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Atopic Dermatitis

Published on 17 May 2021

Vet examining Boston Terrier dog dermatitis allergy.

Atopic (allergic hypersensitivity) Dermatitis is the name given to environmental allergies that pets may experience including allergies to pollens, mould spores, insects and dust mites. 

What is Atopic Dermatitis?

Atopic Dermatitis in dogs is the equivalent of Atopic Eczema in people. This condition typically worsens throughout a pet’s life (unfortunately pets do not “grow out “of their environmental allergies) 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, although the age of onset of symptoms can be up to 7 years of age. 

Atopic Dermatitis can affect any breed of dog, but according to PetSure data from calendar year 2020 it’s most prevalent in the following breeds: 

British Bulldog20.30%
Australian Bulldog19.23%
West Highland White Terrier19.13%
Bull Terrier19.01%
French Bulldog17.53%
Staffordshire Bull Terrier14.15%
Dogue De Bordeaux13.47%
Bishon Frise13.35%

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, although other parts of the body can be affected. 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 may be present year-round.

Management of Atopic Dermatitis 

Management of Atopic Dermatitis typically requires a comprehensive multi-modal  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 prescription shampoos and conditioners, antihistamines,  prescription anti-itch pharmaceutical products to control pruritus and essential fatty acid supplementation. 

Your Vet may also recommended specific prescription diets designed to help manage the symptoms of allergy. 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 in the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to atopic dermatitis was $209 with the highest, single treatment cost being $7,860. 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. 

Disclaimer: Reimbursement for these claims would be subject to limits, such as annual benefit limits or sub-limits, benefit percentage, applicable waiting periods and any applicable excess. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider.

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

Any advice is general only and has not considered your personal circumstances, so may not be right for you. Cover is subject to the policy terms and conditions. You should consider the relevant Product Disclosure Statement or policy wording available from the relevant provider to decide if a product is right for you. Insurance products are issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd (ABN 78 090 584 473; AFSL 241436) and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd (ABN 95 075 949 923; AFSL 420183) through our Authorised Representatives and our distribution partners.


  1. College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Illinois, Dog’s itchiness may indicated atopic dermatitis, Accessed  on 7 July 2020

Terms, conditions, waiting periods, limits and exclusions apply. is issued by The Hollard Insurance Company Pty Ltd ABN 78 090 584 473, AFSL 241436, is arranged and administered by PetSure (Australia) Pty Ltd ABN 95 075 949 923, AFSL 420183 (PetSure) and is promoted and distributed by PetSure’s Authorised Representatives (AR) Pet Insurance Pty Ltd ABN 38 607 160 930, AR 1234944 and Pet Culture Pty Ltd ABN 69 644 613 098, AR 001284860. Any advice provided is general only and does not take into account your individual objectives, financial situation or needs. Please consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to ensure this product meets your needs before purchasing. PDS and Target Market Determination available at .

Dr Dani Hoolahan Profile Pic

Dani Hoolahan


Dr Dani has studied BVSc, BVMS and became a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology in 2013. She has worked in busy dermatology referral practice since 2014 and is the founder of the Veterinary Dermatology Clinic. She is currently the Chief Veterinary Officer for PetSure.

Dani is a proud Pet Parent to Spike, Daisy and Oliver (a trio of Labradors) , Ghost (a Lykoi kitten) and Hobbes (a domestic shorthair cat).

Dani Hoolahan's Pets

  • Dr Dani Hoolahan Spike Dog Pet Picture.Spike
  • Dani Hoolahan Ghost Cat Pet Picture.Ghost

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