BACKGROUND Interest in intraepidermal nerve fibres (IENFs) is rising in human medicine, because variations in fibre density occur in some diseases and these neurites might contribute to disease pathogenesis. An increase in IENF density is seen in human atopic dermatitis (AD); there are no such data in atopic dogs. OBJECTIVES To compare the prevalence of IENFs in normal and atopic canine skin. METHODS Eight millimetre skin punch biopsies were taken from six sites of 25 healthy dogs without dermatitis and compared to lesional and nonlesional skin samples of dogs with AD (23 and 14 dogs, respectively). Thirty micrometre-thick paraffin-embedded sections were stained by indirect immunofluorescence for neuronal beta-3 tubulin. Only sections with detectable dermal nerves were then screened for the presence of IENFs. RESULTS IENFs were identified in all 25 normal nasal planum sections, but in only one biopsy collected from each of the normal canine haired skin (NCHS) sites. As there was no significant difference in IENF prevalence between NCHS areas, they were grouped together. The rate of detection of IENFs was significantly higher (one-tailed Fisher's test, P = 0.004) in lesional AD specimens (18 of 23; 78%) than in nonlesional AD (four of 14; 29%) and NCHS specimens (four of 111; 4%, P < 0.0001). The prevalence of IENF detection in nonlesional AD samples was significantly higher than in normal canine skin (P = 0.006). CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE IENFs are detected more commonly in canine AD than in normal haired skin; these results are comparable to those seen for human AD.