Does your dog itch too much? - allergy advice

Skin Allergy (Atopy)

This is a common, partly heritable skin condition which is often first seen between the ages of 2 – 4 years old. Certain breeds are more likely to suffer, e.g. Westies, English Bull Terriers. Your vet may diagnosis this condition after eliminating the many other problems that cause itching.


This condition affects areas such as the face,ears,feet,underside,rear and can show up with the following symptoms –

  • Itching – scratching/biting/licking/rubbing.
  • Inflammation – reddening.
  • Thickening / black pigmentation of skin in chronic cases.
  • Secondary bacterial infection. – boils/pimples.
  • Secondary yeast infection – causing greasy/smelly skin.
  • Pink/brown staining of feet in light coloured dogs (saliva stain).
  • Occasionally conjunctivitis and sneezing.


1. House dust mite droppings. 2. Pollens especially summer 3. Carpet fibres/dyes/shampoos/shake’n vac/floor polish/flash etc 4. Food allergies – eg wheat , dairy


1.Corticosteroids These are useful anti-inflammatories and usually reduce the animals discomfort. They are available in lots of different forms such as injections/tablets or locally applied cream. However they can have side effects so their use should be kept to a minimum. They may increase thirst/hunger and urination. Long term side-effects include diabetes,cushings disease and a reduced immunity. These risks are reduced by using minimum doses and alternate day therapy.

2. Antihistamines These can help in about 20% of dogs and may help reduce the steroid dose. Your vet may prescribe a combination of different anti-histamines.

3. Essential Fatty Acids These have been found to be useful in animals. It can take 4-6 weeks before an improvement is seen. Examples include evening primrose oil and borage oil.

4. Shampoos These can reduce secondary yeast and bacterial infections e.g. malaseb, etiderm, hexocil prescribed by your vet.

5. Flea prevention Fleabites will cause further irritation to an atopic animal so a flea treatment from your vet is recommemnded.

6. Hyposensitisation This involves a series of injections if the actual cause of the allergy has been identified. This can be achieved by tests at a veterinary dermatologist.

7.Reduce Exposure to any known allergen, if feasible, will reduce the symptoms.