Atopic Dermatitis

Itching or pruritis can be a common clinical sign in both dogs and cats. There are a number of things that need to be ruled out as a cause for itching. 


  • The first thing is to make sure your pet is up to date with parasite treatment as your dog could have a flea allergy or a reaction to another parasite. Always use a product which has been recommended by your own veterinary surgeon. 


  • Your vet may recommend a diet trial to rule out a food allergy. This means using a diet where anything your pet may be allergic to in their food has been removed. This requires veterinary supervision and it can take up to three months for your pet to respond to a change in food.


  • If your dog is still itchy then they may have environmental allergies. This may mean your dog could be allergic a range of environmental factors, such as dust mites, pollen, trees or grass. If this is the case, often we see that pets are more itchy at certain times of the year such as spring or summer.




Allergy tests can be performed which may provide a specific diagnosis of the cause of skin disease in some dogs. This is usually done by a specialist practice. Small amounts of potential allergens are injected into the skin and an individual's response to each is determined. Your veterinary surgeon will discuss the best type of testing for your pet's condition.


If a diagnosis can be made to determine the offending allergens, your pet may be given injections to try and desensitize their immune systems reaction to this allergen. This can significantly reduce itching. Medication may still be needed if skin allergies flare up. 




Medication often has a key role in the management of atopic dermatitis. There are an ever increasing range of medications which vets can use to manage skin disease in dogs, including anti-inflammatories, antihistamines and other drugs which can alter the way the skin reacts during the process of inflammation. Antibiotics can also play a role in the management of skin disease when there is secondary infection. 


Skin supplements 


Skin supplements can improve and repair the skin’s natural barrier to allergens. There are a range of these available. 

Get a printable version here

This advice is for UK pets only.Written by vets. Please always seek advice from your own veterinary surgeon if you have concerns about your animal, never try to treat an animal yourself or give any medication without veterinary supervision.