Dermatitis & Skin Care

canine superficial pyoderma

Welcome to our hub for skin problems in dogs and cats. This page explains the tests and treatments available to you and your pets. It also contains links to many other skin pages.

Have you read our article on the simple tricks you can do at home to help dogs and cats with itchy skin? These ideas help many pets with dermatitis feel more comfortable.

If you have a cat, please also read why skin problems in cats are different.

Why Dogs & Cats Itch, Lick & Scratch

dog fur mite
Cheyletiella mites are an unusual cause

Important causes include:

  • * common
    Read specific pages here on Foot licking, Ear infections & Mange

    Vets make the diagnosis by use of history, clinical signs, tests and treatment trials. The most common diagnosis requiring long-term therapy is atopic dermatitis. This is often also known as grass allergy or eczema.

    Treatment Of Atopic Dermatitis

    Here’s what vets can do, starting with the simplest and often the most important.

    Prevention of Self-Trauma

    dog licked wound
    He could only get to half the wound!

    Sometimes it seems like half our job is just keeping pets away from themselves so they don’t make it worse.Once a dog or cat has an itchy spot, they are irresistibly attracted to it. If you don’t quickly break the itch-scratch-lick cycle the skin will get worse and worse, until it becomes infected. Ask your vet for methods suitable for your pet.

    These will often be used together with the following skin treatments.

    Ointments & Creams

    Good for:

    • Preventing small areas of inflammation from spreading or getting infected
    • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic treatments
    • Spot-treatment to allow reduction in systemic doses

    Not good for:

    • Areas with hair. Sparsely haired or clipped areas are best
    • Any area that can be licked. These often worsen if cream is used
    • Broken skin

    Medicated Shampoos & Washes

    Good for:

    • Every dog. All should benefit from a wash chosen carefully with your vet
    • Fungal infections (Malaseb, Sebazole), bacterial infections (Pyohex, Pyoderm S), soothing skin (Aloveen, Epi-Soothe)

    Not good for:

    • Cats. Very few tolerate washing

    Read more here about how often to bath your dog

    Lotions & Sprays

    Good for:

    • Topical treatment of haired areas
    • Treating larger areas (some are not absorbed systemically)
    • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic treatments

    Not good for:

    • Treatment for longer than seven days
    • Broken skin

    Prescription Skin Foods

    This page explains diets for food allergy and dermatitis.

    Good for:

    • Dogs with food allergies
    • Additional skin support for all itchy dogs

    Not good for:

    • Pets sensitive to diet change
    • Animals with strict dietary requirements

    Antihistamines

    Click here for antihistamine doses for dogs

    Good for:

    • Some cases of allergy and hypersensitivity
    • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic cortisone
    • Treatment on a budget

    Not good for:

    • Patients needing stronger or more reliable treatments

    Cortisone (prednisolone, dexamethasone etc)

    Good for:

    • Widespread and severe dermatitis
    • Sudden flare-ups
    • Treatment on a budget

    Not good for:

    • Continuous use (intermittent use or every second day better)
    • Dogs & cats very sensitive to side effects of systemic cortisone
    • Animals at risk of diabetes, cushings disease, obesity, pancreatitis
    • Animals with infections

    Cyclosporin (Atopica™)

    Atopica was one of our first alternatives to prednisolone. We hardly use it any more (except in very specific diseases) due to the new products listed next…

  • Good for:

    Not good for:

    • Treatment on a budget

    Oclacitinib (Apoquel™)

    Apoquel is a tablet given once a day that inhibits inflammatory messenger proteins. You can read about the pros and cons of Apoquel here.

    Good for:

    Not good for:

    • Treatment on a budget
    • Cats (not suitable)

    Lokivetmab (Cytopoint™)

    Cytopoint is a monthly injection of a monoclonal antibody against interleukin-31. It is currently most useful for patients in which Apoquel has not been successful, and shares the same advantages and disadvantages.

    Allergy Testing & Referral

    Adelaide vet skin specialists can be found on this page.

    Good for:

    • Owners keen to try to identify a cause
    • A chance of a complete cure of allergies

    Not good for:

    • Treatment on a budget