How to identify skin allergies in your Bull Terrier

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Other skin issues

In terms of itch and infection, however, the culprit are not always allergies.
If your dog suffers from frequent ear infections this can be a sign for allergies as well OR it could be mites.
Also excessive licking, discolored brown nails and brown dirt-like smear in skin folds combined with obvious itch can point towards an overactivity of skin mites (parasite).

Therefore in case it is at first not really clear if the dog is actually suffering from allergies a vet visit is the only reasonable option.
Two tests should be performed: One for allergies and one for mites. The treatment of either mites or allergies is very different while the symptoms can look very similar.
Also mites can come of top of an allergy problem when the immune system is already weakened.

Which therapies make sense?

The treatment actually depends on the trigger, which again makes it very important to find the trigger of the skin allergy.
While a mite infestation is usually only controllable by a (often long-term) medicated therapy, allergies can not be HEALED by medication.
The best strategy is to find and avoid the trigger.
Learn more in this article about how allergies work and how they can be treated.

If your dog is dealing with systemic allergies and it looks like they are food-related, an exclusion diet can make sense.
Exclusion in this case means that an ingredient suspected to be the allergy trigger is completely left out of the  dog’s food for a while. If the condition improves it shows that thee trigger has been found and successfully avoided. This can then be continued in the future. If the condition persists the next ingredient under suspicion is left out in order to see if that brings any improvement. This process takes time for the changes to take effect. And there should only be one of the suspected ingredients be left out at a time. This is the only way to reliably identify the allergy trigger when using this method. But it gets more complicated if different triggers are involved, which can be the case.
In order to find the trigger using an exclusion diet,  a switch to a homemade balanced diet with very limited ingredients can be the solution to get the situation under control. The reason is that raw/homemade diets – provided they are composed in the proper way – are not only of better quality than most kibbles. They also allow the largest amount of control over the ingredients and the best options to limit or eliminate nutritional allergy triggers.

Another approach to identify local or systemic triggers – expensive but also effective in many cases – is allergy testing. This can be done by a vet and can bring the answers needed to provide relief to the dog by avoiding the allergy’s trigger/s.

If the dog is in bad shape and the immune system weakened from the allergy symptoms, much inflammation present and the situation very critical, medication, such as antibiotics and/ or steroids may be needed to get the condition under control. But once the trigger has been found and can be avoided, no more medication should be necessary!
In the case of environmental allergies, however, avoiding can become a hard task. Triggers from the environment are usually contact allergens and often produce symptoms right where they get in contact with the body. If it turns out to be a detergent or a certain substance used in the household it is easier to avoid them. But if the triggers come from mother nature these allergies can mean lifelong medical treatment because there is no way to avoid these triggers.

In my experience with Bull Terriers nutrition plays a key role in the overall health, skin allergies and other ailments

Not only are the most common triggers for skin allergies in Bull Terriers related to nutrition. But even if that is not the case nutrition has a huge impact on how your Bull Terriers’s body is able to handle illness and allergies.
A strong and well nurtured body and a strong immune system are the best armor against illness.
The wrong nutrition on the other hand is not only not helpful. It can really worsen everything.
If the immune system is weak already it has nothing to put into the fight against ailments and it will be down in no time, leaving the dog with no defenses.

Some ingredients in modern highly processed pet foods, such as fillers (often grains) used in large amounts in some kibble varieties, are not allergy triggers themselves. But this ingredient puts stress on the digestive system of the Bull Terrier because it is not designed to deal with these amounts of non-animal-sourced nutrients. This can cause gas and irritated stomach or go completely unnoticed, but causing inflammation in the guts and weakening the immune system.
There is generally nothing wrong with taking advantage of the convenience of processed foods and feeding kibble. But it should be a good quality product. By-products, fillers and grains should be avoided. Animal protein should be the first ingredient.
The list of ingredients on a bag of food – even though it does not exactly tell amounts – tells you about the ratio of ingredients. The ingredients are sorted in descending order. That means the ingredients contained in larger amounts appear at the top of the list.
There is a great website to compare dog foods – dogfoodadvisor. The food you choose should be a 4.5 – 5 star rated food. But I also encourage you to read more about the particular foods you are considering because the description tells you even more about their contents.
Highly rated and high-protein foods can either be plant- or animal-based. I prefer animal-protein-based foods, meaning that the majority of the contained protein is sourced from animal parts and not from plants.

Always remember: Proper nutrition is the key to a healthy Bull Terrier!

I had to learn that myself the hard way. And today Mila is the perfect example of the truth behind this motto. I noticed a certain predisposition for skin issues in her and she is prone to yeast issues as so many Bull Terriers are. But she is looking and feeling good on her nutrition and we have never had any real problems other than a small pimple now and then.

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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. 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,

    • 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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