Atopisk dermatit

Last changed: 24 October 2016
Dog with atopic dermatitis. collage

Dogs with atopic dermatitis have a chronic, itchy dermatitis and often ear inflammations associated to hypersensitivity (allergic reactions) towards allergens in the surrounding. There is an exaggerated immune response to one or several normally harmless agents, causing inflammation and tissue reactions.

Swedish atopic dogs are commonly reactive to hous dust- and storage mites and pollens. Clinically a dog with atopic dermatitis exhibits relapsing ear inflammations (otitis) and pruritus (itching) affecting paws, face, groin and perianal area.

Atopic dermatitis usually develops early in life, between 6 months and 3 years age. The clinical signs can be seasonal in case of pollen reactions. There is no simple test to diagnose atopic dermatitis. Instead other conditions with similar presentation must be ruled out, ex ectoparasites and skin infections. In addition, a set of diagnostic criteria are to be fulfilled.

In our study we are loooking for dogs correctly diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, but also healthy controls five years or older. The healthy controls should not have had any skin diseases, pruritus or ear inflammations (otitis).

Diagnostic work up in itchy dogs

A strict 6-8 week elimination diet, based on a novel protein source or hydrolysed diet, should be carried out. After the 6-8 weeks diet a dietary challenge is performed with the dog’s original diet. Possible outcome of the dietary test:

  1. Clinical cure during the diet, with relapse of clinical signs and pruritus during the challenge. This is compatible with food adverse reactions.
  2. The dog still has clinical signs and pruritus in the end of the dietary period, but worsens during challenge. This implicates atopic dermatitis and food adverse reaction. Next step is testing for environmental allergens, either by an intradermal test (skin test) or serology testing (blood test).
  3. No improvement is seen at the end of the dietary period and no worsening is detected during the challenge. The dog is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis and next step is testing for environmental allergens, either by an intradermal test (skin test) or serology testing (blood test).


Do you have a dog diagnosed with atopic dermatitis? OR do you have a dog, 5 years or older, healthy without any history of itching or ear problems? We are currently especially looking for West highland white terriers (age over 5 years)! Please, contact us for further information!


Breeds in the project

German shepherd, Boxer, West highland white terrier, Bullterrier, Labrador retriever, Golden retriever, Rhodesian ridgeback


Susanne Gustafsson, coordinator
Department of animal breeding and genetics, SLU, +46(0)18-67 20 12