Understanding allergic dermatitis in dogs

A look at allergic dermatitis, how it can affect your dog, and what you can do about it.

Allergic dermatitis is characterized by itching and sensitive, red, dry skin that leads to discomfort and even pain for the animal

Allergic dermatitis can be brought on by food, flea bites, contact allergies or environmental allergens (atopic dermatitis). Allergen avoidance is usually sufficient to resolve the situation, but in some cases, it is more complicated, such as in the case of Canine atopic dermatitis.

Canine atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is due to an immune system dysfunction and an epidermal barrier defect: the skin becomes thinner, dehydrated, porous and sensitive. It is a chronic condition, with relapsing acute episodes that require long-term management. Most dogs will first show signs between six months and three years of age.

Some breeds are known to be particularly at risk with a genetic predisposition to atopic dermatitis, including French Bulldog, Boxer, Westie, Pekingese, Bichon frise, and Retrievers.

The treatments

Canine atopic dermatitis can be managed with a variety of medications such as steroids, ciclosporine, or antihistaminic drugs. But to achieve effective, comprehensive and sustainable management of atopic dermatitis, a multimodal approach is imperative, including food, hygiene and antiparasitic control. For example, dermatologists in human medicine have been recommending the systematic use of topical moisturizers and emollients for decades in atopic patients, because they improve skin barrier function, reduce skin sensitivity, and spare the need for anti-inflammatory drugs.

Supplementation with essential fatty acids (such as Omega-6 and Omega-3) is crucial as they help reinforce the skin barrier whereas the animal is unable to produce it. Topical EFAs act directly and quickly, and are often easier to administer than oral supplements.

Natural ingredients such as phytoceramides and anti-inflammatory essential oils can also help soothe and repair the skin of atopic patients.

Another key point in atopic patients is the importance of good hygiene. Ensure your animal is routinely bathed to remove dirt, irritants, allergens and pathogens that can be responsible for skin inflammation. An adapted shampoo or rinse-free foam to help space out shampoo frequency is recommended.

Products specifically designed for atopic skin exist in various galenic forms, including:

  • Spot-ons such as ATOP 7® spot-on (Dermoscent® LDCA) will help soothe and repair the allergic skin of dogs and cats. They are easy to use – just apply one pipette a week on one point between the shoulder blades
  • Shampoos adapted to sensitive, irritated or allergic skins, such as ATOP 7® Shampoo, will eliminate the dirt and allergens from the skin surface while soothing and hydrating the skin.
  • Foams like ATOP 7® Mousse cleanse without rinsing and thus space out shampoo frequency
  • Sprays without steroids, like ATOP 7® Spray, will rapidly bring relief to itchy animals.
  • Creams such as ATOP 7® Hydra Cream are ideal for nourishing and bringing comfort to localized dry areas.
Previous articleHow managing your dog or cat’s emotional state takes the stress out of vet visits
Next articlePet theft
Dr. Lionel Fabries graduated from Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse in France in 1981 and completed a veterinary ophthalmology degree in 1982 prior to becoming a visiting scholar in the University of Florida as one of Prof. Kirk Gelatt’s staff during 1982-83. For over 30 years, he has been practicing medicine and surgery on small animals, mainly in ophthalmology and cardiology. He has played an active role as a member of the Board in the French Association of Small Animals Veterinarians and has given regularly lectures in the above mentioned two disciplines. As a member of the European Society of Veterinary Dermatology since 2004, Lionel attended numerous congresses and workshops, and has since developed his practice in dermatology. In 2003, he founded with two associates LDCA to offer a comprehensive range of dermo-cares for companion animals under the brand Dermoscent® to enrich veterinarians’ arsenal in addressing skin disorders.