Sera from 154 West Highland White Terrier puppies between 6 and 12 weeks of age were assayed for total IgE using a sandwich ELISA method. Development of clinical signs of atopic dermatitis in these dogs was monitored by use of an annual owner questionnaire, until the dog reached 3 years of age. Of 114 evaluated dogs, skin disease severe enough to warrant veterinary examination was reported in 52 (46%) during the three study years. A diagnosis of atopic dermatitis was made by the attending veterinarian in 28 dogs (25%). Certain litters had an especially high prevalence of apparently atopic dogs, consistent with the genetic predisposition towards atopy in this breed, but clear evidence of consistent heritability was not present. The median IgE concentration in 154 puppies at 6–12 weeks of age was 0.9 units mL−1, with a skewed distribution. Significant (P < 0.01) variation in serum IgE concentrations was observed between litters, with median serum IgE concentrations for a litter ranging from 0 to 27.7 units mL−1. The median serum IgE concentration in puppies that later developed clinical signs of atopic dermatitis was not significantly different from that of puppies that remained healthy. There were no apparent correlations or significant differences found between serum IgE concentration as a puppy, parental history of skin disease, and subsequent emergence of clinical signs of atopic dermatitis. We conclude that early total serum IgE determinations seem to have little usefulness in predicting the later onset of atopic dermatitis in this breed.