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Have you noticed your dog excessively rubbing at his face, shaking his head and ears, chewing and gnawing at his paws and generally scratching?  If so, he may have a skin condition for which there are a number of possible causes.

The most common causes of your dog’s discomfort are likely to be:

  • Skin and/or ear infection
  • External parasites
  • Food allergy
  • Atopic Dermatitis

Your dog will need a thorough examination by your vet in order for the vet to make a diagnosis and prescribe appropriate treatment.  Your vet may also need to carry out skin tests such as skin scrapes and hair plucks.  Once skin and/or ear infection and external parasites have been eliminated, it is likely that your dog is suffering from a skin allergy of which there are two types – Atopic dermatitis or food allergy.  A food trial will need to be carried out to identify if a food allergy is the cause or if it can be eliminated.

If Atopic dermatitis is confrmed, there are a number of treatments available.

How do you identify the signs of Canine Atopic dermatitis?

This is a chronic itchy skin disease which can affect both dogs and humans.  It happens when the immune system reacts abnormally to allergens in the environment, causing symptoms such as:

  • Itching
  • Scratch marks
  • Redness
  • Discolouration of the skin
  • Skin thickening
  • Self-induced hair loss

The disease can affect just a few areas of the body or can be widespread across the whole body.

It is a disease that requires lifelong treatment and there are a number of treatments available.


Targets the immune cells involved in the allergic reaction and can be used for long-term control of the allergic response in your dog’s skin.  This medication is given orally.


This involves injecting your dog with doses of allergens identified during the skin test, causing them to build resistance.  Pet owners can be show how to administer the injections at home.


Generally effective at reducing or eliminating itching.  In most cases, better used for short-term control of itching as they can be associated with a number of side effects.


Help control itching especially in conjunction with other treatments.

Food Supplements

Some veterinary products contain essential fatty acids which have been found to help reduce itching in some dogs.  Often used as a supplementary treatment.

Topical Therapies

Shampoos, rinses and topical anti-itch solutions offer immediate but only short-term relief.


Often used to fight secondary infections and are usually given as tablets.

If you are concerned that your dog may have a skin condition, always consult your vet who will be able to advise the most appropriate treatment for your dog.

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