Dermatitis In Dogs – Symptoms, Types, & Treatment

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Author: Jacob Kay

Dermatitis in Dogs is quite a common condition and a frustrating one. When your furry friend has inflammation of the skin which in turn causes redness, itchiness, dryness, or irritation, then they have dermatitis. There are different causes which may trigger this condition.

Allergies, parasites, or environmental factors are some prominent causes of this condition in dogs. You may see dogs showing symptoms based on the severity or different type of dermatitis. In this article, I will provide you with details regarding different types and also discuss the treatment for dermatitis in dogs.

Dermatitis In Dogs

Dermatitis in dogs is a skin condition which triggers inflammation, itchiness, redness, dryness, and irritation. Your furry friend may suffer from dermatitis when – exposed to parasites (fleas, ticks, mites), have allergies, suffer from infection, or because of the surrounding environment.

Dog Dermatitis Symptoms

  • Itching

Itching is a typical sign of dog dermatitis. Your furry friend feels distressed and uncomfortable in a specific region or in their entire body. To tackle the discomfort, they begin to chew, scratch, and lick their skin. This can elevate the symptoms and cause more irritation and lead to infection as well. Also, if it’s left exposed or untreated, the damage is severe.

  • Dryness

When a dog’s skin fails to retain moisture and produce natural oils, its skin becomes dry. This dryness is because of dermatitis. The dryness can make the skin brittle, scaly, or cracked. In addition, the dog with dry skin may also have an infection and their itching may worsen.

  • Redness

If you observe redness on a dog’s skin then it’s an indication of inflammation. Dermatitis can cause inflammation which leads to this redness of the skin. Sometimes you may also observe the pink colour.

Your dog may have this redness in any part of their body but, mostly it’s found near areas with less hair i.e. near the belly, paws, or ears. In addition, redness is also a potential indication of bleeding under the skin or infection.

  • Hair loss

Excessive scratching, licking or chewing of skin are underlying factors for hair loss. Dermatitis damages the hair strands and causes hair loss. The thinning exposes the skin beneath making it susceptible to irritation or itching issues.

  • Rash

The slightest change in the texture of the skin or an abnormal change in the appearance of the skin is referred to as a rash. Dogs having Dermatitis may have different types of rash. They may have blisters, bumps, pustules, or crusts. Further, a rash may also suggest an allergic reaction, a parasite infamy, an infection, or a chronic skin condition.

  • Odour

Overgrowing bacteria or yeast on the skin causes bad odour and is a sign of dermatitis in dogs. The smell is yeasty or greasy. It also suggests a possible infection or hormonal imbalance.

  • Thickening of skin

If you notice some regular changes in skin textures, and colour in your dog, like thickening, scarring or darkening, it may suggest dermatitis. This change makes it tough for dogs’ skin to heal and function properly.

These were some of the indications or symptoms suggesting dermatitis condition in a dog. Now, there are different types of dermatitis that dog suffers from. Atopic dermatitis is the most common one after flea allergy dermatitis. Let’s begin with understanding this type.

Atopic Dermatitis In Dogs

Atopic dermatitis in dogs refers to a chronic skin disease which causes inflammation and itching. These issues happen because of allergies. It is also known as atopy. In general, this disease is also referred to as cAD i.e. Canine atopic dermatitis. Basically, it’s the canine version of ‘eczema‘ in humans.

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  • Atopic dermatitis dog – causes

There are many factors contributing to atopic dermatitis in dogs. Grass, dust, mould, or pollen are the substances which can trigger this condition. These allergens can also cause immune system reactions in some dogs.

Some dogs are vulnerable to this disease. Poodles, Bulldogs, Shi Tzus, and Golden retrievers are likely to suffer from atopy. Generally, dogs who are of age 1-6 are more prone to atopic dermatitis. They either suffer from allergic reactions or have a genetic disposition.

  • Atopy in dogs symptoms

The symptoms of atopy include itching, rubbing, scratching, licking, redness, dryness, rash, hair loss, odour, and thickening or darkening of the skin. Areas affected while suffering from atopy are ears, feet, underbelly, muzzle, around the eyes, armpits, base of the tail, groin, and in between the toes.

In addition, based on allergen exposure the symptoms can get worse over time. In such a situation, treatment becomes necessary.

  • Atopy dog diagnosis

Diagnosis for atopic dermatitis in dogs will include different tests. These tests are performed on skin samples or blood samples. This helps in identifying the allergens, serologic allergy testing or intradermal testing is conducted for this.

Serologic allergy testing – this test is for examining antibodies in the blood. The results are not always reliable but, the quality of this type of testing normally relies on the laboratory which analyses the results.

Intradermal testing – recognises the cause of the pet’s allergic reaction. In this test, small allergens are injected into the skin and the red bump is measured.

  • Atopic Dermatitis in dogs treatment

The treatment involves reducing inflammation and itching using supplements, medications, baths, or hyposensitization therapy. The allergens causing the issue are also reduced significantly.

  1. Medications – antihistamines, immunosuppressants, corticosteroids or immunomodulators, are some of the medicines useful in treating atopic dermatitis in dogs. They help in reducing itching and inflammation. However, they also have side effects like increased appetite, thirst, urination, weight gain, or liver damage.
  2. Supplements – omega-3 fatty acids, probiotics, herbs, or antioxidants are helpful in supporting the skin’s health and function. They will also help in improving the immune system.
  3. Hyposensitization therapy – this therapy is also referred to as shots or drops. A small quantity of allergens which cause reactions over time is injected or administered. The therapy can work for atopy dogs but, will demand long-term commitment and frequent administration from a vet.

Dog dermatitis – additional types

Atopic dermatitis is common but, there are many other types. Let’s have a closer look at each of these types:

#1 Contact dermatitis

This type of dermatitis occurs when a dog’s skin is exposed to some object or is in the surrounding which can trigger irritation or sensitivity. Chemicals, plants, or medications can trigger an allergic reaction and a dog may suffer from dermatitis. So, your furry friend may walk on the lawn and pick up the symptoms of the disease.

Substances that irritate the vulva or cause vaginitis in dogs can also sometimes spread irritation to surrounding skin through licking

  • Symptoms

Your dog’s skin will have itching and inflammation. It can also lead to blisters, redness, loss, hair, or infection. Normally, the areas such as the belly, face, feet, or ears are affected.

  • Treatment

There are no specific tests for diagnosis but, by observing the symptoms of a dog, a vet may execute skin scrapings, bacterial cultures, fungal cultures, or biopsies for ruling out other skin problems. They might also provide some topical treatment for healing the skin and some medications for recovery.

#2 Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD)

Flea allergy dermatitis in dogs is a reaction to flea saliva that is injected when a flea bites the dog. It can cause infection in dogs of any age or breed. However, some breeds are susceptible to this condition. To get immediate relief, dog owners often wonder what kills fleas instantly on dogs?

In addition to fleas, other biting insects like gnats can also pester dogs and lead to skin irritation. Learning how to keep gnats off dogs can be helpful.
  • Symptoms

A dog has extreme itchiness and redness on their skin. Their lower back, hind legs, and tail base have more itchiness and redness in comparison with other body parts. FAD can also initiate scabs, hair loss, crusts, soreness, infections, ulcers, behaviour change, and inflammation.

  • Treatment

Flea allergy dermatitis condition is treated with the help of symptomatic relief and stringent flea control. Using flea control in the house and outside helps in dealing with the fleas but, make sure you use a safe solution. There are plenty of topical and oral products available for flea treatment.

Symptomatic relief includes topical treatments or medications for controlling inflammation and itchiness. Medications useful for treating FAD are – antibiotics, antihistamines, corticosteroids, or anti-inflammatories to control itchiness and inflammation in dogs. However, if you wish you can also use creams, shampoo, lotion, and ointments for controlling the symptoms.

#3 Yeast dermatitis

A dog may suffer from Yeast dermatitis when there is excessive growth of Malassezia pachydermatis on their skin. Yeast dermatitis is a chronic condition. The causes normally indicate a dog suffering from other medical conditions such as diabetes, atopic dermatitis, and obesity. In addition, their medications, immunosuppression and other environmental factors also lead to this disease making their skin warm and moist.

  • Symptoms

You may see a dog’s skin appear scaly, greasy, or flaky if they have Yeast dermatitis. This also indicates that they are suffering from burning, stinging, itchiness, or redness. Because of this irritation, you may see them lick, scratch, bite, or lick their skin.

In addition, you may also see rash which looks darker or lighter than their usual skin colour. Yeast dermatitis can affect any area of your furry friend’s body. However, the symptoms are normally observed near their paws. ears, and skin folds.

  • Treatment

When a dog is diagnosed with Yeast dermatitis, oral antifungal or topical medications are used for the treatment. A vet may also provide some additional medicines to address the underlying medical conditions and other causes which is causing Yeast dermatitis. This can help in reducing the symptoms and the treatment for yeast dermatitis is executed properly.

Further, to prevent infection issues initiating yeast dermatitis, you can groom your dog regularly. This will help in containing allergens and the chances of dogs suffering from itchiness or infection are reduced significantly.

#4 Pyotraumatic dermatitis (Moist dermatitis or Hot spots)

A dog is suffering from pyotraumatic dermatitis when you see them licking or scratching its skin. This is often referred to as self-inflicted trauma and a dog does this because of irritation triggered by allergies, fleas, anal sac issues, ear infections, painful lesions, foreign bodies and so on.

  • Symptoms

The dog’s skin appears moist and red, and there are painful lesions which spread rapidly because they continuously bite, lick or scratch on the affected area. This condition is also referred to as moist dermatitis or hot spots.

  • Treatment

This dermatitis is treated with clipping and cleaning of the affected skin area. This is done using anti-inflammatory agents and topical antiseptic. The Elizabethan collar is also one possible way of preventing a dog from inflicting further pain on the affected area. In some cases, corticosteroids or antibiotics are required for the treatment.

#5 Sarcoptic mange (Canine scabies)

A dog suffering from sarcoptic mange probably has microscopic mites in their skin. These mites dig into their skin and cause itchiness. The dog also starts losing their hair because of this. Mites also make our canines allergic to it and its poop.

These mites easily spread across and infect other canines and animals. In fact, people in close proximity to such dogs or animals risk infecting themselves.

  • Symptoms

Sarcoptic mange makes a dog’s skin look red, and it becomes bumpy, crusty, and thick. They also make skin itch and loose hair. Mites prefer going to dogs’ ears, hocks, and elbows. so, you may see a dog scratch, bite, or lick those areas all the time.

  • Treatment

The treatment for dogs suffering from sarcoptic mange involves killing mites. Drugs like ivermectin, moxidectin, selamectin, or isoxazolines are used for this purpose. In addition, medications such as corticosteroids and antibiotics are also used for treating inflammation and infection.

If there are multiple dogs in the house, all of them will require this treatment. One can also keep their coat clean and moist-free for minimising the chances of infection. Avoid places or interactions with animals or other canines who may have this condition.

#6 Acral lick dermatitis (Lick granuloma)

If you observe your dog constantly licking a particular area of their fur, for instance, on their paws or, legs then, they possibly have acral lick dermatitis. Such licking behaviour is initiated when the dog’s skin hurts or itches excessively.

In addition, boredom, allergies, infections, parasites, arthritis, nerve damage, compulsive disorder or anxiety can also trigger such behaviour.

  • Symptoms

Acral lick dermatitis makes the dog’s skin infected, ulcerated, and inflamed. In addition, the skin of dogs becomes thick, and hairless and they feel more pain. To deal with such irritation and pain they lick the same spot for hours and end up creating a wound.

  • Treatment

A vet will analyse the dog’s behaviour before proceeding with the treatment for Acral lick dermatitis. The first basic step is to stop them from biting or licking their skin. For containing such behaviour, a vet might use medicines which can help reduce inflammation and stop licking behaviour.

Further, for treating the infection, they may also leverage laser therapy or acupuncture. These treatment strategies are required for extensive cases. Also, as per the symptoms, a vet might suggest psychopharmacologic and behaviour modification medications for controlling compulsive behaviour and reducing stress.

Dermatitis Dogs Treatment

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We saw different types of dermatitis their diagnostics, and treatments. In this section, we will explore the general prospects for treatment for dermatitis in dogs. The basic step before proceeding with the treatment is an examination of the skin and observing symptoms. A vet may also inquire about the medical history to rule out any other underlying condition.


For diagnosis, a vet may use the following strategies for identifying the issue:

  • Flea comb

For checking the presence of flea dirt or live fleas, a vet will use a fine-toothed comb. This helps in seeing if there is any flea infestation and if so, they can proceed with the treatment accordingly.

  • Skin scrapes

The vet may use a scalpel blade for scraping the top surface of a dog. They take this scrape sample for examination. While analysing the sample under a microscope, they will look for mites and any other tiny dirt particles or parasites which reside under their skin causing hair loss, redness, or itchiness.

  • Tape strips

For collecting small samples of skin cells from a dog’s skin, a vet might use a sellotape. Using these samples, they will try and recognise the bacteria or yeasts under their microscope which are causing inflammation issues.

  • Wood’s lamp

UV light can help in detecting different types of fungal infections (ringworm). So, a vet might use it and shine on the dog’s skin, particularly on the patches which can potentially cause hair to fall out or make the skin flaky in round spots.

  • Hair plucks

At times, the vet plucks some of the hair from the dog’s skin. Afterwards, they will examine them under a microscope and detect fungal and parasitic infections which affect the hair follicles.

  • Blood tests

A blood sample of the dog is taken for identifying if the dog is suffering from allergic dermatitis. A vet will take the blood sample and test it. The results help in analysing whether or not there was an immune reaction to any particular food item or substance.

In addition, the test results also help in determining what is causing the allergic reaction. This can benefit significantly as it provides with insights into substances or items and a dog owner can avoid those environments or items for preventing infection.

These were the tests which are useful for diagnosing dermatitis. Some of these tests may mandate sedation of the dog. The sedation becomes crucial while dealing with sensitive body areas such as eyes or paws.

Treating dog dermatitis

The treatment for dog dermatitis will rely on different factors. Here are some of the factors affecting the decision:

#1 Type of dermatitis

As we saw earlier, there are various types of dermatitis and the treatment for each type differs as per their causes and symptoms. For example, bacterial dermatitis requires antibiotics, flea dermatitis will mandate flea control, inflammatory dermatitis is dealt with using anti-inflammatories, and so on.

#2 Severity of dermatitis

The severity of dermatitis is one of the most significant factors which influence the decision of the treatment. Because based on the skin’s appearance, irritation, redness and the extent of the symptom, a vet decides on the treatment.

For instance, localised dermatitis will require topical treatment whereas generalised dermatitis may demand oral or injectable treatment. In extreme dermatitis conditions, using additional treatment strategies becomes important. For example, the use of protective devices or corticosteroids for controlling inflammation.

#3 Underlying condition

Sometimes the dermatitis condition in dogs is triggered because of some underlying condition. For instance, a dog has allergies, arthritis, nerve damage, anxiety, parasites, or compulsive scratching or licking behaviour can lead to dermatitis. So, the vet will pick a treatment which helps to tackle such underlying issues and prevent inflammation.

#4 Owner’s preference

Sometimes a vet has to change the treatment plan as per the dog owner’s preference. This is a tricky situation, and vets often hesitate while changing the course of treatment based on the owner’s compliance.

This happens because many owners are either preferring natural treatments to avoid injection of drugs and medications while some clients are retired vets and demand a specific treatment. While this is normal, a dog’s health is compromised.

#5 Treatment response

Treatment response means how well will a dog respond to the treatment. A vet has to conduct a thorough assessment and pick the best possible treatment for the dog. This basically indicates that some dogs may respond well to a short course of treatment while others may need extensive treatment.

Yes, symptoms play a crucial role in deciding on the treatment but, a dog’s physical capacity is also taken into consideration. Because it’s possible that some treatment may trigger side effects and it may require a vet may have to start the treatment from the beginning.

Now, let’s have a peek at different treatments for a dog suffering from dermatitis.

#1 Flea control

For dogs suffering from flea dermatitis, one can use flea-repelling products to get rid of the fleas. If you have multiple dogs at home, you’ll have to treat each of them. Using a spray spread the product across the household and kill the fleas.

#2 Antibiotics

The vet will suggest using antibiotics if a dog has bacterial dermatitis. The prescription will contain topical antibiotics or oral ones for treating the infection issue. If the symptoms are severe, you may have to use them until the infection is gone. This may take a few days, weeks, or even months.

#3 Anti-inflammatories

For dealing with inflammatory dermatitis, a vet will suggest some NSAIDs or corticosteroids. These medications will help in reducing itching and swelling. As per the vet’s recommendation, you may have to keep offering your furry friend these medications for complete recovery.

#4 Antihistamines

Dogs suffering from allergic dermatitis are given antihistamines. The vet will prescribe topical or oral antihistamines for controlling the allergic reaction. The itching is reduced and depending on the dog’s response to treatment, the vet may alter the dosage.

According to the AAHA guidelines, antihistamines can be used to treat dermatitis in dogs. However, their efficacy is low, and they work best when used in conjunction with other therapies for patients with mild signs of atopic dermatitis.

#5 Antifungals

Treatment for Fungal dermatitis includes topical or oral antifungals. Follow the dosage instructions and your dog will show signs of recovery within a few days. Your vet may also suggest you clean up their bedding, groom them and make sure their toys are clean for avoiding infection in future.

#6 Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is also known as hyposensitization therapy. This treatment is used when dogs are not responding well to other treatments. Small amounts of allergens are injected into the dog’s system to desensitise the immune system. This helps in reducing the allergic response gradually. The treatment can take days, weeks or months to show results.

Dog Dermatitis – Preventive Measures

As a dog owner, it’s a natural instinct to think about how to prevent dermatitis in dogs. Especially if you have a dog breed which is prone to skin allergies. So, here are some of the preventive measures you can consider for preventing dermatitis in dogs:

  • Maintain skin hygiene

For preventing allergies and infections you must regularly bathe your dog. Use a shampoo for cleaning their fur properly but, make sure you don’t use any product which may cause irritation.

Bathe your dog regularly using best antibacterial and antifungal dog shampoo uk to prevent microbial infections

  • Avoidance strategy

As a dog owner, you are aware of what allergies your dog has. Also, if you know what food item or environment triggers them you must avoid using such items or taking your furry friend in such an atmosphere.

So, if your dog is allergic to some fabric, detergent, or any such item, you must put it away. Minimise the exposure and make sure they are not able to find it.

  • Flea control

You must use different flea-repellent products and ensure your house is free of fleas. Using flea repellents can also remove dirt and debris from a dog’s coat. However, make sure that the repellent you use is dog safe.

  • Socialisation

Boredom, anxiety, and compulsive behaviour can cause dogs to lick their skin, scratch it or bite. While there is no immediate impact of such activities, you must make sure your furry friend doesn’t feel such emotions.

Providing regular exercise, playtime and social interaction is crucial to avoid such scenarios. This helps in keeping them in good shape and also provides them with the necessary stimulation.

  • Monitor the dog’s weight

A dog’s diet has a crucial impact on their skin health and weight. Now, this may seem strange, but, obesity can also cause irritation and infection in dogs. Obese dogs have more skin folds and pressure points can lead to infection or irritation which can lay grounds for dermatitis as well.

On the other hand, underweight dogs have poor skin quality and healing capacity. This low healing capacity makes them susceptible to infection. Hence, it’s crucial to maintain a nutritious diet for avoiding such issues. You can also seek advice from a professional nutritionist or vet for feeding a balanced diet and maintaining weight.

  • Protect the skin from sunburn or frostbite

If the temperature is extreme, your dog’s skin will suffer some serious damage. Sunburn is a definite prospect. It will make the dog’s skin red, and cause blisters, peeling and possibly skin cancer. The itchiness resulting from sunburn can often cause dermatitis in dogs.

Contrary to hot temperatures, extreme cold temperatures can cause Frostbite in dogs. This can make skin more numb, and cause swelling and blisters. Sometimes tissue death is also a possibility. These changes can trigger dermatitis in dogs. Hence, it’s crucial for dog owners to protect their dog’s skin from both extremely hot and cold temperatures.

  • Use natural remedies for soothing dog’s skin

If your furry friend has a rash or itchiness in their skin, you can use some natural remedies for relieving them. It’s possible that using natural remedies such as aloe vera, chamomile tea, coconut oil, apple, cider vinegar, herbal extracts, and honey, or giving oatmeal baths can help in dealing with itchiness and prevent dermatitis.

Regular grooming can also help soothe itchy or irritated skin. But how often should a dog be groomed for this purpose? Dogs with dermatitis may need more frequent grooming with natural remedies to provide relie

These were some of the preventive measures you can use. Remember, these will help in maintaining the existing skin health and improve it not cure dermatitis. So, if your furry friend is showing excessive symptoms of itchiness, swelling, and redness on their skin, you must consult a vet and seek their advice.

You can try giving your dog small amounts of the best antihistamine for dogs UK like loratadine or cetirizine to help soothe skin irritation and rashes.


What dog breeds are prone to dermatitis in the UK?

English Bulldogs, Pugs, Basset Hound, Cocker Spaniels, Shar-pei, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and French Bulldogs, are some of the dog breeds in the UK which are prone to dermatitis. Dog owners owning these breeds must remain vigilant and maintain their furry friend’s skin health.

What causes eczema in dogs?

Eczema in dogs is a condition where a dog suffers from itchiness and inflammation. Eczema on dogs also makes them scratch, lick, or bite the affected area. The symptoms get worse after such activities from the dog. Treatment is necessary for treating this condition. Dog eczema treatment relies on cause and type. There are two types – wet and dry. Wet eczema includes topical antibiotic ointments, Potassium permanganate solution, and other anti-inflammatory drugs for treatments and whereas in dry eczema, Calcium chloride injections, Moisturising creams, Vitamin C are used for treatments.

How will I know I have an atopic dog?

Atopic dogs are the ones that have a genetic predisposition for allergic reactions when exposed to different allergens in the surrounding environment. Dust mites, pollen, mould, or dander can cause allergic reactions in atopic dogs. Dog atopy is treated after identifying and preventing allergens which cause allergic reactions in atopic dogs.

What is puppy dermatitis and is it curable?

Puppy dermatitis is a common term referring to different skin diseases such as allergic infections, fungal, and bacterial, that affect our young canine’s health. Puppies show symptoms like pain, hair loss, itching and irritation while suffering from such skin allergies. With proper treatment, Puppy dermatitis is curable.

Dermatitis In Dogs – Final Take

Dermatitis in dogs is a frustrating condition and a dog faces some severe skin allergy symptoms while suffering from it. Treating dermatitis in dogs is easy but, you need to consult a vet for identifying the cause and symptoms for providing the best care.

Skin allergy dog treatments involve using medications, making changes in diet on the vet’s recommendation, and using topical products. However, before you plan on using any medication for treating the dermatitis condition in your dog, you must consult with your vet. This will ensure there isn’t any side effect of using any medication.

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Jacob Kay
Jacob Kay is a Veterinary Advisor and Editor at WWD. He’s also a dog lover and has two pet dogs of his own. He has extensive knowledge in the field of veterinary medicine and is always happy to share his insights with others.

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