Allergic Dermatitis in Boston Terriers

Allergic dermatitis, sometimes called atopic dermatitis, is a skin irritation caused by an allergy. The allergen could be a food item, something the dog comes into contact with such as a plant or dander, or an inhaled allergen like smoke or pollen. Regardless of what type of allergen it is, the most common manifestation of allergies in dogs comes in the form of itchy, irritated skin. Boston Terriers are one of the many breeds known to be particularly susceptible to allergies.


Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include:

-          red bumps or acne like bumps on the skin

-          unusual (often foul) odor on the skin

-          greasy skin

-          staining of the coat or bald patches from excessive licking and chewing

-          dark, thickened skin

-          frequent head shaking

-          chronic scratching and chewing at the skin

Other symptoms of allergies that may also occur include vomiting and diarrhea (most often associated with food allergies), chronic ear infections, and red, irritated eyes (most often associated with inhaled allergies).

Because skin symptoms can be similar for many other diseases including parasitic infections, fungal infections, and other skin diseases, it is important to have your veterinarian rule these possibilities out before attempting to decide what your Boston Terrier is allergic to.

Once You Know It Is An Allergy

There are different options. Allergy tests can be run by veterinary dermatologists although they can be expensive. However, they offer a much quicker way to discover what your Boston is allergic to than the normal elimination diet. Since many Bostons have inhaled or contact allergies as well as food allergies, an allergy test can be a better way to go about finding the list of allergens. If you do an allergy test, they will put anesthetize your Boston temporarily while they do a skin scratch test. It works in the same fashion as a human skin scratch test.

Once you know what your Boston is allergic to you can go about eliminating or reducing his exposure to allergens. Food allergies tend to be the easiest to deal with. There are a variety of diets on the market that make use of unusual proteins, grains, and vegetables that your Boston is less likely to be allergic to. You can also choose to make a homemade diet for your dog although if you go this route, you need to consult a canine nutritionist to ensure that the diet is balanced and meets your pet’s nutritional needs.

Contact allergies can be difficult. Sometimes it is to a plant that can be removed from the yard and avoided when away from home. Other times it is more difficult such as dust and dander allergies. In these cases, you approach it in the same way you do human allergies. Avoid items like dog beds and carpets that can keep dust and dander in. Clean regularly and wash bedding in hot water. Inhaled allergies can be the most difficult. Pollution, smoke, and pollen can be difficult to avoid.

You can use oatmeal shampoos, regular baths, and creams to help keep the skin as soothed as possible. Your vet may prescribe steroids, antihistamines, or other medications to help keep the allergy in check. There has also been some progress on using allergy injections for pets in the same way that you do with people in an attempt to build-up their immunity to the allergen.

Allergies can develop at any age. They often require years of exposure to an allergen before a sensitivity develops, particularly with food allergens. Although it can be difficult initially, once you know what your Boston Terrier is allergic to you can manage the condition with a few changes and some work.

Photo credit: Travis Swan/Flickr