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Treatment and Prognosis of Dermatitis in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Treatment Goals

Dermatitis, or inflammation of the skin, is fairly common in companion dogs and is one of the most exasperating conditions that dog owners have to deal with. In many cases, the cause of the skin disorder is never discovered. In other cases, long-term veterinary detective work will successfully pin down the causative agent. Even when the cause of skin inflammation is ultimately identified, it may be impossible or inconvenient to eliminate it from the dog’s environment. Dermatitis is usually a chronic condition, with frequent flair-ups occurring seasonally. Fortunately, there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms of dermatitis in dogs. The goals of treating dermatitis in dogs are to control the inflammation and itchiness associated with the disorder and to resolve the underlying cause of the condition, restoring the dog’s comfortable quality of life.

Treatment Options for Canine Dermatitis

Before resorting to topical, oral or injectable medications to treat the symptoms of dermatitis, dog owners and their veterinarians need to figure out why the dogs are having skin problems in the first place. They should pay particular attention to the dog’s home environment and living conditions. External parasites (such as ear mites, fleas, lice and ticks) are common contributors to canine dermatitis. Fortunately, there are many preventative and treatment measures that can help keep these annoying pests away from our dogs. Internal parasites, such as tapeworms and hookworms, also can contribute to canine dermatitis by reducing the affected dog’s immune system. A veterinarian can recommend good treatments for internal parasites. All companion dogs should be fed a high-quality, well-balanced diet. Omega-3 fatty acids can help dogs maintain a plush hair coat and healthy skin. Medicated shampoos that contain natural ingredients such as sulfur, tea tree oil, oatmeal, comfrey and/or aloe can also help to reduce itchiness, moisturize skin and heal skin sores.

Dogs with severe skin inflammation or skin infections may need to be treated with oral, topical or injectable medications to manage their disease. Anti-inflammatory drugs, antihistamines and corticosteroids are frequently used to treat the effects of dermatitis in dogs. These medications, especially steroids, can have a number of adverse side effects, especially if they are administered for long periods of time. A veterinarian is the best one to give advice about appropriate medical treatment protocols for dermatitis in companion dogs.


Most dogs with skin problems respond well to topical or systemic treatment. It is always important to identify the cause of the condition to keep it at bay. Dermatitis in dogs normally is not a life-threatening condition. However, it can cause extreme discomfort and should be treated and managed to ensure that the dog has a comfortable, itch-free, good quality of life.

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