What is canine atopy?
Atopy is an allergic skin disease. An allergy is an 'over-reaction' of the immune system to something it encounters, known as the allergen. In an ideal world, we would simply avoid the allergen. Unfortunately for dogs with Atopy, the allergen is usually something which is very difficult to avoid.
What causes allergic skin disease in dogs?
House dust mites and pollens are usually the most common causes of canine atopy. Some dogs have a seasonal pattern to their atopy which can for example be worse in the summer months. For others, it can be a year-round problem.
What are the symptoms of atopy?
The allergic response to the allergen affecting your dog causes inflammation of the skin and itching. Commonly, the itching is worse around the face (especially the ears), front legs, paws and tummy. In some cases, the allergy leads to recurring ear disease. Repeated licking sometimes causes a pink discolouration to the area, as saliva may affect coat colour. This is often seen on the feet of affected individuals that habitually lick themselves.
Persistent scratching can worsen the condition, leading to hair loss and open skin wounds that may become infected. This can be very distressing for both dog and owner.
How is canine atopy treated?
Like other allergies, treatment is difficult and many options may need to be explored before the best regime for your individual pet is found. Where possible, efforts to limit or avoid exposure should be tried, however this may prove problematic. There are many different treatments that can provide relief including shampoos, ear treatments, dietary supplements and products to modify your dog's immune response.
An allergy blood test is available that can diagnose whether your pet has any allergies, and if so what to. It is then possible to reduce exposure to these allergens or even create a vaccine effective against these allergens. Please ask in the practice for details on this blood test, or discuss this potential treatment with your vet.
Often pets need a combination of more than one product for optimal control of itching. In addition, dogs with atopy need regular flea control as well as good control of secondary skin infections.
Contact your vet
If you think your dog is showing any of the signs above or may have canine atopy, book a check-up now by phoning us for an appointment. There are many causes of redness and itchy skin, and your vet will recommend the best course of action for your dog.