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Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. Updated: February 22, 2018
Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

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Canine atopic dermatitis, also known as AD, is a chronic skin disease that causes inflammation or hypersensitivity due to an allergy. Affected dogs scratch and rub constantly to try to ease their discomfort.

It mainly affects young dogs but can also occur in adults. Its origin is unknown but it is thought that there may be predisposing genetic factors.

In this AnimalWised article we will explain the typical symptoms of atopic dermatitis in dogs and provide some advice on appropriate treatment. There are also some natural remedies that may help to treat this troublesome disease.

  1. Causes and risk factors for atopic dermatitis
  2. Symptoms of atopic dermatitis
  3. Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis
  4. Treatment of atopic dermatitis
  5. Natural remedies for atopic dermatitis

Causes and risk factors for atopic dermatitis

Genetic predisposition seems to be the predominant factor in the development of atopic dermatitis and its incidence is significantly greater in dogs that are related to each other. However, the presence of allergens is necessary to develop the disease. The most common allergens include:

  • Pollen
  • Dandruff
  • Fungal spores
  • Chemicals used for household cleaning
  • Dust
  • Mites
  • Animal bites
  • Fertilisers
  • Wool
  • Feathers

However, it is thought that some breeds are more susceptible to developing atopic dermatitis, such as West Highland White Terriers, Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, Dalmatians, Shar-peis, German Shepherds or French bulldogs.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Causes and risk factors for atopic dermatitis

Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

Symptoms of the disease usually occur between 3 and 6 months of age, but often go unnoticed during the first year, and during that time they are weak and not obvious. As the disease progresses, they become more noticeable, and may include:

  • Scratching the skin
  • Licking the body
  • Biting the skin
  • Constant rubbing of the body (feet, face and stomach)
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Watery eyes
  • Skin discolouration
  • Discolouration of the coat in the affected areas
  • Skin lesions
  • Pustules
  • Scrapes
  • Open wounds
  • Cuts
  • Scabs
  • Skin scarring
  • Loss of hair
  • Skin infections
  • Irritated and inflamed ears
  • Ear infections
  • Thickened and darkened skin

If you notice any of these signs, go to the vet for a diagnosis and to make sure that your dog is suffering from this disease. Here we'll explain the diagnostic tests for canine AD.

Picture of ateuves.es:

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis

Diagnosis can be difficult because atopic dermatitis presents symptoms similar to many other skin conditions. However, based on the history of the dog, the veterinarian may request an allergy test.

This is sometimes done using a small blood sample, but these tests are not very effective. The most appropriate test is an intradermal analysis, in which small amounts of different allergens are injected under the dog's skin. Allergens that cause disease produce an immediate response.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Diagnosis of atopic dermatitis

Treatment of atopic dermatitis

There is no cure for atopic dermatitis, but proper treatment can mean a good quality of life for you furry friend. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease, specific causes, any possible secondary infections and other particular factors related to each case.

However, in general, treatment involves eliminating or reducing the presence of allergens that cause the dermatitis. If you cannot identify these allergens (something that is fairly common), controlling this condition involves removing environmental factors that have the potential to trigger it. Therefore, you will have to change the dog's environment, sometimes even changing their bed or their diet.

In more complicated cases, your dog may be prescribed corticoids. These drugs help reduce the problems related to atopic dermatitis, but produce side effects when they are used for a long time. Therefore, the veterinarian should decide how they should be used, as the dog will be medicated for life.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Treatment of atopic dermatitis

Natural remedies for atopic dermatitis

As mentioned above, there is no effective treatment for atopic dermatitis in dogs. Many people reject the use of corticosteroids on account of the effects they cause in the long term. For that reason, we at AnimalWised have some tips on helping your affected dog:

  • Avoid walking your dog first thing in the morning and evening, when there is more pollen in the environment. Mid-morning or evening are the best times.
  • Check the composition of your dog's food and ask your veterinarian whether it is better to opt for a higher quality food or a more natural option. Feed made up of rice and fish are often the most recommended for dogs suffering from allergies. Homemade diets are also an excellent choice.
  • Groom your dog on a daily basis to prevent the occurrence of dandruff , accumulated dirt and pollen.
  • Avoid mountainous areas during the autumn when fungal spores are most prevalent. Keep your dog away from these.
  • Sweep the floor daily to remove dust mites, dead skin, dust and dirt.
  • Clean your home with natural products that cannot cause allergies in dogs. An example is to clean your house using lemon, bicarbonate of soda or vinegar.
  • Do not use chemicals in your garden.
  • Use cotton or natural fabrics for your dog's bedding, clothes, etc. Avoid wool and feathers.

These are some simple tricks that can ease symptoms for your dog. However, remember to seek the advice of a vet, who will offer treatment according to your pet's particular case.

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Natural remedies for atopic dermatitis

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.

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my lab has atopic dermatitis, what is the best medicated shampoo for
her. also what could I use to help her with her itch she has a vet. but she needs a little exra.
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Candy,

In terms of medicated shampoo, we can't recommend anything in particular because there are so many different ones available worldwide. Our best advice is to speak to a vet for a recommendation, but if this costs you money, the next best thing is go to a few pet stores and ask them all for a recommendation. Go for the one which seems to have the best consensus.

Atopic dermatitis has no cure and its cause is relatively unknown. While genetics plays a factor, it does appear to have some immunodeficiency elements. Encourage overall health, give them quality food, observe for any changes and remove any stress where possible. Although s tress is not a causes, it can exacerbate symptoms.

Lastly, there are topical ointments which the vet can prescribe. Alternatively, there are some complementary products which might be able to help. While its efficacy is still in question, topical use of aloe vera has some evidence to suggest it can help skin issues. Read the folowing article for more, but ensure you speak to a vet and don't overuse it:

Larry Daniels
Hello. I am sending u a picture if my five month old new pit bull...the problem is...i don't know what type if dog it is and I hope you can tell me what type
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Larry

Thank you for your question

We can tell you that your pit-bull is definitely a mix of breeds. Can you send us a clearer picture of your dog so we can do some more research on the exact breed mix? Unfortunately we can’t tell a a lot from that picture.


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Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs