The current study aimed to investigate the role played by oral, epicutaneous, and inhalation routes of exposure to house dust mites (HDM). The colony of high IgE-producing beagle dogs has been shown to develop pruritic dermatitis compatible with atopic dermatitis following environmental exposure (EE) to HDM. In crossover experiments, the response to EE was compared to two modified challenges, oral exposure (OE) and snood and muzzle exposure (SME). For OE, HDM were fed daily for 3 days. For SME, ingestion of allergen was prevented but there was inhalation and epicutaneous exposure to all body regions except to one ear. In all experiments, dogs were challenged for three consecutive days, and evaluated before, 6 h after exposure and daily thereafter, for 5 days. After a wash-out period, groups were crossed-over so that each dog was randomly challenged to all three protocols. Clinical scores were analysed using least squares analysis of variance. All dogs developed pruritic dermatitis regardless of the protocol. With OE, lesions developed in the same body regions as with EE although scores were lower. This difference became more evident after the first 3 days when OE scores decreased and EE scores continued to increase. The scores of covered and uncovered ears did not differ with SME. Scores for the remainder of the body were significantly lower than for EE. The development of lesions on covered ears supports the importance of inhalation or a systemic reaction to epicutaneous exposure in other areas. It is concluded that all routes are important and have additive effects, that route of exposure does not determine the distribution of lesions and that continuous epicutaneous exposure probably plays the most important role.