How to treat your dog’s crusty scabs, according to vets

Black scabs on dogs skin
  • Fleas. We’ve all heard of fleas on dogs, but did you know that they can cause crusty scabs? Fleas cause your dog to have itchy skin which leads them to scratch and lick. This, in turn, creates dry, sensitive spots that scab over.

👉 Studies have found that 50% of fleas carry bacterial disease, and if that gets into an open wound on your pet it can cause a bacterial infection.

  • Ticks. Ticks are another possible cause of crusty scabs on your dog because they nestle into your pet’s skin and feed off their blood. This can make your dog’s skin irritated and cause them to scratch and create crusty scabs on their body. If this sounds like your dog, you can remove ticks yourself with a device known as a tick twister. You can also use your fingers to pinch the head of the tick and gently, yet firmly pull the tick out. With either method, you must be sure to take the head of the tick out of your pet, otherwise, it can remain in their body and cause infection.

👉 Read our guide to treating bug bites on dogs the natural way.


You may be surprised to learn that just like humans, dogs can be allergic to almost anything. It’s estimated that 10% of dogs get allergies. Allergic dermatitis is often a leading cause of crusty scabs and skin problems in dogs. Below are some of the top allergies to look out for.

  • Pollen. Just like humans, dogs suffer from pollen allergies, too. It is common for a dog to have an allergic reaction to inhaling or even brushing against excessive amounts of pollen—like when they run free and occasionally dive into a bunch of flowers or bushes.
  • Environment. Pollen is one of the main irritants, but many different things within a dog’s environment can cause crusty scabs and skin irritation. Anything from fertilizer to shampoo can be the culprit of crusty scabs on your dog.
  • Food. Food allergies can affect your pup in a variety of ways. Skin irritation is one of them. If your dog seems to have a rash or crusty scabs appearing on their body, this could be a sign that something they’re eating isn’t agreeing with them.

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👉 Ask your vet if your pup could benefit from a supplement to treat seasonal allergies, like Zesty Paws Aller-Immune Bites.


One of the leading causes of crusty scabs can also be skin infections or skin diseases. If you think your pet is suffering from an infection, you must take them to the vet immediately. Many infections can be treated easily with antibiotics, however if they go on, they can cause bigger issues for your pet.

The three main kinds of infections to look out for are:

  • Bacterial infection. This will likely present as bumps on the skin. One of the most common is bacterial folliculitis when the inflammation of hair follicles becomes inflamed.
  • Fungal infection (ringworm). Look out for scabs, red and irritated skin, scaly skin, and hair loss.
  • Yeast infection. Excessive amounts of yeast can build up in warm or moist areas and cause itchy dry skin and discolored patches.

Other, more serious reasons your pup may have crusty scabs

It is always important to consult with your veterinarian whenever you notice something out of the ordinary. While crusty scabs are usually no cause for concern, they can occasionally signal that something more serious is going on.

  • Immune disorder. Immune disorders can cause a dog’s skin to be unable to fight off bacteria and infection, which can lead to crusty scabs. Another reason that immune disorders cause crusty scabs is that a dog’s immune system is trying to fight itself because it is on high alert and working overtime.

👉 Dog owners: If you think your pet may have an immune disorder, the best thing to do is to take them to the vet to be tested.

  • Hormonal imbalance. Varying hormones can adjust the balance of oils in your dog’s skin, which can lead to irritation and dry spots. Anything from inherited abnormalities to developed hormone changes can cause crusty scabs which your dog may lick, scratch, and therefore, make worse.
  • Nutritional issue. A dog’s skin needs proper nutrients to be balanced and healthy. If vitamins and minerals are lacking from their diet then you may find that they have dry skin which can get crusty.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis. This kind of dermatitis is caused when a dog’s skin produces too much sebum, and the oils become unbalanced on the skin. Sebum causes a buildup of dirt (similar to dandruff), and if dogs are not regularly washed, this will cause flaky irritated skin.
  • Malassezia Pachydermatis. This kind of dermatitis is caused by yeast buildup. This usually occurs near the ear canals and areas where mucus is present like the nose and the mouth.

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