Atopic Dermititis in dogs
Dogs also suffer from seasonal allergies; however, the symptoms differ considerably between dogs and humans. In dogs, seasonal allergies cause a condition known as atopic dermatitis, or atopy. The symptoms of atopy are usually first noticed at specific times of the year. However, as a dog matures, they can be affected year-round. Symptoms include itching, scratching and hair loss; skin on the groin or armpits may be red; dogs may sneeze, have runny eyes or rub their face on the ﬂoor; inflamed skin can develop secondary bacterial or fungal infections which a make the itch worse; they may have greasy fur and an unpleasant odour. It’s common for dogs to lick their feet frequently and have recurring infections. Atopy can make life miserable for our canine companions.
Some breeds appear to be more prone to developing atopy than others. Many terrier breeds are susceptible, as are German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. The condition is thought to be heritable, which means that the offspring of atopic dogs are more likely to also have atopy. Symptoms usually first appear before a dog is three years of age. Common triggers for atopic reactions include house dust mites, moulds and plants.
The cause of atopy in dogs is thought to be a defective skin barrier, which allows allergens to penetrate the skin and trigger an immune reaction. Diagnosis is initially based on the clinical signs and history, but it’s important to rule out flea allergy, dermatitis or food allergies; which can also cause similar symptoms. Elimination of these potential causes involves the use of reliable ﬂea control and feeding a hypoallergenic diet for eight to twelve weeks to see if skin inﬂammation and itching is reduced.
If a dog is diagnosed with atopy, then it’s important that their owners are aware it is a chronic skin condition and relapses are common. There are a number of treatment options available.
Firstly, allergy testing can be done to identify which allergens are triggering a reaction. This information can be used to develop a de-sensitising injection, which trains the dog’s body to tolerate the allergens. This means they’re less likely to react to them. It’s a slow process, but up to 80% of dogs will respond. However, some will still need medical management from time to time.
Another option is to treat an allergic dog so their body no longer reacts to the allergen. Traditionally, this has involved medications such as antihistamines and corticosteroids, although newer medications have shown excellent results in reducing the itch in atopic pets.
Supportive treatment involves careful bathing to remove allergens from the skin, good nutrition to support the skin barrier and the use of antibiotics and antifungal medication to control secondary infection.
If your dog is itchy and stressed and you are always battling ear infections or getting cross at them for constantly chewing their feet, they may be atopic. There’s no need for them to be uncomfortable. Please talk to us; we’ll be able to develop a management plan to make them feel much better.