You don't want your dog to suffer as a result of poor grooming or a lack of veterinary care, but an ingrown hair will sneak up on you. An ingrown hair, a minor problem at first, can cause your dog unnecessary discomfort and pain if left untreated.
A hair is "ingrown" when it either grows back down into your dog's skin or fails to break through the dog's skin and winds up growing sideways within the skin. An ingrown hair is generally harmless, but it can become infected if left untreated. Skin infections can become very serious health problems if not properly treated by your veterinarian.
Ingrown hairs can appear as bumps or pus-filled pockets on your dog's skin. They may be red or inflamed; and your dog may be itching, scratching, licking or chewing the area in his attempt to get relief from the discomfort. It's fairly easy to identify ingrown hairs on short-haired dogs, but finding them on long-haired dogs can pose a challenge.
Your veterinarian can use a scalpel to physically remove ingrown and infected hairs. He may choose to treat your dog with a steroid or an antibiotic medication, depending on the severity of the ingrown hair and whether it is infected. If your dog chews or licks irritated or infected skin, then you may have to use a cone-shaped collar to prevent him from making the problem worse.
You can't prevent ingrown hairs absolutely, but you can help minimize your dog's risk of suffering from a significant infection due to ingrown hair. Brush your dog daily and take him to the groomer's on a regular basis to prevent a buildup of dry skin or dead skin cells, which can cause ingrown hairs. Shaving your dog can help prevent ingrown hairs if your dog is especially prone to developing them.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.