Canine Skin Conditions

There are a wide variety of causes for skin disease in dogs. Some of the more common conditions that we see here at Chapman Animal Hospital are due to allergies. Like humans, dogs can be allergic to a number of different foods, environmental allergens and parasites. Canine allergic skin disease is also known as canine atopy. 

Atopy is most often characterized by itching, mainly affecting the:  

  • Feet  
  • Face
  • Armpits 
  • Abdomen 

When dogs scratch themselves, it often leads to skin trauma which can result in a skin infection. The skin is the largest organ of the body and is one of the most difficult organs to treat successfully. This may be a life-long condition and require ongoing management. 

Omega 3 & 6 

These oils are good for not only skin and coat health but also joint protection. Fish oil capsules can be given once daily at a dose of 1000mg/10kg.  


Aloveen – Oatmeal based shampoos can help to relieve itching and soothe the skin. Bathing twice weekly can help to reduce the number of allergens on the coat and skin. Thoroughly bathe your dog then lather and leave on the coat for 10 minutes and wash off.  

Aloveen Leave on Conditioner – As well as helping to soothe the skin, it will also assist in creating a barrier to prevent allergens reaching the skin. You can apply this after bathing and on days between bathing, wiping down with a flannel and applying to affected areas. It also leaves the coat nice and soft and smelling lovely.  

Pyohex – Used for bacterial infections of the skin (your vet will advise you if you need this)  

Maleseb – Used for bacterial and yeast infections of the skin (your vet will advise you if you need this) 


Some animals have food allergies and this can present as skin disease. They can be allergic to anything within the diet, and is often ingredients they have received on a regular basis for a fair period of time.    

  • Proteins 
  • Carbohydrates  
  • Additives 

The best way to determine if there is an element of food allergy is to undergo an elimination diet. You can either feed a home-cooked version or buy prescription diet biscuits. 

  • Do not feed anything else during this time, including treats 
  • Continue for 8 weeks 
  • Medications should be minimal in order to see the full response of the diet change

Hills z/d is a hypoallergenic prescription diet. All of the proteins and carbohydrates are hydrolysed in this diet to prevent having an allergic reaction.  

Hills Derm Defence is a diet recommended for environmental allergies (atopic dermatitis) as it helps support the skin and normalise response to environmental irritants.   


Antihistamines – This can help to a reasonable degree in some cases. Please ask your vet for the right product and dose for your pet.  

Prednisolone – This reduces the immune response to allergens, which makes the allergic reaction less severe. It is also an anti-inflammatory which helps to reduce the itching. Unfortunately, there can be side effects seen with prednisolone medication. Routine blood testing is recommended if remaining on this medication long term. Some common side effects seen are: 

  • Increased thirst  
  • Increased hunger 
  • Blood in stools 
  • Weight gain 

Atopica – Cyclosporin is the active ingredient within the medication known as Atopica. Atopica reduces the immune response to allergens, as steroids do, but without the side effects you would expect to see from the prednisolone. Possible side effects can arise but they are not seen very often: 

  • Mild Vomiting & Diarrhoea 
  • Overgrowth of the gums 
  • Lethargy 

Apoquel – Apoquel is a new medication available for dogs. It is a tablet given daily that acts on the mediators within body which instigate itching and inflammation. This is a very effective medication for reducing itchiness and can make a huge difference in your pet’s quality of life. Vomiting and diarrhoea are the most common side effect observed in studies. For more information, see 

Cytopoint – Cytopoint works in a similar way to Apoquel but is a 1ml injection that goes under the skin of your pet. It shown to be effective for treatment of allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis in dogs. It begins working within 24hrs and is expected to last 4-8 weeks. It is safe to use in dogs of all ages and has no reported side effects. For more information, see

Desensitisation Vaccines 

This can be achieved by finding out what the animal is allergic to then exposing them to an increasing level of these allergens until the body stops recognising it as foreign, and therefore stops initiating an allergic reaction. This can be done two ways: 

Blood Testing 

This involves collecting a blood sample and sending it off to a specialist lab where they identify a list of allergens, including food allergies (although this can be inaccurate), and develop a vaccination course that will last for 6-8 months. This can be followed by a maintenance course which some animals may need to maintain a response. The lab expects to achieve a 75% resolution, so you may still have to medicate, but hopefully only 25% of the time. The injections start every 2 days and reduce to every 10, then reduce again to injections every 30 days (which involves at home injections). The cost is around $960 initially, followed by maintenance refills, if required, which are around $450.  

Referral Dermatologist    

The Dermatology clinic that is usually based at Murdoch University in Perth and visit Geraldton once a quarter. Appointments are made through them and the specialists there will assess and decide what course of action is best for your pet. Before going to the Derm clinic, it is important to make sure your pet has regular flea prevention so this can easily be ruled out as a possible cause of some of your pet’s problems. We should also ensure a food elimination diet has been performed, or you may be instructed to do this before beginning other therapies. They may perform intradermal skin testing if they suspect atopy. This involves sedating your animal, injecting multiple allergens into the skin, and measuring the inflammatory response. This is more accurate than the blood sampling mentioned previously, but requires specialist equipment and is expensive. The Derm Clinic usually perform desensitisation via rush therapy, which means allergens are injected regularly over an 8-hour period in hospital where animals are monitored to ensure they are treated promptly if an anaphylactic reaction were to occur. This treatment would usually mean you don’t have to inject at home. You can expect to pay in the region of $2000 for a referral and skin testing.