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Vet Talks – Atopic Dermatitis: The Dreaded Itchy Pet!

Pet Care Tips 3 min read
Atopic dermatitis in dogs and cats itchy skin in pets



Red, itchy skin is more than just an annoying problem in our pets.  It negatively effects the quality of life of our pets, can lead to secondary infections, and can even affect our lives as well.  Atopic dermatitis, also known as atopy, is one of the most commonly encountered itchy skin diseases for pets in private practice. My own French bulldog, Josie has atopy, so I know how frustrating this disease can be for pets and their human guardians.

Josie the French Bulldog - Atopic Dermatitis

Josie in her favorite pink sweater

Dogs typically develop clinical signs between 6 months and 3 years of age and cats can occur at any age.  In dogs, it is heritable and is commonly seen in terriers, retrievers, spaniels, Dalmatians, and English bulldogs.

Complications to Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy)

Itching is the hallmark of the disease, and in dogs, typical areas it affects are the face, feet, and on the belly.  However, in cats, areas affected typically include head, neck, ears, belly, thighs and sides of abdomen.  Complications to atopy in both dogs and cats include secondary bacterial and yeast infection, blackening of the skin (hyperpigmentation), and ear infections.

Atopic Dermatitis (Atopy) – Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosis of atopy is a diagnosis of exclusion and requires a meticulous diagnostic approach because this disease is mimicked by other diseases.  This disease can be seasonal or all year round.  Parasite infestation, food allergies, environmental allergies are the main things to rule out as a cause of your pet’s itchiness by your veterinarian.

Treatment of atopy in pets may involve both western and complementary therapies.  An integrative approach includes:

  • Stopping the itch – this may mean antihistamine medication to stop the itch quickly.
  • Managing secondary infections – this may mean antibiotics, medicated shampoos, or antifungal therapy
  • Removing offending allergens – environmental control of allergens such as HEPA filters in the house
  • Control external parasites- removing fleas, other parasites with anti-parasitic medication
  • Diet improvement- a cleaner diet or a hypoallergenic diet.

I recommend the following supplements FelimmPetOmega 3 and Ouch Away Spray as holistic support for your pets. Felimm is helpful as atopy often comes with yeast. Felimm has some powerful anti fungal herbs and also helps to detoxify and cleanse the blood. Petomega 3 provides support for the immune system and helps improve skin and coat conditions. As a topical, Ouch Away Spray is beneficial to help improve the condition.

Atopic dermatitis in dogs


Treating and managing atopy requires constant, daily attention to your pet.  Finding the root of the problem is ideal, but many times it is a disease that must be managed with intermittent medication, great diet, and supplements.

Because atopy in pets can be so complicated, it’s a good idea to contact a pet expert at NHV who can help make sure you’re getting the right supplements you need.

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Stories of Natural Healing from Atopic Dermatitis

Janggun atopic dermatitis in dogs

Dr. Hillary Cook is a graduate of Virginia Maryland Regional Veterinary Medical school. She has been practicing holistic and integrative veterinary medicine for over fifteen years. She certified in Veterinary acupuncture and is fully qualified in Western and Chinese herbalism. Dr. Cook is the owner of Animal Wellness Center, an integrative veterinary clinic in Crozet, VA. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of pets including dogs, cats and chickens. When time allows, you can find her in the garden or on the tennis court!

Published: January 26, 2019

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