Dermatitis is a skin condition that can strike your beloved Morkie. Unfortunately, Canine Atopic Dermatitis or CAD as it’s called, is a serious, chronic skin disease that can never be cured, only controlled by treatment and by avoiding the triggers that cause it.

What is it exactly? Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. It’s really an overreaction or hypersensitivity to allergens in your dog’s environment.

The offending allergens are most often inhalants, but can also be foods. Typical triggers are dust mites in your home, mold spores, animal dander and pollen.

Causes of CAD

CAD is the unlucky ‘perfect storm’ of allergies plus a predisposition (usually genetic) to overreact to allergens.

atopic dermatitis


Symptoms of atopic dermatitis

Canine Atopic Dermatitis

Canine Atopic Dermatitis can lodge between your dog’s toes. It’s itchy, and CAN be painful.

The most common symptom or sign that your Morkie has Canine Atopic Dermatitis or CAD, is excessive itching, especially around their face, muzzle and paws. CAD also attacks the armpit area and can spread quickly across the dog’s body if not managed.

Afflicted dogs will chew, bite, lick or scratch the itchy part of their skin, which results in red, inflamed skin, open sores, hair loss or all of the above. Obsessive licking is a clear sign of CAD.

Breeds most susceptible to severe allergies include the Boxer, Bulldog, Dalmatian, Golden Retriever, Lhasa Apso and most terriers. (The Yorkshire Terrier is on some lists, but not others, as  likely to have allergies)



Diagnosing CAD

Atopic dermatitis on dog’s stomach.

Dogs with CAD have pronounced itching of the ears and stomach.  (Does your Morkie have an itchy BACK?  More likely to be fleas) The excessive scratching of CAD can lead to scabs and crusts, the results of secondary bacterial infection from so much scratching.

It can be hard to determine if your Morkie’s itching is caused by fleas or simple allergic dermatitis. Or maybe the excessive scratching associated with CAD is actually caused by a food allergy and is not Canine Atopic Dermatitis.

Your Vet will also check that the itching and licking is not caused by simple Pruritus – the medical term for the dog’s sensation to itch, or the sensation that provokes its desire to scratch, rub, chew, or lick its hair and skin.  The results can be the same, inflamed skin, hair loss and secondary infections. However, simple Pruritus is easier to cure, once the source of the symptoms has been identified. They usually include fleas, scabies, lice, allergies and infection.

If the itching persists and you and your Vet have not been able to narrow down the trigger, then it’s time for more extensive tests to check for Atopic Dermatitis, along with other conditions.

Unfortunately a dog with CAD is much more likely to develop serious flea allergies too, if fleas are in his environment.




CAD is treatable but never cured. To keep it in remission, there are several strategies available including medications, shampooing and removing your dog from the allergens, or the allergens from your dog’s environment.

  • Cleaning thoroughly to get rid of dust and pollen is a good start.
  • Introducing air cleaners into your home.
  • Cortisones, antihistamines, anti-fungals and antibiotics are the usual drugs prescribed by Veterinarians for dogs with Canine Atopic Dermatitis.
    • Antihistamines control itching in approximately 20-40 % of atopic dogs. Sometimes a few different types may need to be tried.
    • Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections
    • Antifungals to treat secondary fungal infections
  • Steroids (oral or topical) are extremely effective at reducing itching in dogs and is used widely especially in acute flare ups. We generally try and avoid using them long term as they can have some side effects.

Evening Primrose Oil works well, especially in combination with piriton to help reduce the itch and improves the fatty lipid layer in the skin, helping protect against contact allergens.


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