What is Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

What is Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

What is it?

Atopic dermatitis is a chronic allergic skin disease in dogs caused by an overreaction of the immune system to environmental allergens, such as pollen, mold, and dust mites. This leads to inflammation, itching, and skin damage. The condition is common in dogs and can be diagnosed through a combination of medical history, clinical examination, and allergy testing.

How is it Treated?

Treatment plans are tailored to each individual dog’s needs and may require ongoing management to control the condition. Medications such as antihistamines, corticosteroids, and immunosuppressive drugs can be used to manage the symptoms. Other treatment options may include topical therapies, such as medicated shampoos or creams, and allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots) to desensitize the immune system.

Breed Predispositions

Boxer Bulldog Dalmatian English Setter Golden Retriever Labrador Retriever Lhasa Apso Shar-Pei West Highland White Terrier


Once upon a sunny afternoon, in a quaint little town, a pet owner named Sarah was enjoying a walk with her beloved Golden Retriever, Max. As they strolled down the tree-lined streets, Sarah noticed Max frequently scratching and biting at his skin, leaving small red patches behind. Concerned for her furry friend’s wellbeing, she decided to pay a visit to Beyond Pets Animal Hospital, where she discovered that Max was suffering from a condition called Atopic Dermatitis. In this blog post, we’ll explore Atopic Dermatitis in dogs, its causes, symptoms, and treatments

Many pet owners are concerned about allergies in their dogs and cats. Allergies can cause itchy skin, runny eyes, sneezing, coughing, and asthma attacks. Some allergies can lead to chronic conditions like eczema, dermatitis, and food sensitivities. Fortunately, there are many ways to help treat allergic pets.

The most common allergy in dogs is known as atopic dermatitis. This type of skin disorder is a chronic disease that affects about 10% of dogs worldwide. This disease in dogs occurs when the immune system becomes hyperactive, causing the dog’s skin cells to produce too much IgE. As a result, IgE attaches itself to mast cells in the dog’s epidermis, causing the mast cell to release histamines into the surrounding tissue.

This type of allergy causes dry, scaly patches of skin along the shoulders, sides, belly, legs, paws, tail, and face. These areas tend to itch intensely and become red and inflamed. Dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis often scratch themselves excessively, worsening the problem. They usually don’t want to go outside because of the itching. In addition, some dogs develop secondary infections such as ear mites, yeast infections, and ringworm.

Histamine triggers itchy skin, inflammation, and swelling. However, it is the second most common skin problem in dogs, behind flea allergy dermatitis, according to the American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology. Commonly affected areas include the head, ears, neck, trunk, limbs, and perineum.

What are the Causes of Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

The cause of atopic dermatitis still needs to be fully understood. Some researchers believe that genetics play a role. For example, some breeds are more prone to developing the condition than others. Other factors include environmental triggers such as common allergens, stress, diet, parasites, and bacterial infections.

Allergies are triggered by proteins called antigens. These antigens may be present in foods such as milk, eggs, wheat, soybeans, corn, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb, and dairy products.

Environmental allergens include dust mites, mold spores, pollen, grasses, weeds, and houseplants. In addition, flea bites are associated with flea allergy dermatitis and can trigger allergic reactions in dogs.

What are the causes of Atopic Dermatitis in dogs

Dogs with atopic dermatitis tend to scratch themselves excessively. As a result, their skin becomes inflamed and irritated, causing redness, itching, and scabs. Some breeds of dogs are more prone to developing atopic dermatitis than others. Breeds like Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, and huskies suffer from the condition.

Is Canine AD Contagious?

While canine atopic dermatitis can spread via direct contact, it’s unlikely to be transmitted via air. Therefore, people living around animals with AD are not at increased risk of developing the disease. This is true even if you spend lots of time with the animal; just being near the animal does not mean you will create AD. Still, washing your hands after handling your dog is always a good idea, especially if he’s showing discomfort.

It’s also important to remember that while allergic dermatitis is a widespread problem among dogs, it’s not necessarily hereditary. If your pup seems to suffer from it, it’s probably part of his genetic makeup. But if you’d like to prevent it from occurring in future generations, consider spaying or neutering your pet.

Symptoms of Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs

The primary clinical signs are itching and inflammation around the face, neck, ears, legs, feet, belly, and tail. There are two types of atopic dermatitis: acute and chronic. Acute atopic dermatitis usually occurs within three months after exposure to environmental allergens, whereas chronic atopic dermatitis develops over several weeks to months. Both forms of atopic dermatitis require proactive treatment to relieve symptoms.

The symptoms of atopic dermatitis vary depending on the severity of the disease. Dogs may be affected by mild, moderate, or severe cases. Mild cases include dry, flaky skin, crusty areas, and occasional scratching.

Intermediate topics include thickened skin, oozing blisters, and frequent scratching, making dogs uncomfortable. This condition affects approximately 5% of dogs worldwide. Severe cases include weeping sores, bleeding lesions, and hair loss.

The condition usually occurs between two and four years, although some dogs develop it at any age. Dogs who suffer from AD often scratch themselves until their paws bleed. This makes them susceptible to infections and bacteria that cause painful sores.

How Do Vets Diagnose Atopic Dermatitis in dogs?

An initial diagnosis of AD is made by considering the patient’s age at which symptoms first appeared, the dog’s breed, and any clinical signs present. Veterinarians use a combination of physical examination and blood tests. They may also perform a biopsy to rule out other conditions.

They will ask you several questions regarding your dog’s health history, including how long they have been scratching and what medications your dog has taken recently. From the physical exam and history taking, your veterinarian may begin suspecting Atopy as the cause of your dog’s allergic skin condition based on the following characteristics:

  • A history of allergies
  • Ear infections that last for a long time
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • An allergy to flea control products

Other conditions commonly mistaken for AD include flea allergy dermatitis, sarcoptic mange, demodicosis, cutaneous lymphoma, fungal infections, food allergies, insect bites, internal parasites, and foreign body reactions. Some conditions can be confirmed with testing, whereas others cannot. For example, flea allergy dermatitis can be diagnosed definitively with a positive intradermal test.

Conversely, although the presence of a parasite can lead to a presumptive diagnosis of sarcoptic mange (which is treated differently), a definitive diagnosis requires a microscopic examination of scrapings taken from the lesions. Likewise, the presence of a foreign body does not necessarily indicate a specific cause since foreign bodies can occur naturally in some breeds, such as collies, and are sometimes intentionally placed into the skin by veterinarians.

Treatment of Canine Atopic Dermatitis

Treatment of Canine Atopic Dermatitis

Allergic reactions in dogs vary widely, depending on their exposure to allergens. While some dogs react very mildly to everyday household items like dust mites, others develop severe symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and hives.

Before any treatment, your veterinarian needs a complete medical history from you to determine the clinical signs of allergies in your dog and the pattern of environmental allergies. This includes information about your dog’s diet, environment, exercise routine, and whether he gets along well with other animals.

Because it helps decide on the most effective therapies, a complete physical examination is required. Your veterinarian may recommend a shampoo that includes antihistamines if you see your dog scratching himself excessively. Your veterinarian might prescribe antibiotics if your dog has a chronic cough.

Your vet will likely take a sample of your dog’s saliva or hair follicles to test for specific allergy-related proteins. These include IgE, eosinophil cationic protein, cytokines, and mast cell tryptase.

Many treatments for canine atopic dermatitis are available, including topical medications, dietary supplements, and holistic therapies. Some of these treatments may be used alone or in combination.


Antihistamines combined with EFAs will help treat 10-25 percent of animals with atopic eczema caused by airborne allergens. EFA supplements work best when combined with an antihistamine. EFA supplements don’t cause any side effects, but they may take up to 60 days to become effective. However, these treatments don’t treat bacterial skin infections, Malassezia infections, ear infections, cutaneous inflammation, adverse effects of drugs, or flea allergies.

Topical Treatment

These medications come in cream form and are applied directly to the affected areas of the dog’s body. In addition, they contain antihistamines, corticosteroids, and moisturizers.

Topical steroids are usually the most effective treatment for severe cases of AD. However, they should only be used when prescribed by a veterinarian because they can cause skin thinning and liver damage.

Dietary Supplements

Some owners use dietary supplements to treat their pets’ allergies. These supplements are made from natural food ingredients such as fish oil, flaxseed, alfalfa, chamomile tea, and echinacea.

Holistic Therapies

Many holistic veterinarians recommend acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and herbal remedies. Acupuncture involves inserting fine needles into specific points on the animal’s body. Massage therapy stimulates blood flow, improves lymphatic drainage, and helps relieve muscle tension. Chiropractic care focuses on reducing pain through manipulation of the spine. Herbal remedies involve taking herbs orally or applying them topically.

Other Treatments Available for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Other treatments for canine atopic dermatitis include laser surgery and phototherapy. Laser surgery uses light energy to destroy diseased tissue. Phototherapy uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria and viruses. Both procedures require veterinary supervision.

Allergy Testing

Allergy testing is a valuable tool to determine if the cause of canine atopic dermatitis is allergies. Dogs have two main allergy tests: serum (blood) and intradermal (skin).

In serum testing, your dog’s blood samples are taken and tested against potentially problematic allergens. These results can be used as a guideline for avoiding items.

Intradermal skin testing involves injecting tiny amounts of potential allergens into specific points on your dog’s body and then watching for any reactions. If an allergic reaction does occur, it quickly changes the color or texture in that area – which lets you know that it may be an allergen sensitizing your pet.

These tests can be performed by intradermal allergy testing, a skin prick test (IDT), or Allergens Specific Immunotherapy (ASIT). IDT is considered the gold standard for diagnosing canine AD. IDT, for example, has a very low sensitivity (10–33 %) and a high variable specificity (50–95 %) [49].

At the same time, ASIT has several advantages compared to IDT, including no patient risk (sedation is not required), less traumatic (repeated injections are not necessary), more convenient (clipping is not required, and there is no need for anesthesia), and lower risks of drugs interfering with test outcomes (anti-inflammatory/ antipruritic medications).

How to Prevent Canine Atopic Dermatitis

Preventing canine atopic dermatitis (AD) is simple. The most crucial step is to keep your dog out of the elements. This includes avoiding hot weather, cold weather, windy conditions, rain, snow, sand, dust, pollen, and other outdoor features that may irritate. In addition, keep dogs out of direct sunlight and away from allergens. Use a flea/tick preventative every month. And keep them clean.

  • Keep your dog groomed regularly. Trim his nails once a week and brush his coat daily.
  • Bathe him weekly with a hypoallergenic shampoo. And use a gentle moisturizer on his dry spots.
  • Keep your home clean and free of allergens. This includes cleaning carpets regularly, washing bedding frequently, vacuuming often, and removing clutter.
  • Use a humidifier during dry seasons.
  • Feed your pet a hypoallergenic diet.
  • Provide plenty of fresh water.
  • Avoid exposing your pet to extreme temperatures.
  • Check your pet’s ears weekly for signs of infection or ear mite infestation.

Frequently Asked Questions

The best way to help your dog is to keep him clean and dry. Bathe him once a week using a hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner. Make sure he has plenty of fresh water available for drinking. Keep his nails trimmed short and remove any dead hair around his ears. Also, avoid exposing your dog to dust mites and pollen allergens.

Feeding your dog with AD requires you to pay attention to several things.

  1. Make sure that your dog has access to clean water.
  2. Keep his nails trimmed regularly.
  3. Try to feed him a diet rich in omega fatty acids such as fish oil. Omega fatty acids help with allergies and chronic skin diseases in dogs. However, avoid feeding him foods containing wheat, corn, soybeans, milk products, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and chocolate.
  4. Limit exposure to pollen and dust mites.
  5. Use caution when giving medications.

Yes, dog skin allergies can be extremely painful for dogs. The best way to treat them is to keep your dog away from allergens such as grasses, trees, weeds, and other plants. If your dog has severe allergic skin disease reactions, he may need medication.

Your dog may be allergic to something he eats or comes into contact with. If you suspect this, try eliminating his food for a week and reintroduce one ingredient at a time until you find out what causes him to break out.

There are no known interactions between IDT and any other medications. However, since CYP3A4 metabolizes IDT, some medicines may increase the plasma concentration of IDT. Therefore, caution should be exercised when administering IDT concomitantly with these agents. The same applies to ASIS.

Dogs most commonly develop AD during the first year of life. However, some breeds are more prone to developing the disease than others. For example, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Boxer Dogs, Beagles, Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Chihuahuas, and Miniature Schnauzers tend to develop AD earlier than other breeds. Conversely, some breeds, like Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs, rarely suffer from AD.

You can help your dog avoid getting skin allergies by bathing him frequently. Bathing removes dirt and debris from your dog’s coat. It also helps remove dead cells and bacteria. You are bathing your dog once every two weeks is recommended. However, if your dog develops skin allergies, you may want to wash him more frequently.

Dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis may have dry, cracking skin on their body that can heal quickly but recur. As a result, dogs with atopic dermatitis are often itchy and may also experience redness, swelling, and scratching.

There are several ways to determine if your dog has atopic dermatitis. A skin test may be an excellent way to start. If the dog is reactive, that would suggest that they have atopic dermatitis. Some telltale signs of Atopy include recurrent skin infections, dry patches on the skin, redness, and allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching.

The best treatment plan for your dog’s atopic dermatitis will vary depending on its symptoms and medical history. However, some potential treatments include omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish oils), prescription corticosteroids, topical antibiotics such as clindamycin or erythromycin ointment, and emollients such as petrolatum or Shea butter.

Many things can help to manage and improve the condition. Some common treatments include Atopypical ointments and creams, antihistamines, desensitization therapy, avoided foods or ingredients (such as grains), environmental allergens avoidance, and exercise relief activities such as swimming or hiking and supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin D.

Genetics and exposure to allergens are likely contributors. For example, some breeds are more prone to developing allergies than others, and some dogs may be more sensitive to specific environmental allergens such as grasses or feathers.

In some cases, eczema can be mistaken for atopic dermatitis. Eczema is often a more itchy and severe form of the skin condition, while atopic dermatitis may be less noticeable but also cause dermatitis or inflammation of the skin.

Several natural remedies may help relieve symptoms. For example, a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce inflammation and itchiness. Regular bathing with a moisturizing shampoo and soap can also help improve skin conditions associated with atopic dermatitides, such as dryness or scaling. You may also want to give your dog’s coat a good brushing every few days to remove excess oils and dirt, which could contribute to developing this condition.

Cyclosporine may be a viable option for treating atopic dermatitis in dogs. Cyclosporine can improve the symptoms of atopic dermatitis and is effective in other species of animals. However, few studies evaluate the use of cyclosporine in dogs with atopic dermatitis, so it is unclear if this drug is effective and safe for this population. Therefore, discussing the potential benefits and risks of using cyclosporine with your veterinarian before initiating treatment would be advisable.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs can often cause the skin to smell bad. This is because of the inflammation and bacteria that are present.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs can appear as dry, scaly skin with redness and itching. The skin may also develop blisters or crusts.

Benadryl is an over-the-counter medication used to treat various allergies and medical conditions in people, including atopic dermatitis. Some studies have shown that Benadryl may help relieve symptoms of atopic dermatitis in dogs.

However, there needs to be more research to say whether or not Benadryl is effective and safe for treating this condition. Therefore, speaking with your vet about using Benadryl as part of your dog’s treatment plan is essential.

Atopic dermatitis is more commonly seen in dogs during the spring and summer months but can occur at any time of the year.

Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary disorder that can be passed down to dogs through their genes. However, your dog’s severity of atopic dermatitis may vary based on the individual dog’s genetics and environment.

Some breeds of dogs are more prone to developing this condition than others, but it can sometimes be clarified which ones. You should consult your veterinarian if you’re concerned about your pet’s skin health.

There is preliminary evidence that CBD oil may help reduce symptoms in dogs with atopic dermatitis. However, more research is needed to confirm these results.

Atopic dermatitis is common in dogs and can be seen in any dog breed. The incidence of atopic dermatitis is believed to increase with age, but it can occur at any time during a dog’s life.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this veterinary website is intended for general educational purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult a licensed veterinarian for any concerns or questions regarding the health and well-being of your pet. This website does not claim to cover every possible situation or provide exhaustive knowledge on the subjects presented. The owners and contributors of this website are not responsible for any harm or loss that may result from the use or misuse of the information provided herein.

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