skin Debris – You might see debris accumulated around the hair follicles on the ear edges.
  • Healthy Underlying Skin – Typically, the skin beneath doesn’t show inflammation.

Advanced Indications

If the condition evolves into hyperkeratosis, additional symptoms may include:

  • Waxy Crusts – These may develop at the hair base on the ear edges.
  • Thicker Skin – The skin around the ears may thicken noticeably.
  • Hair Easily Removed – Affected hair may fall out easily, revealing glossy skin underneath.
  • Behavioral Signs – The dog may shake its head frequently due to discomfort.

Important Considerations

  • Intense Itching and Mites – Severe itching might suggest issues like scabies.
  • Crusting and Ulceration – If the crusting is accompanied by ulcers or fissures, conditions such as vasculitis should be considered, potentially requiring a biopsy.

Dog Has Scabs on Head

Scabs on a dog's head can be alarming for pet owners, particularly when they appear without obvious injury. Several medical conditions can cause scabbing on the head, neck, and even around the eyes and nose. Identifying the underlying cause is crucial for effective treatment and relief of discomfort.

Common Reasons for Scabs on a Dog’s Head

  • Pemphigus

This group of immune-mediated diseases causes pustules and scabs, often on the head and face. It requires veterinary diagnosis and often long-term treatment.

  • Cellulitis

In puppies, cellulitis can present as swollen, tender areas of skin which may scab over as they heal. This condition is usually caused by a bacterial infection and requires antibiotic treatment.

  • Vasculitis

Vasculitis, the inflammation of blood vessels, can lead to skin damage and scabbing. It may be triggered by infections, drug reactions, or other systemic diseases.

  • Hormonal Issues

Imbalances in hormones, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease, can lead to skin problems, including scabbing and hair loss.

  • Folliculitis

Often seen with infections or inflammation, folliculitis causes bumps on the skin that may scab over. It's common around the head, neck, and back.

  • Infections

Bacterial and fungal infections can cause scabs and crusty patches on the head and other parts of the body. Ringworm, a fungal infection, is particularly notorious for affecting the head and face.

  • Zinc Deficiencies

Zinc deficiency can manifest in two forms:

  • Type 1 – Mostly seen in Huskies and Nordic breed, this genetic disorder affects the dog's ability to absorb zinc and can lead to severe skin lesions.
  • Type 2 (Zinc-responsive Dermatosis) – This occurs due to diet inadequacies or increased zinc requirements and is treatable with zinc supplementation.

How to Treat Crusty Scabs on Dog

Treating crusty scabs on your dog effectively involves a combination of veterinary care and home remedies to support healing and comfort. It's crucial to address the underlying cause while also managing the symptoms to prevent further discomfort or infection.

Veterinary Treatments

Always consult with your veterinarian first to get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan. Treatments may include:

  • Antibiotics – If the scabs are due to bacterial infections.
  • Antifungals – For scabs caused by fungal infections like ringworm.
  • Parasiticides – If parasites like mites or fleas are the cause.
  • Specialized Shampoos – Medicated shampoos can help soothe and heal skin issues.
  • Dietary Adjustments – Including zinc supplements if a deficiency is diagnosed.
  • Allergy Management – Including hypoallergenic diets or anti-inflammatory medications if allergies are the cause.

Your vet may also need to test for underlying issues like hormonal or immune problems.

Home Remedies For Dog Scabs

In addition to veterinary treatments, certain home remedies can be used to help soothe your dog’s skin and promote healing:

  • Aloe Vera

Apply pure aloe vera gel to the scabs to soothe and heal the skin. Ensure it's free from additives that can be toxic to dogs.

  • Coconut Oil

This natural oil has moisturizing and antibacterial properties. Rub a small amount on the scabs to improve skin health and reduce crustiness.

  • Oatmeal Baths

An oatmeal bath can calm irritated skin and relieve itching. Use colloidal oatmeal and ensure the water is warm, not hot.

  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Dilute apple cider vinegar with water (50/50) and use it to clean the affected areas. This should only be used if the skin is not open or raw, as it can sting and cause discomfort.

  • Vitamin E Oil

Applying vitamin E oil directly on the scabs can promote healing and reduce scarring.

Monitoring and Support

It's important to keep an eye on your dog’s skin condition to monitor progress and adjust treatments as necessary. Using devices like pet cams can help you watch for signs of discomfort or excessive scratching when you're not at home.

Additionally, unexpected health issues can arise, and veterinary bills can add up quickly. For peace of mind, consider subscribing to Petcube’s Emergency Fund, which offers up to $3,000 in vet bills coverage and 24/7 access to online vets for about $1 per day. Blog readers can enjoy a 27% discount by using this link.


Why Do Dogs Get Scabs?

Dogs get scabs primarily due to skin injuries, infections, allergies, parasites, and immune system disorders. Scratching, biting, or skin trauma can break the skin, leading to scab formation as part of the natural healing process.

Underlying conditions like allergies or parasites (fleas, mites) can cause irritation and scratching that leads to scabbing.

Can I Remove Scabs on My Dog?

It is not advisable to remove scabs on your dog manually. Scabs are part of the healing process, protecting the wound underneath. Picking at scabs can lead to infections and delay healing. If a scab is bothersome to your dog or seems to be causing discomfort, consult your veterinarian for safe treatment options.

Are Scabs on Dogs a Sign of a Serious Problem?

Scabs can be a sign of both minor and serious health issues. Minor issues such as small cuts or mild allergies can cause scabs, but so can more serious conditions like autoimmune diseases, severe infections, or even cancer. If your dog has persistent scabs, or other symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, or unusual behavior, it is important to seek veterinary advice.

How Can I Prevent Scabs on My Dog?

Preventing scabs involves maintaining good skin health through proper diet, regular grooming, and flea control. Ensure your dog has a balanced diet with essential fatty acids that promote skin health. Regular bathing and grooming can help manage skin conditions. Also, keeping up with flea and tick prevention is crucial as these parasites often cause itching and scabbing.

What Should I Do If My Dog's Scabs Don't Heal?

If your dog's scabs are not healing, persist for more than a few days, or are accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it’s important to visit the veterinarian. Persistent or non-healing scabs could indicate underlying health issues that require medical intervention.


Managing scabs on your dog involves understanding the underlying causes, providing appropriate care, and consulting with a veterinarian when necessary. By maintaining your dog’s skin health through proper care and preventive measures, you can minimize the occurrence of scabs and ensure your pet remains happy and healthy. Remember, never attempt to treat serious skin conditions without professional advice, as incorrect handling can worsen the issues.

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