Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy)


Atopic dermatitis is a condition that occurs in UK dogs throughout the nation. The condition is caused by allergens interacting with the dog’s skin in the form of an allergic reaction.

Atopic dermatitis is also known by other names, for instance:

  • Atopy
  • Allergic inhalant dermatitis
  • Canine Atopy
  • Atopic Allergy

Currently the science on atopic dermatitis is divided (as of 2020) when it comes to the true actual cause. However, it is commonly believed that proteins in the air are the underlying root cause of the inflammation of the skin on dogs.

The troublesome proteins that have been identified as an issue range from, but are not limited to:

  • Grass pollen
  • Flower pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Mold Spores
  • Insect proteins

Younger dogs tend to be more at risk of atopic dermatitis but age is not a restriction.


Atopic dermatitis presents itself in dogs via numerous noticeable symptoms. Whilst many of these symptoms are obvious to spot, it is important to note that these symptoms also occur with various other dog health conditions.

The most common symptoms for atopic dermatitis in UK dogs are:

  • Persistent itching
  • Redness on areas of the skin
  • Presence of hives
  • Saliva stains on the skin (red/brown saliva)
  • Weeping of the eyes
  • Ear infections

Dogs will show signs of itching, redness and hives normally concentrated either on the face, legs or feet. The condition is not limited to these areas but 85% of recorded UK cases were for these areas as of 2019.

It is important to also note that atopic dermatitis or atopy is the number one cause in the UK for ear infections in dogs. The presence of an ear infection often results in discovery of atopic dermatitis.

Affected Breeds

All UK dog breeds can unfortunately suffer from this condition.

Whilst all dog breeds have been seen to catch the skin disorder, the following breeds are at a far higher risk:


Atopic dermatitis symptoms varies wildly depending on the individual dog and dog breed. Severity of the condition comes in may shapes and sizes and variables such as environment and the dog’s immune system come into play.

It is difficult to be sure but treatment for atopic dermatitis will in most cases fall into one of four categories:

  1. General Avoidance
    This involves removing the allergens from the dog’s environment. Alternatively, the dog may be removed from the environment if it is reasonable to do so.
  2. Symptomatic therapy
    Therapy to pinpoint the symptoms directly can include administering antihistamines, acid supplements and prescribed medical shampoo.
  3. Immunotherapy
    Immunotherapy is administered much in the same way as us humans receive the ‘flu jab’. The dog is injected with a vaccine allergen to help with immunity against that allergen infecting them in the future.
  4. Immunosuppressive therapy
    Immunosuppressive therapy involves the use of cortico-steroids like prednisone, cyclosporine or other prescribed medicines.

It is important to speak with a UK veterinarian to discuss which treatments are best for you and your dog.

Treatment Success Rate

Even though there are various treatments available in the UK for atopic dermatitis, a cure has not yet been found.

Many treatments have been seen to push the condition into remission with flare ups happening less and less regularly.

Monitoring of the dog for the foreseeable future is required once initial treatment has begun.

Regular check ups at the vet every 4-12 weeks initially are normally recommended with the visits then to be scheduled every 3-9 months after a successful initial treatment.

Leaving atopic dermatitis untreated can lead to serious mental health issues for your dog regardless of age, breed or exposure. Skin irritations can spread and become infected.

Further Reading

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