Atopy, or allergic dermatitis, is the most common skin condition of dogs. It can also affect cats.
What is 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 difficult to avoid. House dust mites and pollens are usually the most common causes.
Some dogs have a seasonal pattern to their atopy e.g. worse in the summer months. For others, it can be a year-round problem.
The allergic response 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 discoloration 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 Atopy treated?
Like other allergies, treatment is difficult and many things may need to be tried before the best regime for your individual pet is found. Where possible efforts to limit or avoid exposure can 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. 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.
If you think your dog is showing any of the signs above or may have Atopy book a check up now by phoning your local veterinary practice. There are many causes of redness and itchy skin, and one of our vets will recommend the best course of action for your pet.