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German Shepherd Skin Allergies


Dogs are just as susceptible to allergies as human beings but they don’t have the chance to go to the pharmacy to pick up Claritin, Zyrtec or similar medicaments. All they can do is lick, chew or scratch if the allergy affects their skin and they can reach the affected area.

Allergic reactions in dogs manifest primarily in the skin, while allergic reactions in humans primarily manifest in a runny nose, coughing, and itchy eyes.

If your dog starts to show any of the warning signs of a Skin Allergy, initially the vet should be your first point of contact, because they must determine what type of allergy it is (see below). However, there are quite effective ways to avoid Skin Allergies altogether.

Who Gets Skin Allergies

Any dog can contract a Skin Allergy. However, dogs that are fed dry food too early or too often are more susceptible to suffer a food allergy, and short haired German Shepherds are more likely to suffer from skin contact allergies (caused by eg flea bites).

Conversely, should your German Shepherd be one of the few that are from a family line bred for water sports or hunting, then it will be less susceptible to flea bite allergies and moisture issues. Still, any German Shepherd can suffer allergies from dampness and flea bites.

Warning Signs

There are three main types of Skin Allergies that can affect your German Shepherd. Most Skin Allergies are a consequence of 1) flea bites, then come 2) food allergies, and finally 3) inhalant allergies (primarily pollen, dust, and chemicals).

In all cases the skin will often grow irritated and red. Swelling may occur, but this will most often be a result of scratching, biting, or excess licking by your dog.

If your dog starts to lose hair as a result of the reaction or gets an ear infection too, it might be a long-term food allergy related to serving processed food – a common problem that occurs in many dogs that eat industrial dog foods.

Other warning signs are frequent sneezing or coughing, or rubbing the eyes.

Avoiding and Treating Skin Allergies

To avoid Skin Allergies, first make sure your German Shepherd is given effective flea and tick medication on a regular basis if you live in an affected area. This will avoid the first type of Skin Allergies. It is important not just for flea bite allergies, but for avoiding potential sickness from tick bites and other parasites that will latch on to your dog when it is outside.

Second, avoid feeding your German Shepherd industrial food with too many grain fillers. This can help to avoid the second type of Skin Allergies. Rice is the safest grain, but corn, soy and wheat are all allergenic. Processed meats can also cause food allergies, and table scraps should strictly be avoided due to the substances in human food that a dog's metabolism cannot process.

Best is really to prepare your dog's food yourself, fresh and natural - like for yourself (hopefully). If you don't do this, or if you don't have the time to do this for your dog regularly, at least consider what we write about healthy dog meals in The MYGERMANSHEPHERD Health Manual, on MYGERMANSHEPHERD.org in general, and particularly in the MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL.

By all means, aim to avoid industrial food with preservatives, additives, fillers etc, high fat - high protein - high calcium - high sodium food, and generally any food that has been "enriched" with presumably "healthy" substances. The healthiest food is a balanced diet of natural food, not artificially "enriched" food, ie processed food!

Finally, to avoid the third type of Skin Allergies, inhalant allergies, observe your dog for signs of frequent sneezing or coughing in certain conditions or at certain times of the year. Also notice when your dog is frequently rubbing its eyes or ears. All of this can indicate that something in the environment is impacting your dog. For example, pollen, dust, or a specific scent that is carrying eg chemicals, like air refreshers in rooms.

By the way, air refreshers are always, in every situation, hazardous for your entire family, not just for your German Shepherd. Brilliant marketing by the producers doesn't change the fact that they pollute your lungs and bronchi. The consequence regularly are respiratory problems - sometimes immediately, sometimes many years later, but always chronic! If you want refreshed air, guess what, open the window.

If your dog starts to show any of the signs of a Skin Allergy mentioned above, initially visit the vet to establish the genuine cause of the symptoms. They will likely take blood tests and possibly put your dog on an elimination diet to see how its allergic reactions respond.

To treat Skin Allergies, very often all that is needed are basic nutritional changes and lots of regular outdoor exercise. The symptoms of some inhalant allergies can effectively be controlled with effective inhalant allergy medication. The skin condition should be treated with the soothe cream conditioner under running water. If you can afford it or if you have a tube of ClearSkin-E Cream for yourself anyway, apply a flimsy coating to the most affected skin areas.

However, since we are not dealing with a Bacterial Skin Infection (see 16), the antiseptic spray, Vet's Best Hot Spot Spray, and similar treatments are not needed here.

If you use the soothe cream conditioner and apply the ClearSkin-E Cream mentioned above, you probably won't need to hard-bandage the affected area either: What is not itching, your dog won't lick, scratch or bite.

  51 Responses to “German Shepherd Skin Allergies”


    My 9 yr old GSD had red, itchy skin problems for years. It was diagnosed and treated with antibiotics and antifungals. It would clear up for a while, then come back. I noticed since I switched his dry food to Earthfare’s Senior Dog formula, for the first time in his life, he isn’t scratching and the fur on his belly is really thick and healthy, instead of thin. It’s a little more expensive than regular old dry food, but not that much. Definitely worth it to avoid vet bills!


    I have a GS Collie Cross Female 5 years old who broke out with the quite common skin problem with the usual itchy condition. After several attempts to combat this problem with Antibiotics and and anti-flamatories [which made her incontinent] I decided to try an old remedy. working on the theory that the skin problem was created by pathogens [unidentified] I applied — IODINE in Spray Form — to the infected areas —and Lo and Behold the Itch has gone and with it the red inflamation of the skin has gone and the scaly eruptions and appearance has also gone. As all you folk know Iodine is used extensively in hospital operating theaters and other critical areas to disinfect and kill all germs.
    I hope that all of you with dogs with this condition will try this old remedy.
    Your dog will thank you and reward you with a return to her or his happy self.


      Yes Eric, Iodine solutions are not only helpful for your dog/dog’s skin problems, they help you too/in many other ways. Thanks for reminding everyone here!


    Can anyone help? 16 months old german shepherd has metatarsal fistulation. Is atopica the only medicine? What about food? Can food be the cure?


      Susanna, metatarsal fistulation is a rare autoimmune defect that seems to primarily affect GSDs, hence it is hereditary (at least partially). Being an autoimmune defect, in my opinion the worst one can do is to administer immunosuppressive drugs like tacrolimus, protopic, atopica etc, and in my opinion the best one can do is to support the immune system instead. But you know I am not a vet, I apply academic insight and common sense. Many vets love to give the above, in conjunction with strong antibiotics. Again, wrong, in my view. And when you see a “holistic vet” you are likely to hear support for my view.

      The problem however is, what can you do about metatarsal fistulation? And how can you support the immune system?
      – balanced diet of natural homemade foods – no kibble, no processed foods at all!
      – prevent scavenging!
      – serve a daily portion of varied fruit and veg!
      – lots of varied outdoor exercise
      – no stress!
      – NO antibiotics, NO corticosteroids! – If you adminstered them in the past, you worsened it. Will take longer now.
      – No atopica etc, see above why (plus, it leads to cancer!)
      – now for pads: keep them in the best condition: not on hot asphalt, gravel, icemelt and other chemicals; consider your floor cleaners and carpets at home; apply a flimsy coating of Sudocrem (in UK this) daily; provide soft, comfy crate and resting places.

      Let me know how it goes with this.


    my jockey is of 20months it is suffering with skin Allergie that it looses hair where rash appeared and it gets bad smell with in 3hours after having bath
    how can i avoid that rash from my jockey


    After several years of feed my dog a high dog a high end dog food, I switched to another brand. The skin allergies cleared up and no more visits to the vet. I never would have thought the problems were caused by a specific dog food.


      I went from Merrick to Blue buffalo finally to Iams. The iams solve my dogs yeast ear infections. I spend thousands in vet visits and a change in dog food solved my problem. All the vet wanted me to do is keeping giving my dog steroids which would shorten my dogs life. The dog food that saved us is a prescription Iams, Iams KO. I strongly recommend it you wont regret it. Good luck


        “I spend thousands in vet visits and a change in dog food solved my problem.”
        As our Periodicals and my books are saying! Thanks for your feedback Lee!

        “The dog food that saved us is a prescription Iams, Iams KO. I strongly recommend it”
        I am entirely against wasting money on commercial dog food that always is inferior to balanced homemade food.

        I can not possibly understand why you haven’t tried that, instead of buying “prescription diet” commercial dog food? :roll:


    Hi there,

    I have a 6 month old GSD pup, when I bought him at 5 weeks they were feeding him Eukanuba, I then changed him from Eukanuba to Royal Canin which he is still now on. My problem is that he is continually scratching and itchy and you can see the irritation on his tummy. He doesnt chew or scratch himself open but hes just always itchy and I’m wondering if it maybe the food I am feeding him?

    I live in SA and also mentioned a new dog food called TechnoPet, if anyone has remarks on that negative or positive will be helpful?


      Yes Ashlee, very much so! Particularly if you feed Royal Canin.
      If you are not subscribed to learn about healthy homemade dog feeding, at least take a look at the commercial dog foods we suggest for German Shepherds (for good reason). If you choose the first starting with z you can’t go wrong with a GSD.


      My boy will be 4 in December and he’s had skin issues since he was 1.

      I find every few months he has issues with an itchy face & hot spots on his back. The vet puts him on a course of cephalexin (this was only after I spoke to my breeder & she recommended this) tablets which usually works. Initially when I took him to the vet (when he was 1) the vet put him on a course of steroids which after speaking with my breeder I took him off them straight away. Apparently that wasn’t good for him.

      I have more faith in my breeder then I do vets (sorry any vets reading this) for reasons I won’t get into but I would suggest owners speak with your breeder & they could recommend something as the parents may have the same issues.


        Danielle, what a stupid breeder and what a stupid vet! I’d get rid of both instantly if it was me.
        If you hear in our Interview Series what Ian Dunbar said about such breeders, you’ll concur.

        “cephalexin tablets which usually works” – they do not work: You see, it’s been coming back for years! – which is typical for antibiotics treatments! READ my FREE Health Manual.

        “the vet put him on a course of steroids” – Read first line above again.

        “I have more faith in my breeder then I do vets” – I notice that. You’re falling for emotions there, not for competence.

        “I would suggest owners speak with your breeder & they could recommend something as the parents may have the same issues” – Read first line above again.


        Thank you so very much for replying Tim.
        Jaeger means the world to me and there is nothing I would not do for him!
        I will read up on the health manual & hopefully his skin issues will clear up for good soon!
        Thanks again for the reply


      Years of my family raising gsds royal canin doesnt have enough fat or protein for gsd. Though they say its for the breed it really isnt. Reading labels helps. Because royal canin doesnt contain what gsd needs it will cause problems such as dry skin, dull coat. We have always fed our gsd food that contains 30%protein and 17-20%fat. I can tell you Royal canin is what is the issue it initially isnt a good dog food. Hope this helps!


        Yes, and ALL pet food is a waste product from rendering plants. They all contain carcinogenic chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, steroids, etc and very little, if any, food. Artificially concocted crap. Not limited to Royal Canin.
        Homemade foods, the only sensible choice!


    I have a 15 week old GSd that has scratches since the day I got him. Took him to the vet and he has no fleas or anything like that. What food do you recommend for him? I’m tired of him scratching and looking so pitiful!


      Please see my prior reply here AND the Food Periodicals you received earlier. Thx.


        I have tried everything for my 4 year old Shepherd, He constantly scraches and gets nixy I think because of the discomfort. Tried several vetsm groomers, antibiotics, preisone for a short period and also a ned for dermatis. Bought Dinovite, on it for 2 months and no change. Please My Layaway needs help. I feel so bad for him. Thank you


        Georgia, when you study our Periodical on Skin Allergies, you’ll know why everything you write you did was wrong and could only aggravate your dog’s misery, and what to do instead. I wish him the most speedy recovery possible after this lab med odyssey.


    my dog is 5 years old which has been suffering from skin allergy recently,
    the allergy causing the intensive hair fall, scaling (like our dandruff) and some times smells too..It has been facing its tough time. I cant see my dog like this,Please someone help me………………………………..


      We did already, we even have a Periodical on this topic, a book, all the help is there. Even the link where to subscribe!


    I have a white German shepherd who experiences allergy symptoms. He has redness mostly on his face and eye area. He scratches and rubs his nose and face on the rugs. It appears to be mos prevalent in the summer. We live in Florida and it seems as the weather gets colder his condition improves and then subsides . Hot weather returns and the cycle repeats itself.


    My 4yr. Old male gs stinks so bad. He itxhea.like crazy has scaly skin,and sores. He also rubs his face.on carpet or couch. We gi e him flea med. He hasbeen to thee vet & was given steroids & antibiotics. As soon as hes done withmeda not.long after he starys up agian with itching. We fed him the expensive dood w/o grain etc. Didnt seem to.male a.difference. we feed.him Pedigree.for large dogs. I feel so bad for him. I dont know what to do? I have no money…..he needs help……


      If you had no money, you’d stop wasting it on steroids and antibiotics that ultimately kill him!
      See the MyGermanShepherd Health Manual. It may cost you too much though: it’s free.
      The dog’s situation will only improve if you stop complaining and instead start to ACT.


    My GSD Max 8 Month has under his front legs a rash where the skin is extremely irritated and raw. What could this be?


    We have a 5 year old Duetsch Partial long haired GSD who started itching her flanks and ears and biting her paws and legs. Tic and flea treatment up to date and no evidence of fleas. We switched her to hypoallergenic diet of venison and potato. No improvement noted. She also started to develop an odor. There was no loss of hair or skin redness or flaking but she did start to develop multiple sebaceous cysts on ther trunk. Trips to the vet revealed sebaceous cysts per pathology and lab showed allergens to grass and demedex mites. They began treatment with high dose ivermectin injections that continued for 3 months, we also bathed her with ketoconazole shampoo weekly. There was a slight decrease in itching and cyst formation but then her hair became very course and brittle, losing its shine. This entire time she stayed on hypoallergenic food. The itching persisted day and night and she was exhausted. Now we are 9 months into the situation without any resolution and only intermittent improvement. Further testing showed no auto immune abnormalities (thyroid, diabetes), normal blood counts and further allergy testing showed allergy to dust mites. She was started on apoquel twice a day for 2 weeks then decreased to daily. Tried stopping it after 2 months but itching returned. Now on 6th month of Apoquel and constant itching, sebaceous cysts and odor have returned. We still give her a bath with ketoconazole shampoo monthly or as needed. We freeze her food (to kill mites), add a little broth to kill any possible survivors, vacuum like crazy, wash bedding at least weekly in hot water with high heat dryer. Any further suggestions?


    My 10 month old German Shepherd has redness between his pads on his back left foot. He he’s been limping on it . No foreign objects , cuts , or scrapes. Any ideas on what I can do?


      Have you got a photo?
      Sounds like there definitely was an irritant (eg some debris), maybe you just can’t find it now anymore. Redness between paw pads doesn’t come by itself. It’s either:
      – sore from an irritant
      – or punctured by an irritant or insect or other parasite
      – or an infection from a pathogen
      – or an allergy
      That’s it.
      His limping clearly indicates pain. Even when the limping stops, it doesn’t mean the underlying cause is resolved. Find the cause.


    My German shepherd has chronic inflammatory disorder the vet keeps saying its A topica and steroids I have read up on the side effects and don’t want to keep her in these what else can I do, she has hills zd ultra allegen and we try hard to keep her away from any other scraps not always successful, she had her spleen removed and a hysterectomy when she was 8 months old, she has leishans on her rear end and I need advise in what to do to help her I don’t want to risk cancer and shortening her life is there any anti inflammatory she can take safely? I’m using Benadryl at the moment but she is very panty and I’m not sure if it’s safe long term? She is 5.5 yrs old now and beautiful she wasn’t insured at 8 months stupidly so it’s cost us everything but she is worth it any advice would be great x


      Carol, as one of the Top Dog Experts in our Dog Expert Interview Series says very clearly: “It is always stupid to give steroids“, he means any anti-inflammatories, and he explains why. I couldn’t agree more, and write that clearly in EVERY book I published.

      Now, it seems, you’ve had a different view, certainly your vet has. That’s why (s)he is not in our Dog Expert Interview Series. :idea:

      So, what else could I say? I would take your dog off ALL lab medicaments instantly, and seek to find the CAUSE of any health issue. Anti-inflammatory drugs cover up and distort the cause, and RUIN the dog’s health. Note that an inflammation is the body’s NATURAL response to an infection. With anti-inflammatories you STOP the body from healing itself!

      Find a holistic vet. This Periodical will help.


    Our white GSD had terrible skin problems for months. I thought perhaps the grain in commercial food caused his problem. Our vet advised that the allergen is typically NOT grain, but rather the type of protein in the food. On his excellent advice, we switched our dog to POULTRY-FREE dog food, and Voila!, no more allergies.


      Glad you’re happy for the moment, just be aware that soon other allergies will arise. :-(
      Neither “I thought perhaps the grain in commercial food caused his problem”
      nor “rather the type of protein in the food”
      is the real problem. Commercial food itself is the real problem! You haven’t been feeding your dog what you think you did (poultry protein), you have been feeding toxic waste from rendering plants.

      Poultry protein is perfect for GSDs as much as for other dogs. Same with grain, perfect. If only it is real grain, real poultry, real food! If yours comes from rendering plants, it certainly is no “food” in the human sense of the word.

      Go to one and watch what goes into it…


    Our gsd has just turned 6. Every year from April/may to September he’s prone to skin allergies. We put him on benedryl now switched to reactin, we also combat it with a 6 essential oils we put on his skin weekly, he’s on a powdered probiotic and we feed him a high grade food. This year our summer was very hot and he’s suffered with pink spots and very flakey skin etc.
    He did have a bacterial skin infection and eat infection recently, the vet put him on antibiotics that worked but not 100%, now they want to put him on steroids which we are against! His skin improvded a lot but he still is itching and has a few pink spots and dandruff.
    I read that ladies reply about iodine spray? Wondering if I should try that next or is there any other advice to combat this issue before fall. Does coconut oil work?
    Thanks in advance!


      Jennifer pl read all the other relevant pages (use search) and my comments, permanent repetitions couldn’t be worded any better.
      And I would get rid of such vet! The authoritative Periodical for that was linked before as well.


    Our 3 yr GSD itches, we feed Fromm grain free, there are no spots on her skin her coat is pretty. I give her baths with oatmeal and it does nothing. I’m wondering could it be carpet? Any suggestions?


    Hello TIm…thanks for all you do for us GSD lovers on your site here! I’m new here. My question is will either you or Eric explain what the Iodine spray solution consists of. I went out and bought Iodine Tincture USP. I hope I have the proper Iodine to start with. I want so badly to help my GS with this itching and skin issue in general. Thank you very much.


      Cecilia, Iodine is a trace mineral with MANY properties, this means applying it wrongly or to the wrong individual or at the wrong time may have drastic side effects.
      I cannot possibly assess your dog’s situation and what you bought, please ask the right veterinarian before topical application (study the linked Periodical, it is HUGELY important!); do NOT use it orally in any case anyway, dogs and people get plenty of iodine through food intake.

      The KEY is (and if you have the wrong vet, they won’t bother about this!) that you identify the CAUSE of the “itching and skin issue” BEFORE you decide on any treatment! Do not ever allow any “treatment” that doesn’t explicitely address the CAUSE. :idea:

      “Treating” symptoms makes things only worse. Always. Down the line. You notice it through ever increasing vet visits, for seemingly unrelated issues.


        Thank you for the expeditious reply to my inquiry Tim! I totally understand what you are saying, however, I don’t understand why your opinion/recommendation is wavering. The Iodine that I purchased is the regular CVS brand first aid antiseptic, 1 fl. oz. bottle. The remedy that I am referring to is from Eric Gijsberts (total comments: 1)
        18 August 2013 at 22:54 and yourself above. I was willing to give this a try because through all my own research it sounds like the same typical skin irritation that many dogs have, including specifically Eric’s. I have the Iodine. What I would like to know from either you or Eric is what is the rest of the “solution” before applying it to the skin please. Thanks again.


        Pl read my reply again, unbiased, and you’ll see it’s not “wavering at all” (unfair to say), it’s the professional reply anyone in virtual space should give. I wouldn’t follow anyone’s prescription online if I were you. I don’t either. Too risky, for the reasons that I wrote. Also, what I am doing/using I wrote on this very page. Sorry that I replied, only because Eric likely won’t, see his comments number.


    I was merely going specifically by what I read in your comment (included above). Perhaps, yet and still, I misunderstood something there? And again, I very much appreciate all that you do here to help and am grateful that you did/do reply. Please keep up the good work. But, please point me directly to the comment of what you are doing/using on this very page and I will go from there. My dog is waiting for me to help him.Thank-a-million.


      Cecilia, a) pl do not duplicate content here by quoting it. Because aa) I know what I wrote, ab) Google penalizes that. I trust you don’t want that to happen.
      b) Instead of quoting what I write, read it. NOWHERE it says that I am planning to write WHAT solution to use, WHEN, in WHICH situation, on WHAT dog, etc – because I can’t. And I did say this before. And I warned you of following someone else’s virtual advice like this. And I said why I warn. And I said whom to ask instead. I even posted you for FREE the link to the most valuable content on finding a vet.

      No thanks, no nothing. Seemingly not read? Okay.
      PLEASE READ THAT, it will save your dog’s life or at least quality of life.


      Okay, got it now! I’m new here…thanks for bearing with me though!


    someone please help i have an 8 month old male German Shepard and he is losing hair in patches on the back of his ears. Hes constantly scratching itching and nipping at himself and i don’t know what to do. hes on grain free performatrin large breed puppy food. because when he was younger he was really itchy so switched him to grain free. but a few months later and he started to itch again. and now his ears are balding :( he went to the vet yesterday to get a skin scrape done to check for mange or some sort of mite causing this hair loss and he tested negative out of 2 skin scrapings.. They dont know what it is and im worried for him.


    Hi Tim,
    read all comments with much interest. What diet would you consider to be good for gsd’s with these types of allegies? Would you consider meat/poultry cuts mixed with, say, eggs and rice? Thanks in advance.


      Judy, in my experience – and corroborated by our Top veterinary nutritionist(!) – allergies of any kind can only be cured with human-grade fresh homemade foods, while allopathic drug therapy of any kind results only in palliation (there is serious science behind these words, so anyone who takes them lightly better first learns from our Dog Expert Interviews with Reviews!).

      Accordingly we always only feed what you can see here (or in more detail of course in My New Puppy Diary).

      And don’t these meals even look enticing?? :-)


    Thanks for the advice, Tim. most appreciated!!

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