As pet owners, our initial response when we find crusty scabs around our dog’s mouth is to worry and panic. While scabs and crusts are things that owners must not take lightly, it is essential to know what they are first.
The cause of crusty scabs around a dog’s mouth can be minor, such as an unhealthy diet, minor allergic reactions, or canine acne. However, crusty scabs may also be caused by more severe problems like skin infections, irregular hormone regulation, skin cancer, or lip fold dermatitis.
If the question “What causes the crust around my dog’s mouth?” lingers on your mind, you found the right article.
In this guide, I will further discuss everything you need to know about dog scabs. We’ll touch on what causes, possible treatment, and effective prevention techniques.
What Are Crusty Scabs? And What Do They Look Like?
Your dog’s crusty scabs can come in different forms and sizes. More often than not, they look like a broad region of scabbiness resembling lumps, blisters, bumpy formations, or scabs with a flaky appearance.
These flaky patches can appear more noticeable on dogs with short hair, making it easier for owners to spot them. However, the opposite is true for long-haired dogs, which may only appear when you push back their hair.
Crusty scabs are created when platelets, a component of blood, collect at the site of a skin break to stop bleeding. As the wound heals, platelets try to create a more durable clot.
This reddish-brown crust works like a natural band-aid that protects the skin barrier break. It helps pull the healthy edges of the skin back together in the same way stitches work in human wounds.
Why Does My Dog Have Crusty Scabs Around His Mouth?
There are a couple of reasons why your dogs have crusty scabs around its mouth. Though most of the time the reason is nothing too serious, it is still important to have it checked and treated.
Just like humans, dogs can have allergic reactions to several allergens such as dust, pollen, insect bites, grooming products, and food. Regardless of what triggered it, your dog will most likely experience canine atopic dermatitis.
Canine atopic dermatitis is a hereditary disease that causes sores to develop around the mouth. This eventually becomes crusty scabs when your dog scratches it.
It may be hard to know what triggered your dog’s allergies, so it’s best to have them checked by a vet immediately. Your veterinarian will assess your dog for possible food allergies or environmental allergies.
Another possible cause of dog scab is dehydration or simply the decreased water content in the dog’s body. Inadequate water intake causes dry skin and crusty skin leading to sores, skin infections, and poor skin health.
Aside from these, on rare occasions, extreme dehydration may also cost your dog’s life. Keep in mind that their bodies need water to thrive.
That is why it is important to make sure your dog has access to clean, fresh water at all times, especially during drier seasons such as summer or winter.
3. Bacterial Infections
Often, superficial bacterial folliculitis is the culprit for crusty scabs caused by a bacterial infection. Bacterial folliculitis can irritate the skin and create sores, bumps, and dog scabs.
Usually, dog scratching, chewing, and biting are the main causes of bacterial infections. Moreover, bacterial infections like folliculitis usually appear as a consequence of other skin problems like mange, fleas, allergies, and wounds.
Aside from crusty mouth, skin bacteria may also contribute to dog lip fold dermatitis. This is a condition characterized by inflammation of the skin around the lower and upper lip folds that later develop into sores.
4. Fungal Infections
Sores and scabs can also be caused by a fungal infection, particularly ringworm or dermatophytosis. Ringworm in your dog’s skin typically manifests as round patches of irritated skin and alopecia or hair loss.
Puppies are often more vulnerable to ringworm infections. Your puppy can initially contract the parasite by coming in contact with fungus-infected soil.
Unfortunately, fungal infections such as ringworms are highly-infectious to both animals and humans.
That said, it is crucial that households, especially those with young children, take necessary precautions to reduce exposure to the fungus while the dog is under treatment.
5. Parasitic Infections
External parasites such as ticks, mites, and fleas are the most common parasites that cause blisters, rashes, sores, and scabs in your dog’s mouth and around its body.
These blisters and sores eventually develop into dry, crusty scabs. However, the problem may be worse if the dog starts to scratch excessively and chew the area infected.
6. Hormonal Imbalance
These diseases cause immune system changes that make your dog vulnerable to skin irritation. As a result, this can cause blisters, crusty scabs, or chronic skin disease.
Unfortunately, management of hormonal imbalances usually includes medications, radiotherapy to lessen the activity of overactive organs, or surgery.
7. Nutrient Deficiency
The crusty scab around a dog’s mouth can also be caused by nutrient deficiency. For starters, the three essential nutrients that are responsible for a dog’s healthy skin are Vitamin B2, B12, and Zinc.
If you’re new to it, Vitamin B2 is important for sustaining collagen levels in canines. Meanwhile, Vitamin B12 is in charge of preserving healthy skin and teeth.
Aside from the usual crusty scabs around their mouths, Vitamin B-deficient dogs are likely to develop tongue inflammation. Unfortunately, severe cases can also result in anemia.
Zinc, on the other hand, plays a very important role in immune system function and the production of new skin cells. Dogs with zinc deficiency are prone to infection, resulting in hair loss and pus-filled crusty scabs.
An imbalance or deficiency in any one of these nutrients may lead to crusty scabs and other skin issues. That said, it is important to make sure your dog gets all the necessary nutrients by giving them a well-balanced diet.
8. Canine Acne
Canine acne affects the lips and the muzzle skin of our pet companion. Minor dog acne usually presents with red pustules or bumps. However, most severe cases can lead to facial scabs, sores, and swollen lips.
While the underlying cause of canine acne is yet to be understood, most of the time, acne in dogs is brought on by trauma.
This trauma can result in the hair breaking off near the skin surface. As a result, this leads to inflammation inside the hair follicles.
If you are curious about what canine acne looks like, watch this video:
Symptoms of Crusty Scabs in Dogs
Understanding how and why your dog has a crusty scab around its mouth is not enough; dog owners must also be aware of the symptoms of crusty scabs in dogs and the tell-tale signs that they should watch out for.
By knowing these things, you will be able to provide aid and relief to your dog before things get worse.
Here are the common symptoms that may appear alongside crusty scabs:
- Physical irritation or excessive scratching
- Red patches on the skin
- Blister and sores
- Dry lips
- Redness on dog’s lips
- Rubbing its face against the floor
- Bloody wounds
- Inflamed tongue
- Itchy skin
If you see any of these symptoms, it is important to bring them to the vet immediately. This way, they can be assessed right away and be provided with aid and relief before things go worse.
How Do You Treat Crusty Scabs on Your Dog’s Mouth?
Treating crusty scabs can be quite tricky as you first need to identify what causes the dog’s scab. That said, a good treatment plan should start by taking your dog to a veterinarian for assessment.
Licensed veterinarians will most likely do skin biopsies, fungal and bacterial cultures, and allergy testing to further examine and confirm the root cause of your dog’s crusty scab.
While most of the time, veterinarians opt for the medical approach when treating crusty scabs, there are also non-medical approaches that they may recommend.
Veterinarians have long considered the use of non-medical approaches in treating crusty scabs in dogs. Aside from these being cheaper than over-the-counter medications, these are generally safer to use for your dogs.
Here are some common medical approaches that you can try to treat crusty scabs around your dog’s mouth:
- Applying Vitamin E oil: Vitamin E oil has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties making it a good choice for soothing any irritation and moisturizing dry skin. You can rub a generous amount to the affected skin area up to thrice daily to soften the crusty scabs.
- Using cold or warm compress: Giving your dog a cold compress can help with inflammation and itchiness on its skin. Meanwhile, a warm compress can help regenerate skin cells by increasing blood flow in affected areas. To do this, you can use a cold or warm cloth and apply it to the affected area with gentle pressure.
- Applying aloe vera or coconut Oil: Aloe vera can assist with healing your dog’s crusty scabs and damaged skin. The stimulating properties of aloe vera produce a cooling effect that reduces swelling of the skin. Coconut oil, on the other hand, works as an efficient moisturizer since it raises lipid levels on the skin’s surface.
- Improving your dog’s diet: Opting for a healthy diet for your dog will help with your dog’s skin health. That said, you must provide your dog with a well-balanced diet consisting of the necessary nutrients. This will help promote the formation of new skin layers and heal scabs.
Note, however, that in severe cases, these approaches may not work. That is why it is still best to contact your veterinarian so they can suggest what will work best for your dog’s case.
For severe crusty scab cases, veterinarians may need to use medical approaches such as the use of prescription medicines and over-the-counter treatments.
Here are the medical approaches to treat your dog’s crusty scabs:
- Anti-inflammatory medication: Dogs showing allergy symptoms will most likely be administered antihistamine drugs such as Benadryl and oral steroids to help reduce allergy symptoms such as rashes and itchiness. As with canine acne cases, benzoyl peroxide along with topical steroids may be used for treatment.
- Anti-bacterial medication: If your dog’s scab is caused by a bacterial infection, your veterinarian will prescribe antibiotic treatments like Amoxicillin, Cefazolin, or Cephalexin. These medications, along with bathing using antibacterial soaps, will help destroy bacteria in your dog’s skin.
- Anti-fungal medication: Treatment of fungal infections that causes crusty scabs on your dog’s mouth includes antifungal medications. Imidazole class drugs help stop fungal reproduction or growth and are usually taken orally or by the use of anti-fungal shampoos.
- Anti-parasitic treatment: For crusty scabs caused by parasitic infections, treatments can include topical flea and tick treatments, sprays, and powders that stop parasitic growth. For less severe cases, anti-tick collars or manual removal of parasites also work.
While these are the common medications for crusty scabs in dogs given by licensed veterinarians, it is very important to have your dogs checked first and not self-medicate as this may only worsen your dog’s skin condition.
How to Prevent Crusty Scabs on Your Dog’s Mouth
Prevention is better than cure and for all its worth, it is cheaper too. That said, as much as possible, doing preventive measures to avoid crusty scabs in your dog’s mouth should be the goal of all dog lovers.
Below are some of the most common ways you can prevent crusty scabs in your dog.
Keeping your dog fresh and clean can be very helpful in preventing bacteria, fungus, and parasites in your dog’s body which may cause crusty scabs later on.
Note, however, that any harsh chemicals may cause skin irritation or trigger any allergic reaction. That is why it is important that owners choose the right shampoo and only give puppy-specific products.
Likewise, be sure not to bathe your dogs too often as this will strip the natural oils in your dog’s body skin which may lead to dry skin. Most groomers recommend bathing them once a week.
Of course, frequent bathing should be accompanied by regular brushing of your dog’s coat. By doing so, you will be able to remove the build-up of dirt and dead skin that can cause irritated skin.
Instead of just buying a high-quality and durable brush, you must ensure that you’re getting the right type of brush for your puppy’s coat.
Additionally, the frequency of brushing depends on the dog’s breed and its coat type and length. Some dog breeds will require daily brushing, while others may only need to be brushed every other week.
Since nutrient deficiency is often the cause of crusty scabs in dogs, your dog must get the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals it needs by giving it a high-quality, balanced meal every day.
Regardless of whether your dog is fed on kibble, wet food, home-cooked meals, or raw food, make sure it includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, ensure that it has access to fresh, clean water.
If you’re unsure of what to give your dog, your veterinarian would be very happy to assess and recommend something that will work for you and your dog, regardless of its breed.
Skin and Coat Supplements
On top of a good diet, you can also add supplements that will boost their nutrition. Though these are generally safe to be given to dogs, you might want to get a heads up from your veterinarian first.
Does My Dog Have Lip Fold Dermatitis?
Crusty scabs and sores may also be present in dogs with lip fold dermatitis. That is why it is important to know if this is what’s causing your dog’s scabs.
Lip fold dermatitis is caused by inflamed skin folds around your dog’s lips which leads to scabs. The first factor to consider when you suspect dogs of this condition is their breed.
Most overweight dogs develop this condition; however, dog breeds with wrinkled and loose skin are more prone to it. These breeds include the British Bulldog, Pug, French Bulldog, Spaniel, and Shar-Pei, among others.
Initial signs of dog lip fold dermatitis that you should watch out for are the following:
- A foul odor around the mouth area,
- Inflamed or irritated skin
- Persistent skin moisture or discharge.
When the condition worsens, it can lead to lip fold pyoderma which is a bacterial infection and skin disease.
Unfortunately, in more serious cases of lip fold pyoderma and dermatitis, or when medications do not work, your dog may need to undergo lip fold surgery to completely remove the affected area.
Which Dogs Are Most Affected by Crusty Scabs?
While crusty scabs can affect any dog regardless of breed, certain dog breeds are at higher risk because of their nature, coat type, and genetic disposition.
These are the dog breeds that are most affected by crusty scabs:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
- Saint Bernard
- German Shepherd
- Chinese Shar-Pei
- Basset Hound
Dog breeds on the list are either water dogs, dogs with long or double coats, or dogs with wrinkled skin. Their coat structure and nature of work are some factors that make them more susceptible to skin issues such as crusty scabs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Put Neosporin On My Dog’s Scabs?
Neosporin is generally safe for dogs and can help prevent infection and soothe discomfort. However, since this medication is originally designed for humans, it should be used under a licensed veterinarian’s guidance.
Experts recommend administering this medication only as first aid when you cannot consult a vet right away. Even so, you must examine your dog for any adverse reactions.
Can I Put Vaseline On My Dog’s Scabs?
Vaseline can be used for your dog’s crusty scabs without risks, but it may not be very effective. Vaseline isn’t formulated for dogs, so it is usually not the best choice for soothing crusty scabs.
While it can help people moisturize dry skin, there is no evidence yet that vaseline works in dogs. It might be better to use a balm or ointment specifically designed for dogs.
Moreover, your dog can lick the vaseline off their skin, which may put them at risk of developing an upset stomach, so it’s better to find and use a safer alternative.
Do Ticks Leave Scabs on Dogs?
Yes. Ticks can leave scabs on dogs, also called tick scabs. They are normally small, reddish-brown, crusty patches in an area that was in contact with a tick.
Tick scabs are usually due to the scratching and biting of your dog in response to the contact tick biting.
In most cases, these scabs fall off on their own, so it should be the least of your concern. However, this may cause your dog to feel distressed, so you should also be on the lookout for unusual behavior.
How Long Does It Take for a Dog Scab to Heal?
Normally, scabs on dogs disappear within 3 to 14 days. Infected scabs, however, may take longer to heal, especially when the underlying cause of the scab is not treated.
This is also why it is crucial to treat the main cause of the crusty scab and not just focus on the scab itself. This means treating allergies, addressing tick and flea issues, and imposing dietary changes.
Scabs and crusty skin can come back if the root cause is not treated and addressed properly.
How Do I Find Crusty Scabs on My Dog?
One good way to examine your dog for crusty scabs is when you’re petting or stroking them. The affected area is usually dry and harsh, and your dog may react differently when you touch it.
For long-haired dogs, you may have to slick the coat back for you to examine whether or not it is a crusty scab. Be sure to check areas that are often left undried such as behind its ears and neck.
You can also observe your dog whenever it scratches, licks, or bites an area. Often, there are sores or crusty scabs in or around the area.
As dog owners, seeing crusty scabs and sores around our dog’s mouth can be quite heartbreaking, especially since these often make them feel uncomfortable.
However, part of your role as a fur parent is to respond immediately when they need medical attention. That is why you must know its causes, prevention, and cure.
While there may be easy access to medication and treatment for crusty scabs, it is still crucial to have them checked by a licensed veterinarian because they can give more accurate diagnoses and treatment plans.
Note that it is never safe to treat your dogs at home, especially with the use of over-the-counter medications, as these may worsen their health condition.
Have you encountered this problem before? If you have, let us know your tips and tricks in managing a dog’s crusty scabs in the comments.
My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially cats and dogs. I’ve got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.