No one likes to see their dog in pain. When they hurt, you hurt.
That’s why it’s essential to understand what kinds of ailments can cause them pain and discomfort. What may surprise you is just how similar we are to our furry friends-for example, dogs can have seasonal allergies too! But instead of sniffling and sneezing during pollen season, our four-legged pals respond to allergens with uncomfortable skin diseases and gastrointestinal problems instead.
These dog seasonal allergies are referred to as allergy (or atopic) dermatitis.
Read on to find out how to treat allergic dermatitis in dogs with specific skin care products and treatments (and learn to identify them in the first place).
What is Dermatitis in Dogs?
Defining canine atopic dermatitis is about understanding both the what and the why. Dermatitis is not just skin disease, it’s skin disease caused by allergies. These allergies can range from house mites to certain foods, meaning the symptoms can also vary. While it may be considered one of the common dog skin problems, it’s still irritating and uncomfortable for your pet to deal with. To get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies and dermatitis and get the most out of your visit to the vet, you’ll need to observe how their dermatitis is manifesting.
The most common problems in dog dermatitis to watch out for include:
- Hot spots
- Patchy hair loss
- Gastrointestinal discomfort
- Red, raised skin
- Greasy skin
How to Spot Dermatitis
Dermatitis in dogs is a genetic predisposition, meaning it affects some breeds more than others.
That’s why you should keep an eye out for any of the most common clinical signs or symptoms if your furry companion belongs to any of these breeds:
- Cocker Spaniels
- Old English Sheepdogs
- Golden Retrievers
- Irish Setters
- Most terriers
That said, any dog can suffer from canine atopic dermatitis. That’s why, no matter your dog’s breed, watch out for these common signs of allergy dermatitis:
- Compulsive licking or lick granuloma in dogs
- Scratching of their face, paws, ears, groin
- Watery eyes
If left undetected and untreated, atopic dog dermatitis can lead to painful secondary infection complications like:
- Dermatitis spreading to other parts of the body
- Bacterial infections (like staph)
- Yeast infections in the ear (caused by the overproduction of wax due to the allergy)
- In extreme cases, chronic ear infections can lead to deafness
Not only do these added complications cause further discomfort, but they can also accelerate the effects of allergic skin disease, making it more difficult to treat. If your dog is suffering from canine dermatitis, keep an eye out for skin infection, especially in areas with more skin folds, including:
Causes and Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs
To treat this tricky skin condition, you have to find the source. The main causes of the allergy dermatitis dogs have to deal with include:
- Bacterial flora allergies
In some cases, thyroid disease worsens these allergy symptoms, further complicating treatment and diagnosis. Most dogs will typically start showing signs between the ages of one and six years old , so keep a careful eye on their behavior when they’re still pups.
What to Do if Your Dog Has Dermatitis
It’s important to understand what allergen, or allergens, is causing canine dermatitis. If your dog is showing signs of atopic dermatitis, take them to their veterinarian as soon as possible. While dermatitis is rarely life-threatening, the discomfort it causes is enough to harm your animal (and your heart).
Clinical signs for allergy dermatitis are variable, so it’s important that you discuss your dog’s symptoms with your vet in detail. They will then be able to decipher these signs and suggest proper treatment.
Your vet may also run intradermal allergy testing or a blood test to identify the pesky allergens pestering your pup.
Treating the Itch
Once you have a proper diagnosis, you can start your dog’s treatment with veterinary supervision. Depending on their allergy symptoms, the cause of the dermatitis, and the extent of the skin condition, treatments include:
- If your dog is allergic to fleas, different flea control measures can nip the problem in the bud.
- For hot spot management, apply a topical treatment like antimicrobial sprays or hydrogels.
- To treat secondary skin and yeast infections, use antifungal and antibiotic medication.
- Supplement your dog’s skin health with supplements, like Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids.
- Bathing your dog with soothing medicated foam shampoo helps heal dermal ailments and relieve itching.
- Immunotherapy in the form of a hypo-sensitizing injection can help target the offending allergens, once and for all.
- Simple environmental changes can do a world of wonders for your dog’s health. If they’re allergic to certain plants, remove them from your home or backyard to prevent environmental allergy.
- To slowly increase exposure to new carbohydrates and proteins, implement a hypoallergenic diet into your dog’s treatment plan. This will help target any food allergy that may be the culprit.
Dare to Ditch the Dermatitis
Dermatitis, while uncomfortable and frustrating, is by no means unconquerable. The key to soothing your dog’s itching and scratching is to stay vigilant with their treatment. Improper care could result in your dog scratching skin raw. Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis rarely goes away. However, frequent check-ups and fastidious care will keep your dog happy and healthy for years to come. Keeping an eye on the signs and symptoms of dog skin allergies can help ensure they’re getting the help they need if the allergies worsen.
Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian
Dan Richardson has been a practicing veterinarian for over 10 years. He specializes in surgery and orthopedics. Dan is originally from rural western Nevada and attended the University of Idaho for undergraduate study and Oregon State University for Veterinary School. The Richardson Family enjoys camping and spending time on the water fishing, paddle boarding, or digging their feet in the sand somewhere warm.
- Animal Medical Center of Southern California. Canine Allergic Dermatitis: Causes and Treatment Options. https://animalmedcenter.com/canine-allergic-dermatitis/
- PetMD. Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_atopic_dermatitis