Genes potentially involved in the pathology of canine atopic dermatitis (AD) were identified using gene expression microarrays. Total RNA extracted from skin biopsies was hybridized to an Agilent Technologies custom-designed 22K canine array. The arrays were analysed using Genedata Analyst software. Data were corrected for multiple hypothesis testing and tested for significance using the National Institute on Aging array analysis tool. For comparison, data were divided into separate groups: lesional atopic (n = 16), nonlesional atopic (n = 17) and healthy controls (n = 9). Fifty-four genes were differentially expressed at a significance level of 0.05 in canine AD compared to healthy controls. Sixteen genes were differentially expressed in both nonlesional and lesional atopic skin, 26 genes only in nonlesional skin and 12 only in lesional skin. These genes were associated with innate immune and inflammatory responses, cell cycle, apoptosis, barrier formation and transcriptional regulation. The most dysregulated gene in lesional skin was S100A8, which showed an almost 23-fold increase in expression. This is a pro-inflammatory cytokine located in the epidermal differentiation complex. Microarray analysis is a novel technique in canine AD. Significant changes in gene expression were identified in atopic skin. These were relevant to skin barrier formation and the immune response, suggesting that they both participate in AD. Gene expression restricted to lesional skin may be involved in inflammatory changes, whereas those shared or restricted to nonlesional skin may reflect the atopic phenotype. Investigating gene polymorphisms in the targets identified in this study will help improve our understanding of the genetic basis of this disease.