How Do I Treat a Scab on a Dog?

Alicia Sparks

Treating a scab on a dog starts with figuring out what led to the injury, such as a scrape or fleas. From there, you typically should trim away extra hair from around the wound and wash the animal with a good pet shampoo. Put on a medicated spray or cream and follow up with cool compresses or cloths to reduce any inflammation. Collars can prevent additional scratching, biting or licking as the scabs get better. Depending on how bad the problem is and what the temperament of the dog is like, it might be necessary to take safety measures during these steps, such as using a muzzle or a gentle sedative.

An E collar may help the scab heal if the pet won't leave it alone.
An E collar may help the scab heal if the pet won't leave it alone.

Identifying the Cause

The initial step in helping a dog with a scab is to figure out what caused it in the first place. Without doing this, you will often end up simply treating symptoms rather than solving the problem for good. Figuring out why the sore appeared is also necessary because some conditions, such as bacterial infections, can be transferred from animals to people, putting your health at risk.

A bath might ease the itching that accompanies a scab on a dog.
A bath might ease the itching that accompanies a scab on a dog.

In many cases, bacterial or viral infections, insect bites, accidental scratches and other injuries are the source of a scab. Nerve issues can also be a cause, however, with scratching or biting a response to physical feelings in the skin. Sometimes, environmental agents or a lack of good nutrition can be the culprit, while in other instances, an allergy is to blame. It often is necessary to go to a veterinarian to get a proper diagnosis that will direct the rest of treatment.

Hydrocortisone cream can be used to treat a dog's scabs.
Hydrocortisone cream can be used to treat a dog's scabs.


After you or your vet understands what led to the scab, you should gently trim the hair around the wound. By doing this, you should be able to get a better look at the skin and see the real size of the affected area. Trimming also allows air to flow better and promotes drying, which is important because bacteria typically breed where it is damp or wet.

Identifying the cause of the scab is the first step in treating it.
Identifying the cause of the scab is the first step in treating it.


Washing the wound is a good way to remove dirt, allergens and other irritants that can lead to scratching, biting or licking. A simple bath also may temporarily relieve the feeling of burning or itching that makes the animal uncomfortable. It also removes matted pus and blood, both of which can attract biting insects, such as flies. When the scab on a dog is ready to come off on its own, moistening it can help it to gently fall away without the need for hard pulling or rubbing.

Shampoo selection can make a big difference in how effective the treatment is. Similar to people, animals can be allergic to the ingredients in different products, and some shampoos are made to treat specific conditions. In general, it’s best to stick to ones that don’t have any added perfumes or dyes, because these can irritate the skin.


You or your vet may decide to give the animal some medication after you've cleaned the skin. In general, this involves a topical spray, ideally containing vitamins E and B, both of which are soothing and healing. Hydrocortisone creams often work well. Some people use lotions containing aloe, but because this substance is mildly toxic to dogs, potentially causing diarrhea and dehydration, you should apply it sparingly. Some veterinarians prescribe injections that treat either the underlying cause of the scab or the related inflammation and irritation.

Compresses and Cloths

When the skin around an injury is infected, inflammation is part of the natural healing process, but it can be painful for the dog. One simple way to give it some relief is to put a cool cloth or compress on the scab. The mild decrease in temperature usually keeps capillaries more closed so that the swelling goes down.


If a dog has a really hard time leaving scabs alone, using an Elizabethan or “E” collar can help. Made out of firm, semi-flexible plastic, it fits around the animal's neck, keeping the animal from being able to reach around to the rear or scratch behind the ears easily. More than likely, your pet won’t enjoy wearing it, but most vets agree that it’s better than letting the dog hurt itself even more.


The skin and tissue around a scab on a dog can be very sensitive and tender, especially if the area is infected. As with other animals, a dog’s natural instinct is to try to protect itself when something is hurting, so it’s important to keep the animal as calm as possible during treatment. If necessary, a muzzle can stop it from nipping or biting. Dogs that are too big for one person to control easily, or that become extremely stressed and anxious, might benefit from a mild sedative, which vets can prescribe or give by injection.

It is important to gently trim the hair around a scab on a dog.
It is important to gently trim the hair around a scab on a dog.

You might also Like

Readers Also Love

Discussion Comments


My dog went for grooming and he had matted hair so the groomer told us that she had to cut his hair really short and there she saw scabs caused by his matted hair and he keeps on scratching it. I don't know what to do.


My dog developed scabs along her back after her last bath. The first time she had a bath there were no scabs, but the second time with the same groomer, she had scabs, I looked it up, saw that many complain of this, and that the scabs to do not seem to bother the dog.

I think I know what happened. I got a gallon of organic oat and aloe shampoo for my groomer (who was very happy with the product). But in trying to be frugal, she waters it down, and probably is not aware of the need to take precautions. I might also point out that organic products do not have the preservatives in them which make it even more possible for contamination. So if anyone ever notices this, tell the groomer; they will be happy to know about it.


@seag47 – First, take that flea collar off and don't put it back on him. Some dogs have skin conditions that make them sensitive to the chemicals on flea collars, and they just can't wear them.

Your dog is having a reaction to his collar. I would suggest washing the area with soap and water and rinsing it well.

You really need to call your vet. She could give you some antibiotic powder to put on the bumps and scabs that would help him heal faster. She might also suggest giving him a certain dosage of antihistamine.


I noticed today that my dog has a bloody bump under his flea collar. I pushed it up further on his neck and saw a ring of nasty bumps around his entire neck!

Some of them have started to form scabs already. What should I do? Is there any medication for this?


A lot of the time, dog scabs will heal on their own. Dogs were designed to live in the wild, so they are tougher than we think they are.

My hound dog had scabs on his back from where some wild animal had jumped on him and bit him. I keep him up to date on his vaccinations, so I wasn't worried about rabies or anything.

I knew that I shouldn't pick the scab off, because the fact that it was even present meant that it was starting to heal. Scabs on a dog's back are hard for him to lick, but he did scratch at them a little. Still, it was hard for him to reach them even this way, so they healed in about a week.


I guess the only real way to keep a dog from licking or biting at a scab is to make him wear the dreaded cone. I've always called it the lampshade, because that's exactly what it looks like.


@turquoise-- It might be an allergic reaction. It's really hard to know what a dog might be allergic to, it could be anything from the food you're giving him, to the shampoo you're using on him.

It could also be dermatitis caused by bug bites. It doesn't necessarily have to be fleas and mites, it could be another type of insect. Dermatitis can also develop on it's own, due to dry, sensitive skin.

Have you tried putting some Vaseline on his ears? I've heard that this works well for dogs who get scabs due to dermatitis. Vaseline keeps the skin moist and prevents scabs from forming. Give that a try, if it doesn't go away, you might want to ask the veterinarian to do an allergy test.


Why would a dog get scabs on the ears all of the sudden for no apparent reason?

I noticed two weeks ago that there were scabs all over my dog's ears. I took him to the doctor who ran some tests but all came back negative. He doesn't have fleas or mites so that cannot be the reason.


My dog had a tick last week and I removed it. It bled a little bit afterward, so I cleaned it up with some oxygen water and then put antibiotic ointment on it. Thankfully, the bite was on her nose so she couldn't scratch it and it scabbed over in a couple of days.

I'm sure if she could reach it, she would scratch it non-stop and it would continue to bleed. We didn't have any problems though. The bite area healed on its own and the scab fell off in a little over a week. There was fresh skin underneath.

Post your comments
Forgot password?