Skin & Food Sensitivities in Dogs

Is Your Dog Scratching?

If you notice your dog scratching, itching, licking or rubbing more than normal, then he might have a skin condition. “Skin conditions” is a general term for very common, but nonetheless distressing disorders which damage or irritate your dog’s skin. Other signs of skin problems include:

  • Red patches, spots or pimples
  • Scabs, crusts or thickened skin
  • Flaky or scaly patches
  • Itching, scratching, rubbing or Llcking
  • Hair loss
  • Bad skin odour

Some dogs are at higher risk to skin conditions due to their breed, age, overall health, season of the year and nutrition.

If you notice any of the signs of a skin condition, take your dog to the veterinarian for proper examination.

Take this interactive quiz to complete a quick, self-assesment.

Causes of Skin Issues in Dogs

Common causes of skin issues in dogs include:

  • Environmental allergies to dust, pollen or mould
  • Parasites & flea allergy
  • Various infections
  • Food allergies

Despite common belief, 90% of skin issues are not caused by food allergies.

Environmental Allergies

Often, the environmental allergens are the cause of skin problems. Dog skin allergies tend to show up in very specific areas of your dog including: face, ears, paws, base of the tail, under elbows and in the groin area. Allergies typically appear between the ages of 3 months and 6 years.

Environmental allergens can include pollen, mould spores and dust mites. Some allergens are airborne and may appear year-round, aside from pollen, which is more common in springtime. Your dog's skin is a crucial barrier to allergens for keeping your pup healthy, which is why your dog's skin care should be a priority. Dog skin allergies tend to be chronic and often require lifelong management. Regular bath and feeding a food formulated to support skin health can play a vital role in helping manage skin allergies.

Some breeds are at higher risk for environmental allergies (also known as atopic dermatitis):

  • Yorkshire terriers
  • West Highland white terriers
  • Golden retrievers
  • German shepherds
  • Labrador retrievers
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Chihuahuas

For dogs at higher risk, schedule a visit to your veterinarian proactively, before allergy season starts (around 6 weeks before spring). Even if your dog’s signs are currently mild, it is beneficial to discuss a proactive plan with your veterinarian to help reduce skin signs and keep them from coming back year-round.

Parasites and Fleas

Fleas, lice and mites all can cause skin irritation in dogs. Bites from parasites are irritating, causing dogs to bite and scratch themselves, damaging their skin. Some dogs can be particularly sensitive, or "hypersensitive," to bites from parasites, as a single flea bite can cause a lot of discomfort for your pup.


Much like your dog's overall health, bacterial and fungal infections can cause skin problems for your dog. Infections can be caused by a number reasons including allergies, but open wounds or cuts are most susceptible to infection and generally pose the greatest threat to your dog's skin and overall health. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you think your dog might have a skin infection.

Food Allergies

Similar to humans, dogs can develop food allergies as a result of a reaction to certain kinds of proteins in your dog's food. However, food allergies are quite rare. 

Supporting Your Dog’s Skin Health

The first thing you should consider when you suspect some sort of skin problem in your dog is to consult your vet. They can help determine the cause of any skin irritation to help you choose the best course of remedy. Their recommendations can include one or all of the following:    


  • Remove and prevent parasites
  • Treat parasitic disease


  • Reduce discomfort
  • Minimise skin damage & secondary infections


  • Treat infection


  • Cleanse and nourish skin & coat from the outside
  • Reduce allergen load


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Nourishes the skin


  • Skin care
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Reduce discomfort


  • Supports & maintains a healthy skin barrier
  • Helps manage inflammation
  • Helps identify food allergy
  • Long-term management

Steps to stay ahead of skin issues year round


Schedule annual checkups with your veterinarian to make sure your dog's skin is healthy and to identify any issues early on.

Vets see a lot more skin issues during the spring and summer so talk to your vet early. However, some dogs have skin issues all year round.    


Strengthen your dog's skin barrier by feeding a vet recommended food well ahead of the season and all year round.

Scratching can cause allergens to penetrate the skin barrier and lead to irritation. Special food can help strengthen this barrier and limit future flare-ups.    


Since dogs may experience reactions to certain foods, your veterinarian may recommend to feed a special food exclusively.

Since dogs may become allergic to a protein they've previously been exposed to, your vet may recommend a food with a hydrolysed protein (protein broken into smaller pieces that can't be identified by your pet's immune system) or single novel protein & vegetable source.    


When allergy season arrives, pay special attention to your dog's hygiene.

Wipe away allergens after walks using a damp cloth. Regularly bathe with shampoos and use moisturisers recommended by your vet.    


If necessary, give your dog any additional medications your vet may prescribe.    


Talk to Your Vet


Since nutrition can play a vital role in skin health and overall well-being, be sure to ask your vet about Hill’s™ line of foods and treats formulated specifically to help manage skin and food sensitivity conditions.


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