How to identify skin allergies in your Bull Terrier

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Before I start with this topic I want to tell you something very personal: 95% of the things in this blog are not only thoroughly researched by me but they are actually based on my own experience. And that means that they are also based on mistakes I made myself. It has happened more than one time in my life that I asked myself: “Why did I not know this sooner? Why did I not ask the right questions?”
But at the end of the day there is no reason to beat yourself up about mistakes made of the past.
We always have the chance to learn from them.
So, when you read this and you find yourself doing things now or in the past I describe here as not so good, please don’t take it personal and don’t feel judged. I’ve been there and I have done them myself.

Allergies, especially skin allergies, sadly are part of many Bull Terrier’s lives. This breed – once rated among the healthiest dog breeds in the world – is actually not so healthy anymore.
I blame this on different factors, such as irresponsible breeding, environmental changes and highly processed modern day food. But most of these are topics for another article.
For many Bull Terrier owners it takes a long time to realize that the health problems their dog is suffering from are actually related to allergies.


Why do so many different things cause skin to react?

The skin is the biggest organ of most mammals and it is connected to our inner system. It is the body’s line of defense against influences from the outside and it is willing to do so. All parts of the dog’s body interact in some ways. Hormones that are released from the adrenal glands are acting all over the body. When the intestines are weakened by say antibiotics this can affect the entire body.
When allergies are causing the body to activate its defense mechanisms this can show in the form of itchy and inflamed skin, even if the trigger does not get in direct contact with the skin, but rather comes from the inside (as in the case of nutrition).


Skin allergies in Bull Terriers can be caused by different triggers, the three main causes being:

  • nutrition
  • parasites
  • environment

Very often when people notice their dog suddenly becoming excessively focussed on cleaning themselves by frequently licking different parts of their bodies these owners do not even realize at first that they are dealing with allergies.

What are the symptoms of skin allergies in Bull Terriers?

  • red or raw paws, redness between the toes and under footpads caused by excessive licking and biting
    discolored fur on the paws (coppery red)
  • pustules
    ear infections
  • red belly
  • hair loss
  • lesions and inflamed areas on different parts of the skin

When owners notice their Bull Terriers suddenly licking their paws or other parts more often they should be alert. This could be the first sign of a skin allergy. Many owners wait this out for too long and secondary infection gets good chances to start unnoticed at first.

Many Bull Terriers like licking themselves, other pets in the household and people to keep themselves busy or show affection. To a certain extend that is ok and normal. But even without allergies being present this can easily become obsessive. As Bull Terriers are a very active breed they are prone to developing obsessive behaviors, such as tail chasing or excessive licking, if they are alone and bored for longer periods of time, for example, don’t get enough exercise or if they are mentally on a constantly overexcited level. But excessive licking and biting can also be a sign of allergies.

If you notice excessive licking don’t fool yourself and think that’s only normal. Don’t hesitate to count the incidents and examine your Bull Terrier. Take a look between your Bull Terrier’s toes because that is often a moist area, optimum breeding ground for bacteria and often a lot worse already than it looks from the outside.
It may as well be the case that you do not notice more licking than usual because your dog only does it during alone time or so. But you may notice the color of the fur changing from white into a coppery dirty red instead or in addition. This discoloration is often a sign of excessive licking (as is hair loss on the paws) caused by minerals in the saliva.

If you want to do something, first here’s what you should NOT do:
If you notice red and raw paws, please, do not go the very common route of putting socks over the paws, or a surgery collar around the neck or even worse tape the paws in order to stop the licking and give things a break. This really does not help anything! In bad cases it does quite the opposite! And that is especially true if it is the ONLY measure you take.

Why?

The Bull Terrier is licking because its skin is itchy.
If you have ever had a broken limb in your life and had the honors of wearing one of those ancient closed casts you will probably know how dreadful that itch developing inside the cast and the fact that you can’t reach down there scratch yourself can be.
That is exactly what your Bull Terrier experiences when you tape those itchy paws.
The itch doesn’t stop. Only your dog can’t reach it any more to relieve itself.

It also does not really help with healing because neither does it stop the allergy triggers nor does it do anything good to heal the inflammation. In the worst case it traps already accumulated bacteria in a very bacteria-friendly moist environment making everything even worse.

What you can do as a supporting measure is to frequently flush or wipe the paws and between the toes or other infected areas with a non-stinging skin disinfectant especially after walks outside to curb the bacterial growth from that secondary infection and aid the healing. Also you can use medicated (anti-itch) dog shampoo for bathing. Please do not use products formulated for humans! These are formulated for a  different skin ph and only make things worse.
Also, just because the belly may be red and the paws raw that does NOT necessarily indicate that you are dealing with a contact allergy to say grass or your carpet cleaner. Allergic breakouts can happen either locally or systemic (= affecting the entire organism). In case of a contact allergy the trigger is something the skin gets in direct contact with, like an insect bite, for example, or plants. Triggers are often easier to find and avoid. Signs of a systemic allergy can show all over the body. Something the dog eats can cause itch and breakouts in any area of the body. Triggers are much harder to identify.


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13 thoughts on “How to identify skin allergies in your Bull Terrier

    • Well, I am not going to make up excuses. I am in the same boat with many people: This is my hobby project and I always need to find time to write & publish more articles besides working my regular job and having a family. I still have some unpublished topics I want to talk about and I am trying to add more new content very soon.
      However, if you have any questions or topics you’d like me to write about, please just let me know. If I am able to say something relevant about the topic, I will make that one of my next stories.

  1. I’m trying to determine whether scratching I’m seeing in my 12-week-old Bull Terrier puppy is the result of allergy, or neurosis. He has (healing) scabs on his front legs and particularly in the morning seems unable not to scratch. I’ve dremeled his nails so they are rounded, tight to the paw and smooth so he has his best chance for healing. I also redirect with games and toys to try to take the focus off his legs. Aside from the obviously healing injury (which I at first attributed to litter mates), his heart doesn’t really seem to be in it when he’s scratching…almost like “here we go again”. I’m going to the vet next week to get 2nd shots and have this looked at. He’s a terrific pup. I’m just worried for him.

    • Scabs on the front legs more likely originate from excessive licking.
      This can have different reasons, from boredom to allergies.
      It is a very good idea to bring this up at your next vet visit.
      Also, if you want to give your pup’s immune system a boost, check out NuPro or NuVet and think about a little good quality fish oil now and then for omegas.
      Both, NuPro and NuVet are great supplements to help your pup getting the nutrients it needs during growth.

  2. I foster care bullies & applied medicated powder on skin rashes on bellies for overnight clearing next morning. Bought powder at Dollar Store.
    Good luck.

  3. My 4 year old bull terrier has been shedding a lot recently, but today as I was brushing his hair, chunks of it started to fall out and at the roots of the hair chunks was some sort of brown bacteria. I’m not too sure what it is.

    • Hello Sophia,
      sorry for answering so late. But I would only be able to speculate what this could be or could have been. Maybe it has resolved in the meantime.
      To me that sounds like it could be some kind of yeast issue.
      But there are a number of reasons why Bull Terriers loose hair or get bumps. And the brown specs could as well be something entirely different than yeast.
      Very often hair loss and bumps are related to allergy and environmental factors, nutrition or both.
      In these cases it is vital to look at every aspect of the animal’s live. Does it experience sudden stress, sudden changes that could cause stress? Has the nutrition changed? Does the dog show any other signs of discomfort or illness? Is the dog itchy?
      There is so much to consider that after making a list of these things I would always suggest to have the dog evaluated by a veterinarian, especially because a lot of ailments in this category and in particular if you ARE in fact dealing with yeast overgrowth, these issues do not resolve until the underlying factors change.
      Good luck! Very sorry for not being more helpful.
      But without seeing the dog and knowing a lot more about the issue, it is just impossible to give really helpful advice over the internet.

  4. Hi there! Just stumbled on your site while researching for a solution for my poor doggy. “Biggie” is a 4 year old male EBT. About 2 years ago he seemed to suddenly become allergic to EVERYTHING… all feathered things. .beef..grains..you name it .. I feel like I’ve tried everything. I’ve tried a raw diet (that’s how we figured out he is allergic to chicken and beef) and various dry food brands. We’re currently trying Zignature Kangaroo dry food, we’re going on month 3 and not seeing much change. We’ve tried apoquel and didn’t see improvement with that either. He isn’t a big self licker.. but his poor tummy is soooo red! And I can tell he’s itchy and frustrated. I’d so appreciate any ideas you might have. I hope you and your loved one are safe and healthy.

    • Hello Cuisette,
      so sorry to hear about your dog suffering so badly. Even though Bull Terriers are known for skin issues and allergies being very common among the breed, and even other breeds starting to more and more sensitive over time often from consuming a lot of very high processed food, this really sounds like an extra special case.
      Kudos for taking on the challenge and taking such great care of your little one! Your dog is just lucky to have you.
      Unfortunately besides the usual tips, such as keeping Biggie very clean, use only care products formulated for very sensitive dog skin, try coconut oil (if that does not get licked off!) to soothe the belly and try to add a vitamin supplement to the nutrition if tolerated to boost the dog’s immune system, I admittedly do not have a whole lot in my quiver for this case, which makes me sad.
      If you are at the point where Apoquel – a medication that should only be considered when all other options are exhausted – does not bring any visible relief, I can’t offer any more ideas.
      This will likely remain a day to day journey for all of you.
      The only thing that comes to my mind when I read your story is that I really feel like, if you can’t find any kind of nutrition that helps with the redness and itchiness, is this really food related? Because, honestly, this is a loooong list of allergies. I’ve heard of such cases in the past. I know they do exist.
      But if you have not done this so far – which I doubt – but just in case, you may want to look deeper into all the environmental factors around your dog. Maybe there IS something else at least contributing. I don’t know if this input is of any help. But I sincerely hope it is.

  5. Hello everyone,

    I’m looking for help with determining and trying to find answers as to what my 6 month mini is allergic to. He’s on day 4 of antibiotics, I eliminated all treats and feeding now raw diet (salmon) with few grain free natural dry food in the mix. His belly rash and paws are only getting worse. I’m trying to pin point triggers but and wondering if it’s grass that he’s allergic to. I do add probiotics 2-3 times a week and wondering if I should stop giving him antibiotics as I read they may only worsen the problem by wearing his immune system. Will be scheduling a dermatologist appointment tomorrow as his regular Vet is at a loss and does not have experience with the MBT breed or allergies at such a young age. Any advice or suggestions please?

    Thank you,
    Rita

    • Hi Rita,
      I just told another owner about how hard it is to detect the causes of allergies. You are right that antibiotics are not great for the gut and can sometimes do more harm than good. But at this point I would probably not stop giving it, the reason being: Stopping now would mean having exposed the dog to the side effects without giving the medicine a chance to do its work. But that is only my opinion. I want to stress that I am NOT a doctor and this is NOT medical advice. I have not seen your dog and there may be circumstances I do not even know about that make you think about stopping the antibiotic and that may be very valid. Therefore, for the final decision the prescribing vet would be the best person to discuss this with.
      Adding probiotics definitely sounds like a good idea to me.
      Just as with young children in puppies it takes some time for the immune system to develop and they can experience allergies at a young age.
      Sometimes they literally grow out of it. But not in every case. Sometimes they grow up fine and allergies start breaking out at a later age. Allergies are not tied to any particular age in general.
      No matter if puppy or grown adult, the best chance to find allergy triggers is either testing, if available, or exclusion. Taking a look at everything that may have changed for the dog since the breakout started and limiting exposure to the things that have changed if that is possible.
      If it is seasonal you will probably need some time to watch it recurring or have an allergy test performed.
      One thing you can definitely do during breakouts it try to prevent secondary infection which usually is what requires the treatments with antibiotics.
      Disinfectant, mild shampoos, epsom salt baths, disinfecting wipes … there are several things that can be used.
      Avoiding secondary infection is one of the most important things besides finding the allergy’s trigger, because they are what usually puts a LOT of additional stress on the immune system of your dog and make it feel more miserable in general.

  6. Bravecto!!!!!!!!! I have a mini bull terrier that was having terrible skin issues. Scrabs everywhere blood blisters on his belly and all. It was so depressing for him and myself. I tried EVERYTHING from 3 different food all grain free. Tried all different types of protein from salmon to bison and nothing was working. Washed him every 2-3 days with oatmeal based shampoos and conditioners. Vet finally found the issue and prescribed bravecto. He was feeling better within a few days and he’s now 95 percent better after a month.

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