Allergic Skin Disease In Dogs – Canine Allergic Dermatitis
Allergic Skin Disease In Dogs – Canine Allergic Dermatitis
Canine Allergic Dermatitis
Sometimes a severe reaction occurs between a substance and the immune system of the body. This is called an “allergic reaction,” and may be caused by dust, weeds, molds, grass, foods, or fleas, as well as many other materials.
The item responsible for the allergic reaction is called an “allergen”.
The resulting disease is called allergic dermatitis or sometimes allergic contact dermatitis.
Symptoms Of Allergic Skin Disease In Dogs:
In humans, the reaction that occurs usually affects the respiratory system, causing breathing problems‑‑such as asthma. A different type of chemical reaction usually occurs in the body of the dog and cat.
The major sign that occurs as a result of this particular type of allergic reaction in dogs and cats is itching
The itching will cause your dog to chew and scratch, which in turn causes more damage to the skin. The skin often becomes infected or thickened from prolonged chewing and scratching.
Some allergic reactions occur as soon as exposure occurs, but most reactions are delayed and don’t become evident for 3‑7 days after the exposure. This can make the determination of the causative agent very difficult. Often a dog that develops allergic dermatitis will develop other allergies later in life, which can make control even more frustrating.
Allergic dermatitis never develops the first time exposure occurs. It takes time for the body to develop an allergy to a particular substance. This is the reason many dogs do not develop an allergy until the later years of life.
Allergic dermatitis is often not preventable, but control with medications is effective if the owner will follow the veterinarian’s instructions carefully and continue treatment. You must be patient and realize that the condition probably will recur throughout the dog’s life, if and when exposure occurs.
The secret is to get proper medical attention as soon as signs of allergic dermatitis are seen. Prompt treatment will prevent the skin lesions from becoming more severe.
Allergic Dermatitis And Fleas:
The most common allergy seen in the dog and cat is the result of flea bites! The dog becomes allergic to the protein in the saliva of the flea. The reaction can occur after only one flea bite!! Many times there will be no evidence of fleas on the dog when the itching starts and it is examined, which causes the owner to question the diagnosis. Remember‑‑most allergic reactions occur 3-7 days after the exposure the allergenic substance!
If fleas are present, initial recommendations are to control flea infestation. Fighting fleas is a constant war because:
- The flea’s life cycle can involve more than one year’s time.
- Most of the life cycle of the flea occurs off the dog.
- Premises may be contaminated with fleas from other animals.
Fleas must be kept off your dog to control the allergic reaction and resultant allergic dermatitis. The recent introduction of new, much more effective, flea products has helped tremendously.
Treatment of the house and yard is sometimes still necessary in areas highly infested with fleas.
Allergic Skin Disease In Dogs
Diagnosis Of Allergic Dermatitis:
Once flea allergy is eliminated or controlled, then other aspects of the problem can be addressed-‑such as food allergy, contact allergy, and inhaled allergies (atopy).
Diagnosis will require a thorough examination by your dog’s veterinarian, along with a detailed history of your dog’s medical symptoms.
Your dog’s veterinarian may need to perform some basic diagnostic tests to rule out other diseases which can produce very similar symptoms. These tests may include a routine blood screen, skin scrapings, and cultures of the skin looking for fungal, yeast, or bacterial infections.
“Allergy testing” may eventually need to identify the specific allergens (allergy-causing substances) involved.
In addition to a therapeutic trial with a medication to control fleas, a therapeutic trial with a miticide (medication which kills mites) might also be suggested as a means of ruling out certain forms of mange which can appear similar to an allergy clinically.
Feeding trials with special hypo-allergenic diets which have a decreased tendency to produce an allergic reaction may be suggested as well.
Dogs can be allergic to a wide variety of substances, and your dog may be allergic to more than one item at the same time.
Treatment Of Allergic Skin Disease In Dogs
Treatment will vary depending on your dog�s condition and individual circumstances.
Quite often, medicated shampoos and ointments are used.
Sometimes food additives, such as fatty acid supplements, are advised, or even special hypo-allergenic (low allergy) diets.
Other medications may be necessary as well.
- Antihistamines are frequently used to control the symptoms of allergic dermatitis.
- In some cases, steroid products may need to be considered as well.
Follow your dog’s veterinarian’s recommendations in treating your dog.
Allergic Dermatitis And “Allergy Testing”
“Allergy testing” to determine the exact substances that your dog is allergic to may be necessary for animals with recurrent allergies or those that have allergies all year long.
“Allergy testing” is performed in one of two ways, either
- through a blood sample or
- through the use of an intradermal skin test.
Blood samples can be used to check for antibodies produced in response to specific antigens (allergens), thus revealing which substances your dog is allergic to.
In the intra-dermal skin test, a small amount of antigen is injected into your dog’s skin and the area is examined a short time afterward looking for signs of a reaction, usually evidenced by a welt around the injection site if the animal is allergic to the substance.
Your dog’s veterinarian will help you determine which type of testing is best for your dog.
Once the offending allergens are identified, it may be possible to formulate a desensitization plan in which your dog is introduced to small quantities of the allergen(s) in order to build up a resistance to them (hyposensitization).