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Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs

By: Dr. Erika DePapp

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Allergic dermatitis is a general term to describe a group of skin allergies that may be caused by a multitude of factors in dogs.

Allergies are immune reactions to a given substance (allergen), which the body recognizes as foreign. These reactions occur following initial exposure to the allergen, with subsequent development of a hypersensitivity that causes itching and inflammation upon future exposures.

The most common classes of allergic dermatitis seen in dogs are:

  • Flea bite allergy
  • Food allergy
  • Atopy – an allergic condition caused by inhaled allergens, or absorption of allergens through the skin

    Less common are:

  • Drug reactions
  • Hormonal allergies
  • Bacterial allergies
  • Allergies to other parasites (mites, intestinal worms, ticks)
  • Contact allergies (due to topical treatments or exposure to fibers, floor polish and detergents)

    Atopy and flea bite allergy are usually seen in young adults, whereas food allergy can be seen at any age. There are a number of canine breeds predisposed to the development of atopy. And some animals may be prone to development of certain allergies due to genetic factors. Allergic signs may be seasonal, depending on the cause of the allergy.

    What to Watch for

  • Scratching, licking, chewing or biting the skin, feet and ears.
  • Red, raised, scaly areas on the skin
  • Bumps, crusts or pus filled vesicles on the skin
  • Increased skin pigmentation
  • Thickened skin
  • Loss of hair
  • Salivary staining (brown color)
  • Head shaking

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