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How to treat allergic dermatitis in dogs

Treating Allergic Dermatitis

Disclaimer: Our content is always reviewed and approved by a professional veterinarian. However, we recommend always reaching out to your dog's vet for any advice regarding your pup.

Like humans, our furry friends can experience uncomfortable, sometimes seasonal allergies. A very common seasonal allergy is allergic dermatitis.

As with any allergy, there is no cure, but there are plenty of steps you can take to manage your dog’s symptoms and ease the effects of the allergy. A few examples are to bathe your dog more often and to change his diet to a more wholesome option.

In this article, we’ve outlined the basics of allergic dermatitis such as what it is exactly, how it’s diagnosed and what are its symptoms, as well as how to treat/manage it to keep your pup healthy and happy.

What is Allergic Dermatitis?

Allergic dermatitis also called atopic dermatitis or canine atopy is an inflammatory skin condition connected to environmental allergies.

It’s the second most common allergy in dogs and, even though some breeds are more likely to suffer from this condition than others, any breed can develop allergic dermatitis.

The breeds that are most likely to develop this condition are:

  • Bulldogs
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Old English Sheepdogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Dalmatians
  • Irish Setters
  • Terriers

The allergens that cause allergic dermatitis can vary but, are usually common substances found around the house like grass, mold, dust mites, dog bed stuffing, other animals, smoke, amongst other things.

Sometimes, not unlike humans, the allergen flair-up is seasonal, typically showing up around spring or fall. However, some dogs sadly suffer from this all year long.

How Do You Know if Your Dog Is Suffering from Allergic Dermatitis?

When it comes to allergic dermatitis, dogs will usually start showing symptoms from the age of 3 months until 6 years old.

After this age, it becomes less likely for your dog to develop allergic dermatitis, though it’s not impossible. Dogs older than six will still be likely to get it if they experience a major environmental change.

Now, most vets tell us that it’s a rather “easy” condition to recognize as paw-parents. Typically, the symptoms start off mild and can get worst with time. These include:

  • Excessive scratching of the skin
  • Excessive licking, especially on the paws
  • Biting
  • Chronic ear and skin infections
  • Bad smell
  • Hair loss
  • Rubbing against the floor
  • Watery eyes
  • Cuts or scabs
  • Open wounds

When it comes to body areas most affected by allergic dermatitis, these include:

  • Ears
  • Underarms
  • Groin
  • Paws
  • Eyes
  • Ankles
  • Neck

How Is Allergic Dermatitis Diagnosed?

If you’ve noticed your dog showcasing the above symptoms, the next step will be to get him formally diagnosed, which your vet will do. Typically, this is done through a process of elimination by a few different methods.

1. Blood test: A small sample of blood is taken from your pup, then analyzed to understand his specific allergens. This is considered a non-invasive test.

2. Skin test: Your dog will need to be sedated for this test. Here, the vet will inject a small number of different allergens into your pup, and then assess, after a week or two, to determine how your dog reacted. If they have an allergy, the skin will likely turn red/bumpy.

In addition to these tests, the vet will likely also do a full body examination and investigate your pup’s medical history and background.

How To Treat Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs?

If the result of the tests is positive for allergic dermatitis, don’t fret too much, as there are effective treatments to support your pup.

Here are a few ways to treat, or rather manage your dog’s allergic dermatitis:

1. What are the allergens? Reducing and ideally eliminating the allergens is a good starting place. By doing this, it will help lessen your dog’s symptoms. If you have no idea what the allergen may be, and the vet doesn’t either, you can start a process of elimination. Try different items, one at a time, and keep note of different things that trigger the symptoms. You can start with bedding, diet, interactions with other animals, etc.

2. Medications from the vet: Your dog might need additional support for his symptoms. Common treatments include steroids, called oral corticosteroids, which should be administered by the vet, who will educate you about any potential side effects. Oral antihistamines are another common treatment.

3. Immunotherapy:  The idea of immunotherapy is to strengthen your dog’s immune system against allergens. Immunotherapy is the process of injecting small doses of allergens into your dog and often takes between 6-9 months. This form of therapy can help to alleviate symptoms but, it will not cure the condition.

4. High-quality diet: Avoid feeding your dog any dog food with chemicals, impurities, or foods that are soy-based. Use high-quality, grain-based dog food. Just keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to discuss it with your vet before changing your dog’s diet.

5. Probiotics: Probiotics are as healthy for dogs as they are for humans! It gives the gut “good” bacteria which, not only aids in health and digestion but also promotes healthy skin and reduces the itch.

6. Baths: More baths, please! You should consider enhancing your dog’s beauty routine, including weekly baths and regular grooming.

7. Consider the routine: In seasons when there is more pollen, consider your walking routine and try to avoid walks in the early morning as this is it when it’s most potent.

The condition is incurable, but with the correct management and vigilant check-ups with your vet, you can help stay on top of the discomfort experienced by your dog.

Can You Prevent Allergic Dermatitis?

It’s totally natural to want to protect your fur baby! Unfortunately, it’s not possible to prevent allergic dermatitis.

However, it’s possible to control it by implementing the measures mentioned above and managing their environment carefully.

Closing Thoughts

Allergic dermatitis is a common skin condition in dogs, and it’s nothing serious so rest assured your pup is not in any danger.

However, it’s a condition that can cause your dog a lot of discomfort so it must be addressed and managed with the help of a vet.

As an action plan, if you don’t want to try medication right away, try some tips at home first and evaluate whether they help ease your dog’s symptoms.

Cleaning your home more frequently, bathing your pup more regularly, and changing his diet are only a few examples of simple things you can try that could make your furry friend’s life more comfortable. – And who wouldn’t want that?

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