“Dermatitis” is a term that means skin inflammation. It can be due to a variety of diseases, but the most common cause of dermatitis in dogs is allergy. Some causes of dog dermatitis are contagious to people, and many causes of dermatitis can look alike without specific testing, so it’s important to bring your dog to a veterinarian whenever you suspect dermatitis. However, if your dog is diagnosed by a veterinarian with dermatitis due to allergy (“allergic dermatitis”), the bright side is you can treat dog dermatitis at home which should help to improve some of the itchiness and redness. Various methods have proven useful for treatment with different levels of results.
Dog Dermatitis: Symptoms & Causes
Dermatitis, or skin inflammation, is the body’s natural immune response to things it perceives to be a threat to the skin. Signs of inflammation include heat, redness, pain, swelling, and a loss of function. When the inflammation is appropriate, it is a natural defense mechanism that helps to keep the body safe and healthy.
However, when the inflammation is exaggerated or occurs in response to something that is not actually a danger to the body, diseases can develop. “Allergy” is a type of overreaction of the immune system to substances called “allergens.” Various genetic factors may make your dog’s immune system predisposed to overreacting to these allergens.
Allergies can show up in different places in a dog, including in the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract, and on the skin, Allergic dermatitis the name for an allergy that shows up on the skin. This allergy is most often related to allergens that come from the environment.
Essentially your dog’s body gets exposed to an allergen in the environment and then declares that this allergen is a foreign invader that must be destroyed. This triggers a massive inflammatory response and dermatitis forms on your dog’s skin. Your dog then obsessively scratches and bites at this patch of dermatitis. This behavior then creates a hot spot and may even cause an open wound that may become infected.
Most Common Allergens That Cause Allergic Dermatitis in Dogs
Allergic dermatitis in dogs is most frequently caused by airborne allergens. This means that the substances causing the allergic reaction float around in the air. Interestingly, these allergens also cause allergic reactions in humans. In this sense, we share some of our medical problems with our beloved pets. However, in people, airborne allergens most often cause signs of hay fever (itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, coughing), whereas they more often cause skin inflammation (dermatitis) in the dog.
The three most common types of airborne allergens that cause dermatitis in dogs are:
These are microscopic insect-like pests that are most often found in house dust. They subsist on flakes of dead skin (also known as dandruff) that people and their pets shed every day. Dust mites are not parasites, and they don’t bite or sting people or dogs. They cause problems mainly by triggering an allergic response.
This is a powder-like substance that is made up of microscopic grains that come from flowers or plants.
This is a type of fungus that is frequently found in dark and damp areas. The microscopic spores that it releases into the air act as allergens. There are different types of molds that exist naturally in the environment.
Common Signs of Dog Allergic Dermatitis
Allergic dermatitis can be incredibly uncomfortable for your dog. The condition may range from mild to severe and, if left untreated, can eventually become debilitating. Any dog can develop allergic dermatitis, but breeds that are commonly affected are Boxers, Bulldogs, Retrievers, and German shepherds, and Shih Tzus.
Common signs of allergic dermatitis in dogs are:
- Excessive scratching, chewing, biting, or licking
- Excessive rubbing on the carpet
- Hair loss
- Flaky and/or greasy skin with a foul odor
- Excessive chewing on the paws, groin, and/or armpits
- Raw and inflamed areas of the skin known as hot spots
- Secondary yeast or bacterial skin infections
- Infections of the ear
- Runny nose and/or eyes (less common)
Common Areas Affected By Dog Dermatitis
- Paws and in between toes
- On the face and around the eyes
- Around the anus
*Dog allergic dermatitis can flare up on any area of the body but most commonly affects the above areas.
Treatment Steps: Clean, Heal, & Prevent
Unfortunately, dog allergic dermatitis can get progressively worse if left untreated. Because of the extreme itchiness of the condition, your dog will likely scratch and chew its skin until it becomes raw and infected. These raw and infected areas (hot spots) then trigger even more itchiness and discomfort, creating an ongoing cycle of itch and infections.
Common Ways of Treating Dog Allergic Dermatitis
- Steroids or other anti-allergy medications These are prescribed by veterinarians to treat the inflammation and itch, and are often necessary if the allergy is moderate to severe
- Allergy shots or sublingual drops. Your veterinarian can perform a skin or blood allergy test to determine what environmental allergens are causing a problem. Just like with people, allergy shots or sublingual (under the tongue) drops can specifically target those allergies and treat the itch and inflammation in a safe and holistic way.
- Anti-itch shampoos. These can relieve the itchiness in the short term.
- Antihistamines. These can treat the inflammation and itch, but mainly help if the signs are mild.
- Fatty acid therapy. Like anti-histamines, these can treat the inflammation and itch and mainly help if the signs are mild.
- Antibiotics or anti-yeast medications. These are prescribed to fight off the secondary infections that may develop. They can be given by mouth, or your veterinarian may prescribe a medicated ointment that can be applied directly to the exposed skin. These ointments also may have numbing agents that can help treat the immediate pain or itch.
Cleaning Regimen for Dermatitis
It is also essential that you keep your dog’s skin clean and dry. Regular bathing (sometimes once weekly or more often!) is helpful to remove allergens from the skin. However, after bathing, it is important that the skin stays dry. This is particularly true if any open wounds or sores develop. If your dog cannot stop scratching or biting itself, then a cone may have to be placed on its neck for its own protection.
Because dermatitis is a reaction to allergens in the environment, keeping a clean house is also essential. Do not allow excessive dust buildup. This will help control the number of dust mites. Having an air purifier can also help filter out the airborne allergens. If you also suffer from allergies, then these steps can help treat your condition as well.
It is also necessary to make sure that there is no mold buildup in your house. Have it checked for mold in dark and damp areas. If mold is discovered, you will have to either cut it out yourself or call a removal service. If pollen is the primary irritant for your dog’s dermatitis, you may have to keep them from rolling around in the grass or jumping into bushes. This will limit the amount of pollen that touches their skin.
Useful Home Remedies
There are various home remedies that may help with allergic dermatitis in people. Most of these are plant oils that are applied to the skin, and they work because they possess specific antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and/or anti-itch properties.
These remedies have not been evaluated much in dogs yet and so scientists don’t know if most of them will work the same way as in people. However, this is an exciting area of future research for scientists and veterinarians alike. They include:
Hemp Seed Oil
In people, there is some evidence that dietary hempseed oil can help reduce clinical signs of allergic dermatitis.
Shea Nut Butter
When applied to the skin, this is an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant in people.
Grape Seed Oil
This hasn’t been thoroughly evaluated in people yet, but scientists have found that grape seed oil contains high contents of good fatty acids, vitamin E, and phenolic compounds, which may act as antioxidants when applied onto people’s skin.
In people, coconut oil applied onto the skin can act as a moisturizer, anti-inflammatory, mild sun protectant, and antiseptic. Remember that coconut oil is high in fat and calories, so you want to avoid giving this by mouth to a dog unless recommended by your veterinarian. Even if you apply it onto the skin, dogs tend to lick their skin, so this may cause your dog to gain weight unintentionally!
This is an anti-inflammatory product that can help to repair dermatitis in people when applied onto allergic skin.
Colloidal Oat Extracts
This is a centuries-old natural topical treatment for a variety of skin conditions, including skin rashes, redness, burns, and itch. This is one of the few plant products that have been evaluated in dogs and can be helpful when applied onto the skin of dogs with mild allergic dermatitis.
Tea Tree Oil
This is a natural anti-bacterial and anti-fungal treatment. Some early studies have also shown that a 10% tea tree oil cream applied to the skin may help with itching and allergic dermatitis in dogs. However, some dogs can develop toxicity from this, so it’s important to avoid highly concentrated products, apply only thin layers to small areas, and prevent your dog from licking it after application. Signs of toxicity include lethargy, tremoring, drooling, or paralysis.
Can You Use CBD Oil for Dog Dermatitis?
As you can see in the section above, one of the home remedies is hempseed oil. This oil derives from the cannabis plant that may have several benefits. CBD comes from the hemp plant as well.
What Is CBD (Cannabidiol)?
Another cannabis extract is cannabidiol (CBD). CBD oil is made from the stems, leaves, and flowers of the hemp plant. It belongs to the group of compounds known as cannabinoids. These compounds interact with receptors in the dog’s body that make up the regulatory system known as the Endocannabinoid System (ECS).
CBD & The Endocannabinoid System
The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) plays a role in all kinds of important functions in your dog’s body. These include sleep cycles, pain responses, the nervous system, inflammation all over the body, healthy blood sugar levels, stable appetite, and the immune system.
How Can the ECS Play a Role in Dog Allergic Dermatitis?
Remember that allergic dermatitis is an overreaction of your dog’s immune system. The ECS may help regulate your dog’s immune response. By regulating the immune response, it can help to keep your dog’s body in a state of homeostasis. This homeostasis may help your dog have a more measured response to any kind of allergen exposure. This, in turn, may help to reduce the overreactive allergy response and soothe the discomfort that comes from dermatitis.
Related article: Dog Immune System Booster [Natural Remedies]
How to Use CBD Oil
Before we get into this section, it is important to remember that CBD has not yet been approved by the FDA. This means that it is not meant or intended to prevent, treat, or cure any ailments or diseases. This also means that dosages to treat different dog ailments have not been fully established.
If you decide to give your dog CBD oil, there are various companies that sell these products. It is best, however, to go with a respected and highly-rated company that can provide you with the highest quality products. It is also important to go with a company that can provide proof of third-party testing. This is when a separate company analyzes the products to ensure that they contain the stated label amounts of CBD, and also that they don’t contain dangerous impurities. This helps you to know exactly what you are giving to your dog.
Common CBD Dog Products
- Capsules: The capsules can be given to your dog if they are stuffed into some piece of food that it likes. You can wrap them in a cold cut or put a little bit of peanut butter on them. (Don’t want to “boost” the immune system with allergies since it is an overreaction of the immune system)
- Tinctures: Tinctures, on the other hand, are CBD extracts infused with hemp seed oil. You just take the dropper and administer it directly into your dog’s mouth. This is best done under the tongue (sublingually) so that the CBD absorbs quickly into its mucous membranes. The hemp seed oil in these tinctures may promote a healthy immune system and a healthy coat.
- Treats. HolistaPet also sells CBD treats. These can be used to train your dog or reward good behavior. These treats also have other powerful supplements that are great for controlling various conditions.
CBD Oil Dosage for Dogs
Because you love your dog and you want what’s best for them, you’ve decided to go with a reputable company that provides the highest quality products. Now you have to determine the correct dosage. This is quite simple and will depend on whether you give them a regular dose (used for mild to moderate symptoms) or a strong dose (used for moderate to severe symptoms). You simply apply either formula:
Recommended Dosage Amounts
When calculating the correct milligram dosage of CBD oil you will need to know your dog’s weight in pounds (lbs).
- Regular dose: A quarter (0.25) milligram for every 1 pound of body weight. Use a regular dose for mild to moderate effects. Example: Your dog weighs 20 pounds and you want to portion out a regular dose of CBD. This is how you calculate this dosage amount: 20 x 0.25 = 5 milligrams. In this case, you would give your 20-pound dog a regular dose-measuring 5 milligrams of CBD.
- Strong dose: A half (0.5) milligram for every 1 pound of body weight. Use a strong dose for moderate to severe effects. Example: Your dog weighs 30 pounds and you wish to administer a strong dose of CBD. This is how you calculate this dosage amount: 30 x 0.5 = 15 milligrams. In this case, you would give your 30-pound dog a strong dose-measuring 15 milligrams of CBD.
When using CBD oil, we recommend you give it at least a few weeks to see an overall impact.
CBD is usually well tolerated by dogs. It is non-intoxicating, so it most certainly will not get your dog high. Most CBD products contain zero THC, which is important because dogs are more susceptible to side effects from high-dose THC than people.
It is best to inform your veterinarian that you will be using CBD. This will ensure that it does not have any negative interactions with other medications. Using CBD oil along with other home remedies may have a better effect on your dog. Remember to keep your house dust-free and your dog clean. This should help your dog to reduce its discomfort!