Why Does My Dog Have Air Bubbles Under the Skin?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."

Why does it feel as if my dog has air bubbles under his skin? Why does my dog's skin pop like bubble wrap or Rice Krispies when I pet him? Why does my dog's skin feel like a piece of crinkly tissue paper? These are many questions dog owners may ask when they are quite shocked by the sudden feeling of something not being quite right when they pet their dog and feel the skin. What is going on?

It turns out that those who describe the sensation of their dog feeling like they have air bubbles or bubble wrap under their skin are guessing correctly when it comes to what is really going on. Indeed, there is a specific condition of the skin that is known for causing these symptoms and it goes by the name of "subcutaneous emphysema."

What exactly is subcutaneous emphysema? Let's start by taking a small lesson in etymology, the study of the origin of words. The term subcutaneous means "beneath the surface layer of the skin" and the word emphysema means "a condition where air is abnormally present within the body tissues." Put these two terms together and you'll have a condition characterized by air beneath the surface layer of the skin. The next question though that comes to mind is: how in the world did my dog get air under his skin? There are three possible explanations.

Does Your Dog's Skin Feels Like Bubble Wrap?

1) Air Coming From Outside the Dog's Body

What happens in this case is that a dog sustains some sort of injury that allows air to get stuck under the layers of the dog's skin. The injury is often a puncture wound as coming from a dog or other animal's bite, but it also can be a cut or any other type of traumatic injury that causes an opening in the dog's skin such as a dog getting hurt when jumping over a fence. Veterinarian Dr. Krista Magnifico explains that when the skin happens to be pulled away from its subcutaneous tissue, air may get trapped between those layers of skin through a hole causing that typical tissue paper or bubble wrap feeling dog owners report. "When you press on the skin you can hear and feel a layer of popping crunching tissue just beneath the skin. It is almost addicting to poke at" she remarks on her blog "Diary of a real-life veterinarian."

Fortunately, in most cases, if there is no infection and the area appears to be healing well the air gradually absorbs on its own after a few days. "As long as the area is not painful and your pooch is otherwise fine in every other way then nothing needs to be done and it will go away on it's own," claims veterinarian Dr Dan.

Snap, Krackle and Pop: Does Your Dog Have Rice Krispies Skin?

2) Air Coming From Inside the Body

Much more worrisome is the feeling of air bubbles under the skin when there are risks that the air may coming from inside the body rather than outside. In such a case, there are risks that the sensation of air bubbles under the skin is caused by air escaping the dog's lungs, as seen in certain traumatic injuries. A classic example is a dog being hit by car and suffering a penetrating trauma to the chest from a broken rib causing air to escape the lungs or a small dog sustaining a bite which causes a tear of lung tissue. Affected dogs will usually show trouble breathing and become lethargic and they may develop swelling of the face and neck area. Any dog sustaining any injuries to the trachea, chest, bronchi and lungs or having trouble breathing, swelling of the neck, pale or bluish gums and lethargy should see a vet immediately. "This can be dangerous depending on the extent of the injury-as internal injuries are possible" explains veterinarian Dr. Jenn.

Another possibility for air escaping from inside the body and becoming trapped under the dog's skin is a dog sustaining injuries to the trachea after undergoing a surgical procedure. This can happen when a dog's trachea gets injured from an the endotracheal tube. Perhaps the tube had a sharp edge or the cuff was over-inflated. In such a case, the affected dog may develop swelling by the neck that may even expand to the trunk of the body. Such symptoms generally arise around a couple of days following intubation, according to Blue Pearl Vet.

Dog Skin Feels Like Crinkled Tissue Paper?

3) Air Coming from Bacterial Infection

This may not be very common, but it's worth mentioning. In some cases, dogs may develop bacterial infections under the skin and the crackling paper-like noises are actually caused by gasses trapped under the skin. What happens exactly is that severe bacterial infections cause bacteria to release gas gangrene which remains trapped under the tissues. Upon being touched, the dog's skin feels as if it's crackling.

Affected dogs will require strong antibiotics as an infection, to the point where infectious organisms produce gas by fermentation, is very serious and can be systemic (spreading beyond the initial location into tissues and blood).

The Bottom Line

As seen, the causes of a crackling feeling upon touching a dog's skin may be various, and it's best to be safe than sorry and see the vet. "The crackling could just be air trapped under the skin from a puncture wound but we also have to worry about some type of damage to the lungs which could be life threatening" claims Dr. Jenn.

Generally, in the case of a puncture wound the air bubbles can be removed by the vet using a syringe if they are painful to the dog, but according to Vet Info, in many cases when the quantity of air is minimal, it dissipates naturally within a few days. Of course, other more serious causes of air trapped under the dog's skin require appropriate, speedy intervention.

The sound of a dog constantly scratching or licking can be as irritating as nails on a chalkboard. But don’t blame your pooch for these bad habits -- a skin condition is probably the culprit. Possible causes range from parasites to allergies to underlying illness. WebMD has compiled images of some of the most common canine skin problems.

Dog Skin Ulcers

There are several potential causes of skin ulcers in dogs. These include:

Fungal infection that causes skin lesions and ulceration. Can be accompanied by digestive system and breathing problems. Diagnosed with a biopsy.

Can cause dog nose ulcers. Also found on the ears Caused by a blood cell parasite. Considered to require Euthanasia.

Cancer in dogs that can cause ulcers along with itching and redness. Diagnosed via a biopsy. Treated with surgical removal and possibly radiation or chemotherapy.

Tumor found on the skin of older dogs. Appears like a dark colored nodule. Diagnosed with a skin biopsy. Treated with surgical removal.

Panniculitis is usually caused by a skin injury or when a foreign body enters the skin. It can also have an autoimmune or unknown cause. Nodules form on the skin surface that can become ulcerated. A veterinarian will drain the lesion and remove surgically if necessary.

Condition caused by the fungal contamination of a wound. It is found in a single ulcer, nodule or sores on dog legs. Treated with surgical removal.

Pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection. It can result in ulcerated skin pustules or nodules. The condition is diagnosed with a biopsy, culture or skin scraping. Treatment is with antibiotics.

Pythiosis is a condition where aquatic mold causes skin sores on a dogs legs. It can also occur on the tail base. Related symptoms are digestive problems and itch. The condition is diagnosed with a biopsy and examination under a microscope of any drainage. It can be fatal to the dog.

These tumors form into nodules which can become skin ulcers. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment involves surgical removal or by leaving the lesion in place depending on the location, discomfort of the dog and if the tumor if malignant.

Spider bites contain toxin that can cause skin swelling that can become ulcers. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment includes the use of Corticosteroids. A dog may paw at affected areas causing additional skin sores and damage.

Sore on Dog Back Caused by a Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC), a condition related to sun exposure on the back.

Causes crusted ulcers to form on dog legs or the body. Diagnosis is with a biopsy. Treatment for these types of canine skin lesions involves surgical removal.

Can a Skin Lump or Tumor Be Treated?

After the lump is diagnosed, your vet will walk you through your treatment options. Know that even when a mass is diagnosed as cancer, your dog can have a great outcome if the lump is treated early and aggressively. Proper nutrition may help manage (and prevent) mild skin bumps and irritation. The right balance of essential fatty acids in dog food can calm sensitive skin and support healthy skin and a shiny coat.

The key to a positive outcome is early treatment, and early treatment can't happen without early detection. If you find a bump, take a picture, note when it appeared and take your dog in to see the vet. The power to help your dog live a longer, healthier life is at your fingertips.

Contributor Bio

Dr. Laci Schaible

Dr. Laci Schaible, is a small-animal veterinarian and veterinary writer. She has won numerous awards for her commitment to pet owner education and is considered a leading veterinary telehealth expert.

Air bubble under top crust

Many of my loaves have an odd "air bubble" gap just under the top crust. We peel off the top crust and give it to the dog (he loves it when we hide the bits around the house and has to "hunt" for the treats). I suspect this is because I am not slashing? Also, the loaves seem to split just above the pan, so sometimes we peel off the bottom crust too. I use a blend of all the types of flour you recommend, and my dough seems firm. My teenage daughter is unavailable right now to help me take a photo and post it.

BTW, I've read everything on TFL about slashing "how-To", I just need to know if it will solve my odd loaf issues.

Take a closer look at your big bubbles. Does it look like they follow any pattern or tend to be between dough layers as you shape the loaf? Then shaping could be the problem. If you use lots of flour when deflating and shaping, the dough separates easier. The mention of "peeling off" the crust sounds like pulling apart cinnamon rolls. There, it is the fat or fillings that separates the layers. Try using less flour (no flour if you can) and tighter shaping techniques.

Whether the dough is overproofed or not is up for debate. Are you using doughs with yeast or sourdoughs? How long and at what temperature are they proofing? It could be a combination of underproofing and loose shape causing your caverns too. Check out some of the shaping videos. "Firm dough" sounds more like underproofing or too much flour in the dough, this might also prevent the dough from sticking to itself when shaping. Does anything sound familiar?

The kids are quicker with computers. Tip: the photo's will have to be downsized first before being accepted.

Thanks for all your suggestions. I use enough flour that the loaf doesn't stick to the granite or my hands. I bake the sourdough 10" long loaf on a cookie sheet.

I make sure there are no seams on top or on the sides of the loaf. It "proofs" until doubled in a ceramic bowl covered with a dishtowel in my warming drawer (80 degrees). Then I do a brief kneading and shaping, and let it rise on the cookie sheet in the warming oven covered with a dishtowel until it looks "right". The crumb is tight except for right underneath the top crust.

I have had a few caves and they seem to be related to possible underdevelopment (allowing gas to flow more than it should and accumulate against the top "skin" of the dough) and loaf formation. Your description of a tight crumb seems to support possible underdevelopment and gas leakage. This seems to be more of a problem in my experience with certain breads, like Pane Pugliese (made with AP). After a couple of bouts of caves I paid more attention to the development and loaf forming and the problem went away.

Oh, yeah. Don't let it double. Bake it at about 70% expanded. You will get better results in my experience with sourdough at that point.

Let us know what you try and how it works!

What seems to work for me is to prick the top of the loaf sparingly all over with a fine skewer at the start of the proofing time. Because I do a long overnight proof in the fridge I sometimes have to prick them again in the morning if air bubbles have formed, but it sems to work and the finished product comes out fine.

I just had a loaf that did exactly that - the crumb underneath was quite dense, and the flavour wasn't so good as normal. I checked in one of my books, and it suggested underproofing was the culprit. When I thought about it later, I'd definitely not proofed for as long as usual after shaping. Could this be the issue for you, too? The other thing I discovered is that it really helps to be very gentle when folding your dough, and especially when shaping. I noticed that sometimes the bubbles would come up to the surface of the dough when I'm shaping - now I try to be really gentle, so that they stay inside the dough, and then be careful when tipping out onto the baking sheet/stone.

Thanks again for your helpful suggestions. I tried using less flour and kneading less at the shaping stage this time and it helped lighten up the loaf and eliminate the separated top crust. I forgot to slash, so it still split along the bottom sides.

I'm going to take a good look at all my knives, even the serrated "Ginsu" knives my husband bought at the Fair decades ago, to see which is closest to the tomato knife recommended on the old TFL threads on the slashing topic.

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