Dermatitis is a common yet uncomfortable skin condition in dogs, marked by itching, inflammation, and irritation. Learn about the various causes, from allergies to environmental factors, along with symptoms, diagnosis, and effective treatment options to help soothe your dog’s discomfort and improve their skin health.

In my veterinary practice, I consult with many pet parents regarding dermatitis in dogs. This skin condition manifests as persistent scratching, redness, and irritation on the skin.  

Read on to learn about the causes of dermatitis in dogs and their symptoms, discover effective treatment options, and explore ways to prevent flare-ups to ensure your furry friend's skin remains healthy and comfortable.

What is Dermatitis in Dogs?

Canine dermatitis is a common condition used to describe inflammation of the skin. There are different types of dermatitis, caused by reactions in the environment, known as allergens.

Does Your Pet Have Skin Allergies?

Does Your Pet Have Skin Allergies?
1. How frequently does your pet seem itchy?
2. Where does your pet scratch the most?
3. Which season is your pet’s symptoms the most noticeable?
4. How often does your pet seem uncomfortable?
5. Can you see any of the following symptoms on your pet’s skin?
6. Is your pet experiencing any of the following symptoms?

Does Your Pet Have Skin Allergies?

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Different Types of Canine Dermatitis

Dermatitis in dogs can manifest in several forms, each with distinct causes and symptoms.

These are the main types of dermatitis dogs may experience:

Allergic Dermatitis

Allergic atopic dermatitis is the most common form and caused by exposure to allergens such as pollen, grasses, mold, dust mites, fleas, or certain foods. Symptoms include itchiness, redness, secondary infections, and discomfort on the skin.

Related reading: Causes of Dandruff in Dogs and Treating it Properly

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is caused by direct contact with an irritating substance or allergen, such as harsh chemicals, soaps, shampoos, detergents, pesticides, or plants like poison ivy. Common symptoms include redness, inflammation, itchiness, and sensitivity at the point of contact.

Bacterial and Fungal Dermatitis

Bacterial and fungal dermatitis occurs when the dog's skin becomes infected with bacteria or fungus. Symptoms typically show up as redness, inflammation, crustiness, scaling, pimples, or pustules on the skin.

Parasitic Dermatitis

Canine parasitic dermatitis is caused by fleas, mites, or other parasites. Symptoms to look for include extreme itchiness, sensitivity, redness, inflammation, and secondary infections.

Related reading: Mange in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Autoimmune Dermatitis

Autoimmune dermatitis is caused by conditions like pemphigus and lupus in dogs. Symptoms may show up as inflammation, skin lesions, and painful ulcerations due to the immune system attacking its own skin cells.

Hormonal Imbalance

Dermatitis can also be caused by a hormonal imbalance. Conditions like Cushing’s disease or hypothyroidism are examples of hormonal conditions that can affect dogs' skin.

Symptoms may include hair loss, redness, skin discoloration, and increased susceptibility to secondary infections.

Seborrheic Dermatitis

Seborrheic dermatitis is caused by excessive production of sebum from the sebaceous glands of the skin. Symptoms commonly include flaky, scaly, itchy, and red skin.

How to Treat Dermatitis in Dogs

Treatment of dermatitis depends on the underlying cause but is aimed at reducing itchiness, providing comfort, treating infections, and promoting healing.

Here's how we typically treat dermatitis and its symptoms in dogs:

  • Allergic dermatitis is treated with anti-itch therapies such as Apoquel and/or Cytopoint, allergen immunotherapy, hypoallergenic diets, shampoos and sprays, as well as antibiotics for secondary infections.

  • Contact dermatitis is best treated when the irritant or allergen is identified and removed to prevent further exposure. Treatment may consist of topical creams, pain medications, anti-itch medications (like Benadryl), cool compresses, and antibiotics if secondary infections develop.

  • Bacterial and fungal dermatitis are treated best by antibiotics or antifungals.  These may come in a topical spray or shampoos, oral medications, and itch relief.

  • Parasitic dermatitis is best treated when the parasites are eradicated. This is done with anti-parasitics & long-term preventatives.  

  • Autoimmune dermatitis treatment consists of immunosuppression by way of drugs that reduce or attenuate the reaction of the immune system that is causing the disease. Steroids (such as Prednisone or Dexamethasone) or other immunosuppressive prescriptions are used in combination with therapies to provide support/comfort and treat any secondary infections.

  • Dermatitis caused by hormonal imbalances is treated with therapies that bring balance to the hormone that is off, such as Levothyroxine. Secondary infections are treated with antibiotics and shampoos.  

  • Seborrheic dermatitis is often treated with anti-seborrheic shampoos or sprays, omega-3 fatty acids, and other therapies to address irritated skin or infections.

Working with a veterinarian to determine the type of dermatitis will lead to a faster recovery and the best long-term management plan.

Natural Remedies for Dog Dermatitis

  • Mild cases of dermatitis may be managed with soothing or hypoallergenic shampoos or sprays.  

  • Cool compresses can help relieve red, inflamed, irritated skin.  

  • Applying aloe vera or coconut oil can bring some comfort.

  • Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils can support skin health and may help reduce inflammation in mild cases.

Remember, It is always best to consult with your veterinarian prior to treating your dog's dermatitis at home. Knowing the type of dermatitis that is affecting your dog will ultimately lead to the best treatment.

Ways to Prevent Canine Dermatitis at Home

Some cases of dermatitis can be prevented at home. Here's a few vet-approved, at-home methods for dermatitis in dogs: 

  • Flea dermatitis is easily prevented by regular use of anti-parasitic preventatives and treating the environment for fleas.

  • Certain allergens may be avoidable by environmental modifications or feeding specialized hypoallergenic diets.  

  • Dogs with seasonal allergies may benefit from anti-itch therapies before the allergen takes full effect outside. 

  • Wiping your dog's paws when coming inside and regular bathing can help prevent certain forms of dermatitis.

  • Always keep harmful substances that can lead to irritation of the skin out of reach of your dog. 


Knowing about the different types of dermatitis in dogs is key for their care. If you see your pup itching and scratching, schedule an in-home allergy consultation with BetterVet and help your furry friend feel better today!

Does Your Pet Have Itchy Paws or Flaky Skin?

Our veterinarians can bring relief. Schedule a visit for allergy testing in the comfort of your home.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does dog dermatitis look like?

Dermatitis can take on many forms, but it is common to see red, inflamed skin that can be itchy and sensitive, often with lesions.  

What triggers atopic dermatitis in dogs?

Environmental allergens such as pollen, grasses, mold, weeds, and dust mites can trigger atopic dermatitis. This could be seasonal or all year round.

What happens if dermatitis is left untreated in dogs?

Dermatitis left untreated can lead to a range of complications that will significantly impact the dog's health and well-being. Persistent discomfort, uncontrollable itching, painful rashes, and secondary infections are a few possible outcomes of dermatitis that is not treated effectively in a timely manner.  


  1. Yurayart, C., Chindamporn, A., Suradhat, S., Tummaruk, P., Kajiwara, S., & Prapasarakul, N. (2011). Comparative analysis of the frequency, distribution, and population sizes of yeasts associated with canine seborrheic dermatitis and healthy skin. Veterinary Microbiology, 148(2-4), 356-362.
  2. Gadeyne, C., Little, P., King, V. L., Edwards, N., Davis, K., & Stegemann, M. R. (2014). Efficacy of oclacitinib (Apoquel®) compared with prednisolone for the control of pruritus and clinical signs associated with allergic dermatitis in client-owned dogs in Australia. Veterinary Dermatology, 25(6), 512-e86.