Dogs can suffer from various forms of skin irritation over the course of their lifetimes. Chafed skin is perhaps the easiest to address, since it doesn’t involve yeast or bacteria. Chafing is simply an abrasion—something has literally been rubbing your dog’s skin the wrong way. Usually, this is caused by a harness or collar, or possibly a life jacket or dog outfit. Sometimes, it’s simply the result of two parts of the body rubbing together.
What Dog Chafing Is—and What It Isn’t
Chafing will usually happen around the inside of a dog’s legs, but it can occur in any spot where something is rubbing against the skin. These include the neck under a collar or the back where a strap is buckled. In some cases, skin-to-skin chafing might occur during hotter temperatures, too.
Symptoms of chafed dog skin include:
- hair loss in the area
- a light rope burn or skinned knee appearance
Yeast infections, on the other hand, are caused by an overgrowth of yeast on the body and will cause intense itchiness, inflammation, and redness, often around the ears, paw pads, nasal folds, anal area, armpits, and neck.
Dermatitis, according to PetMD, is “an inflammatory, chronic skin disease,” associated with allergic reactions to grass, molds, or pollens. Affected dogs will feel itchy and exhibit inflammation around the eyes, wrists, ankles, underarms, groin, or in between the toes.
Chafing should stand out because it will most likely line up with something your dog was wearing.
Chafing should stand out because it will most likely line up with something your dog was wearing. Yeast infections and dermatitis are more complicated and harder to diagnose at home, at least the first time, so call your vet if you’re not sure what’s causing your dog’s skin irritation.
Treating Chafed Skin on Your Dog
1) Remove the culprit.
With your dog safely back home, remove her harness, leash, or any item of clothing that’s causing the chafing. This will give the irritated area a break from the friction caused by the leash or harness, and allow it to start healing.
2) Clean and dry the area.
Clean the area with a warm, wet towel. Use a towel with a flat texture. Anything with terrycloth may be too intense for the sensitive area. Dry the area completely.
3) Apply witch hazel.
After the skin has dried, apply a little witch hazel extract or toner, which is also used to ease diaper rash. Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory properties, soothes the skin, and helps it heal more quickly.
4) Apply coconut oil.
Coconut oil is another soothing agent. You might apply this instead of witch hazel if you don’t have any, or apply some after the witch hazel has been absorbed into the skin. It’s best to do this only in the evening, as coconut oil is sticky and could collect dirt if your dog decides to roll around in the grass while wearing it. Aloe vera skin gel is another option, but try to use something natural.
DO NOT use Vaseline or petroleum jelly on the treated area. It’s not highly dangerous to dogs, but coconut oil is far better—it’s natural, not made from petroleum, and it’s safe for your dog to ingest if she starts licking the area. (In fact, coconut oil is healthy for dogs to eat!)
5) Give the skin time to heal.
Of course, you may need to use your dog’s leash or harness for walks outside, but while indoors, remove whatever caused the chafing and give your dog’s irritated skin as much time to heal as possible.
How to Prevent Chafing in the Future
First, try to figure out what’s causing the chafing in the first place. In some cases, the mystery is easy to deduce: Your dog wore a life jacket for the first time and ran around all day with a wet strap rubbing against his soft armpit. Answer: Make sure the life jacket fits properly, and remove it as soon as your dog is out of the water.
In other cases, the situation may be more confusing. These steps should help:
- Check your harness fit. You might have the right harness, but it may be too tight or too loose. You should be able to fit two fingers between the dog’s skin and the strap.
- Try a new harness. You want one like this well-reviewed harness, which doesn’t fit under the armpits.
- Add extra padding. You can easily buy or make padding, like Strap Wrap, to create a softer cushion between the harness and your dog’s skin.
Of course, if you don’t notice improvements in the irritated area after three to seven days, check with your vet to see if the problem may require additional treatment.