Broken, Oozing Skin in Dogs

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Last updated on
4 min read

Key takeaways

Injuries and medical conditions can damage the skin, causing it to break open and ooze. Minor cases of oozing skin breakage are common in dogs.

  • Deep infections may create open, draining holes in the skin surface
  • Skin cancer, hormonal disorders, genetic, and immune-mediated diseases are also potential underlying conditions
  • Broken, oozing skin is usually not an emergency
  • Microscopic examination of the skin and draining fluid is often sufficient for a diagnosis, although culture, bloodwork, and biopsy may be necessary
  • Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause but may include antibiotics, antifungal, and anti-parasitic medications, oral medications and special shampoos, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
  • Some wounds heal on their own, while others require veterinary intervention
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A closer look: Broken, Oozing Skin in Dogs

At some point during their lives, most dogs experience an injury that creates an open, oozing sore.

Broken, oozing skin varies widely in appearance and severity.

The break in the skin may be a cut, split, crack, hole, or ulcerated area. The surrounding skin may be normal or show changes such as redness, swelling, crust, scales, hair loss, hyperpigmentation, and odor. For example, tumors that crack and bleed usually also have raised, rough, or irregular skin.

Location of the oozing skin may signify the underlying cause. Open, wet, ulcerated spots around the lips, nose, and eyes are often associated with immune-mediated disorders.

The oozing fluid may appear bloody (injuries, tumors), clear (immune mediated, allergies), or thick and milky (abscesses, infection).

Most disorders associated with broken, oozing skin are not emergencies, but toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) is a very rare exception. TEN is a life-threatening drug reaction that causes a severe skin rash characterized by painful blisters that break open and ooze and skin necrosis (dead skin that sloughs off).

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Possible causes

Broken, oozing skin may arise due to injuries associated with underlying conditions that cause severe itching. It may also be observed due to reduced immune response which can lead to increased and persistent infections. Other injuries that break the skin have the potential to ooze and become infected. Underlying conditions related to the skin and immune system may result in more severe skin reactions to minor injuries that take longer than average to heal.

Risk factors

Most dogs experience an injury where the skin breaks at some point during their lives. Any skin injury has the potential to ooze and become infected. Immunocompromised, very young, and very old dogs are at higher risk of infection in general. These individuals may have more severe injuries and infections if skin is broken.

Puppies are more likely to develop cracked and oozing skin from demodectic mange, whereas tumors are more common for older dogs. Middle age is the typical age of onset for autoimmune skin disorders.

Genetic disorders tend to occur in specific breeds and run along family lines.

An infected injury is likely to remain open and drain until the infection is eliminated. For example, abscesses and deeply embedded foreign bodies typically drain through a round hole in the skin.

Allergic skin disease is very common and extremely itchy, so affected dogs often develop broken, oozing skin as a result of excessive scratching or licking.

Hormonal and autoimmune disorders that lead to broken, oozing skin are less common than allergies or injuries, and are often accompanied by other symptoms like changes in appetite, thirst, or urinary habits.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnostics include:

  • Cytology (skin and fluid)
  • Culture (skin and fluid)
  • Bloodwork
  • Biopsy

Treatment varies depending on the underlying cause and may include:

  • Wound management (debriding, stitches, bandages, surgery)
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal medication
  • Parasite control
  • Medicated shampoos
  • Steroids and other hormonal medications
  • Surgical removal
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation

Similar symptoms

Associated symptoms


Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
"The VIN Dermatology Consultants " - Writing for Veterinary Partner

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