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So itchy! Atopic Dermatitis in dogs and cats

Atopic (allergic hypersensitivity) Dermatitis is the name given to environmental allergies that animals experience including pollens, mould spores and dust mites. For pets, these allergens can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin from the environment.

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic Dermatitis in dogs is the equivalent of Atopic Eczema in people.

This progressive condition typically worsens throughout a pet’s life as they are repeatedly exposed to the offending allergens.

Which pets are affected?

Atopic Dermatitis in dogs is a common condition affecting 10-15%1 of the dog population.

This condition is most commonly diagnosed in dogs less than three years of age.

Atopic Dermatitis can affect any breed of dog, but according to PetSure data from calendar year 2019 it’s most prevalent in the following breeds:

British Bulldog13.99%
West Highland White Terrier13.50%
French Bulldog13.15%
Australian Bulldog12.24%
Bull Terrier11.80%
Staffordshire Bull Terrier9.80%
American Bulldog9.67%
Boston Terrier9.13%

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Atopic Dermatitis

Pets with Atopic Dermatitis will be pruritic (itchy). Pruritus typically affects the paws, face, abdomen and ears. Licking (including paw licking!), chewing, scratching, biting and rubbing can all be a manifestation of Pruritus in dogs.

Secondary to Pruritus, infections of the ears and skin can develop.

In the initial stages of Atopic Dermatitis, many pets will develop symptoms seasonally (often worse in Spring and Summer). As the disease progresses, symptoms typically become year-round.

Management of Atopic Dermatitis

Management of Atopic Dermatitis typically requires a comprehensive management plan.

Unfortunately, not all pets respond to all treatments, therefore a combination of treatments and medications are usually needed to control the condition.

Effectively managing a dog with Atopic Dermatitis requires control of secondary skin and ear infections, control of Pruritus and support of the skin barrier. This may include weekly baths with antimicrobial shampoo, prescription pharmaceutical products to control pruritus and essential fatty acid supplementation or dietary modification. Your Vet will assist with determining the most appropriate management plan for your pet. 

Disclaimer: Not all treatments will be covered by Pet Insurance. Please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for more information

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from 2019 (calendar year), the average, single treatment cost relating to Atopic Dermatosis is $171, with the highest, single treatment cost being $4,996. It is important to highlight that Atopic Dermatitis requires ongoing management throughout the life of your pet. The overall treatment cost of managing Atopic Dermatitis will vary depending on the treatments that have been recommended and your pet’s response to these treatments.

Is Atopic Dermatitis covered by pet insurance?

Atopic Dermatitis is generally covered Accidental injury and Illness policies administered by PetSure as long as the issue is not a Pre-existing Condition or related to an exclusion on the policy. Limits may apply. Please refer to your policy documents and Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for more details.  Check our brand partners at


College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Dog’s itchiness may indicated Atopic Dermatitis, available here

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