Dog Dermatitis - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Dog Dermatitis - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Author WDF Staff | Last updated: Apr 10 2023


Our main duty as dog owners is to secure good health and happy life for our four-legged friends. Sometimes, some conditions can affect them no matter how hard we try. One common health issue that can affect dogs is dermatitis, a skin condition that causes discomfort and irritation.

To help you better understand what exactly dog dermatitis is, what the symptoms are, and what should be the correct treatment for your dog, stay with us and find out.

What is dog dermatitis?

Dog dermatitis is a commonly used phrase that describes inflammation of the skin. It can manifest in many forms, including:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Discomfort

Every dog is susceptible to developing dermatitis, regardless of breed, age, or size. However, some dog breeds are more likely to get this health problem.

To provide the best care for your dog, you must understand different dermatitis types, symptoms, causes, and possible treatments. Only that way will you be able to help your dog fully recover.


Types of dog dermatitis

Several skin conditions can affect our dogs, which are most commonly described as dermatitis, and they are

1. Allergic dermatitis

This type usually occurs when a dog has an allergic reaction to a certain substance like pollen, mold, or even certain food. Dogs' immune systems will overreact to this allergen, leading to skin inflammation.

2. Flea allergy dermatitis

For dogs that are over-sensitive to flea saliva, this is a type that can occur. A single flea bite could cause severe itching and inflammation for the dog.

3. Contact dermatitis

This type of dermatitis occurs when a dog's skin comes into direct contact with certain irritants or allergens, such as chemicals, different cleaning products, or certain plants.

4. Atopic dermatitis

This chronic skin disease is caused by a genetic predisposition to environmental allergens such as pollen, dust, or mold.

5. Pyoderma

This bacterial infection can develop secondary to other types of dermatitis, such as flea allergy dermatitis or atopic dermatitis.

RELATED: Pyoderma in Dogs - Causes & Treatment

Symptoms of dog dermatitis

Symptoms of dog dermatitis can vary depending mostly on the type, but also, given the fact that every dog is an individual, the symptoms they are experiencing can greatly vary. Some of the most common symptoms of dog dermatitis include

  • Redness and swelling of the skin
  • Itching and scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs, crusts, or open sores on the skin
  • Thickened or darkened skin
  • Unpleasant odor

If your dog displays any of these symptoms, you should immediately consult with your vet and possibly schedule a meeting to set a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Only that way will your dog be able to fully recover.

dog on street

Causes of dog dermatitis

The main cause of dog dermatitis will depend on the correct type of dermatitis, as we explain above. Causes can vary from overreaction to environmental allergens, hypersensitivity to flea salvia, and certain irritants.

Proper treatment of dog dermatitis

To be able to set a proper treatment for your dog, your vet will have to understand what type is bothering your dog and how severe this dermatitis is.

The most common treatment options include

  • Topical medications- to reduce the inflammation and itching
  • Oral medications – to address the underlying cause of dermatitis
  • Flea control product – to prevent and treat flea allergy dermatitis
  • Hypoallergenic diet – for dogs with food allergies
  • Regular bathing with medicated shampoos – to solve skin problems and remove allergens

For the more severe causes of dog dermatitis, your vet could recommend additional treatments such as immunotherapy or prescription medications.

Dog dermatisis diagnosis

If you suspect your dog has dermatitis, the best thing you can do is contact your vet and schedule a meeting. Your vet will do a thorugh examiation of your dog to dereteimne dog deramtitis. He may perform several tests to understand what underlying problem that is bothering your dog and what type of dermatitis is bothering him.

These tests could include the following:

  • Physical examination – to address the dog's overall health and reduce any skin abnormalities
  • Blood tests – to rule out underlying medical conditions and to check the immune system response
  • Skin scraping to examine cells under the microscope for any bacteria, parasites, or yeast
  • Food elimination – to determine if a food allergy is the main cause of the dermatitis

With these tests, your vet will accurately diagnose the correct type of dermatitis and will be able to set the right treatment for him.

Is there a way to prevent dog dermatitis?

As with most health problems, even dog dermatitis could be prevented with proper care. These are a few tips that you can use to ensure good skin condition for your dog and remove the possibility of him developing dermatitis.

  1. Regularly groom your dog to keep his coat clean and healthy
  2. Use flea products to prevent flea infection
  3. Avoid exposing your dog to irritants such as chemicals or dangerous plants
  4. Feed your dog a high-quality, balanced diet that will support his skin and coat
  5. Ensure enough daily activities for your dog that will reduce stress
  6. Regularly check your dog for any sign of changes in his skin and coat

When do dogs develop dermatitis?

Dogs can develop dermatitis at any age, but some types can happen at a certain age more often. Atopic dermatitis is most commonly seen in dogs aged 6 months to 3 years. Contact dermatitis could happen to any dog at any life stage when exposed to certain irritants or allergens.

Allergic dermatitis can also happen to any dog at any age, but it is most commonly seen in a young dog under the age of 3.

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