Are there any simple ways to tell if an abnormal skin condition on a dog is caused by an allergy rather than something more serious?
Not to the extent that you can totally rely on them for a diagnosis, Erin. There are a limited number of ways the skin can respond to an insult so different conditions can look very similar.
Certainly skin problems caused by allergies can have a typical distribution on the body. For example, one study found that flea allergy resulted in irritation and hair loss on the rump and tail while atopic dermatitis affected the ears, feet and abdomen. However, sarcoptes mange can also affect the ears and abdomen and it should be ruled out before a diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is reached.
Whatever the cause of an abnormal skin condition, the changes on the skin often result in an overgrowth of a dog’s normal skin bacteria and fungi. These underlying skin changes can be allergies, hormonal disorders or parasites, for example, but the secondary infections can look very similar and may mask any symptoms that suggest allergies as the original cause.
If your pet has a skin complaint, take them to their vet for evaluation. It’s possible that they will need some tests to identify the underlying trigger for the complaint which is possibly being masked by secondary complications.
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