Getting to the bottom of Atopic Allergic Dermatitis can be very frustrating

There’s one condition in dogs that’s really frustrating for both the pet parent and for the attending veterinarian – that’s Allergic Dermatitis.

In a society where everything needs a quick fix, here’s an opportunity for a pet owner and veterinarian to patiently and systematically work together to assist a suffering animal. There’s nothing that tests a relationship more than trying to unravel a puzzle that doesn’t always have a happy and satisfactory ending.

The skin is one of the largest organs of the body and often shows in only a few ways that there’s something wrong internally but mainly in two ways, even though there might be several reasons that are layered over one another. The only two consistent signs are:

  • Inflammation – redness, hair loss and blisters or pustules
  • Itchiness

In cases that have been going on for a few months, the body tries to defend itself by thickening the skin and laying down pigment that causes brown blotches.


The most common chronic cause of allergic dermatitis in dogs is called Atopic Allergic Dermatitis. It’s caused by inhaled or ingested environmental substances that the body reacts to and the skin manifests as itching and inflammation. The problem comes in ruling out all the other causes of allergies before you can make this diagnosis. Both owner and veterinarian will give up after not having followed a systematic approach. Owners will jump from vet to vet and vets will keep starting from the beginning, and in the end both blame each other, and the total cost becomes too much.

There are many conditions to rule out; however, making sure the basics are covered helps to get to the bottom of the main cause:

  • Urticarial reactions sometimes caused by even simple parasites like mosquito and insect bites
  • Food
  • Contact allergens
  • Flea and tick bites
  • Ear mites
  • Even hormonal imbalances have been implicated
  • Your veterinarian will more than likely go through three areas of diagnostic decision-making
  • Parasitic
  • Infections
  • Allergenics


Once all the basic conditions causing allergic dermatitis have been ruled out, your veterinarian might suggest a blood sample or intradermal skin testing which tries to identify the environmental or ingested allergen that the dog’s reacting to. Leading veterinary dermatologists only suggest this if you’re prepared to consider immunotherapy for at least one year and only then judge the results.

Your job is to make sure all the basics are covered – that is, your dog is kept clean, dewormed, is on a good diet and that you keep ticks, fleas, insects and mosquitoes away. Become involved in your dog’s treatment and don’t expect a quick fix here. In summary – be patient, committed and part of the team trying to resolve a complex issue.

Shopping Cart