Watching your dog suffer from skin problems can be heartbreaking. Two common causes of skin problem are mange and folliculitis, and they can be difficult to tell apart. Both require prompt treatment from your vet to prevent the problems from getting worse; some home treatments work along with the medication from your vet to make your pup more comfortable while he's recovering.
With mange in dogs, it's easy to find the cause: demodex or sarcoptic mites. Many dogs carry a few of these mites and never develop a problem. Large infestations or compromised immune systems often lead to symptoms appearing. When your dog has folliculitis, the cause isn't quite as straightforward. The skin infection usually follows other skin issues, such as scabies or mange, although brushing him too hard can pull on the hair follicles and lead to the infection.
Both mange and folliculitis problems can present similar initial symptoms, especially localized hair loss. With mange, the skin often looks red and scaly, but folliculitis usually appears as pimplelike bumps at the base of hairs in an area. As the issues spread, they both can turn into large pustules that burst and drain, leaving open sores on the skin. A vet might be able to tell the difference in these sores at a glance, but it's difficult for most pet owners to know which problem is affecting your pooch.
With quick attention, your dog doesn't need to suffer from either problem forever. When your vet diagnoses your dog with mange, she's likely to prescribe a topical ointment to rub on his skin daily, or a miticide called ivermectin. For large infestations, she might recommend a medicinal dip in her office to help kill some mites immediately. As an infection, folliculitis usually requires oral antibiotics to help clear up a dog's skin.
Ask your vet about how you can make your pet more comfortable at home. She may recommend some medicated shampoos and grooming instructions. She might suggest shaving your dog or at least clipping long hair away from the problem areas. A povidone-iodine shampoo helps skin affected by folliculitis to heal, while a benzoyl-peroxide shampoo often serves skin affected by mange. Available over the counter, ask your vet which is right for your situation and how often you must bathe your dog with the special shampoo -- she might recommend washing him as often as twice a day or as little as twice a week.