Chow chow skin problems run from the mundane and short term to conditions requiring lifelong treatment. Some of these skin issues have a hereditary component, while the dog's heavy, thick coat contributes to certain disorders. Unfortunately, skin cancer is fairly common in the breed. Take your chow chow to the vet at the first sign of any skin problem for diagnosis and treatment.
According to The Chow Chow Club's Welfare Committee, hot spots are the most common temporary health issue affecting the breed. These lesions can appear out of nowhere, with a small sore quickly progressing to a big, oozing, painful mess. Allergies, fleas and soap residue after bathing can cause hot spots. The dog makes the situation worse by scratching and chewing on the affected area. Your vet can prescribe topical medication to help the lesion heal, or give the dog a steroid shot if severely afflicted.
An autoimmune disease, pemphigus foliaceus starts out as small lesions that quickly form a head -- much like a pimple. The head bursts, and a thick scab forms on the site. Your chow chow might scratch or bite at the lesion, which can result in secondary skin infection. Your vet will take a biopsy to determine whether pemphigus foliaceus is the culprit. If so, treatment consists of a regimen of immunosuppressive drugs. In some chow chows, pemphigus foliaceus comes and goes, while in others the condition is chronic.
Chow Chow Hypothyroidism
Chow chows are predisposed to hypothyroidism, or insufficient thyroid hormone production by the thyroid glands. Symptoms include hair loss, recurrent skin and ear infections and a dry, lusterless coat. Nonskin-related signs include weight gain, lethargy, cold intolerance and lack of libido or decreased heat cycles in intact dogs. Your chow chow also could exhibit behavioral changes, such as hyperactivity, disorientation and fear. Your vet must take blood samples at varying times to diagnose hypothyroidism. Once confirmed, daily thyroid pills, administered for life, should clear up your dog's skin and related problems.
While malignant melanoma, a skin cancer, can appear anywhere on a dog's body, in chow chows it most often occurs between the toes or in the mouth. Older, male dogs are more often affected. If your dog develops any growths on his body, take him to the vet immediately for a diagnosis. Canine oral cancer symptoms include bad breath, difficulty eating, drooling, weight loss, mouth bleeding and facial swelling. Treatment includes surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. As with most cancers, early detection -- before the disease has metastasized -- improves survival rates.