Canine Atopy Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment


Canine Atopy Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment

canine atopy

Canine Atopy

Atopy, also referred to as allergic inhalant dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, is quite common in dogs.

It results from an allergic reaction to substances in your dog’s environment which are inhaled or absorbed through the skin. These substances are known as allergens.

Allergens may be house dust mites, house dust, human dander, feathers, molds, or pollens from plant life.

Dogs which suffer from atopy are also prone to developing seborrhea, secondary bacterial skin infections (pyoderma), and possibly yeast infections as well.

Breeds commonly affected by atopy are:

the Boston Terrier, Boxer, Cairn Terrier, Chinese Shar-Pei, Dalmatian, English Setter, Golden Retriever, Irish Setter, Labrador Retriever, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Poodle, Miniature Schnauzer, Pug, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, and Wire-Haired Fox Terrier.

Atopy is likely an inheritable disease, so if your dog’s parents suffer from atopy, it is more likely your dog will suffer from it as well. For this reason, it may be best not to breed your dog if he/she suffers from atopy.


Symptoms Of Canine Atopy:

Atopy is usually first seen when your dog is between 1-3 years of age, although it can develop as late as 6-7 years of age.

Initially, symptoms may be seasonal but usually progress to being present year-round with time.

The primary symptom of atopy is itchiness. Your dog may scratch, lick, chew, or rub along the cardog.

The face, paws, lower legs, and groin are the most commonly affected areas, followed by the ears and eyes.

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Initially, you may see slight reddening of the affected skin areas.

Eventually, these areas are likely to develop more severe lesions and may become abraded, thickened and wrinkled in appearance. The area may also become darker in color (hyperpigmentation) or stained from constant licking (saliva stains). You are likely to notice hair loss as well.


Diagnosis Of Canine 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 diagnose atopy and also to rule out other diseases which can produce very similar symptoms.

“Allergy testing” usually offers the definitive diagnosis of atopy, but your dog’s veterinarian may need to do procedures such as skin scrapings, fungal cultures, and/or blood screens to rule out other medical issues before “allergy testing” is considered.

Often, a therapeutic trial with a medication to control fleas will be suggested before actual “allergy testing”.

Because some types of mites can be difficult to diagnose, 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 atopy clinically.

Feeding trials with special hypo-allergenic diets which have a decreased tendency to produce an allergic reaction may be suggested as well.

“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.
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Your dog’s veterinarian will help you determine which type of testing is best for your dog.


Treatment Of Canine Atopy:

Treatment for atopy will probably be life-long and the treatment regimen may need to be modified from time to time, based on your dog’s physical condition.

Treatment may involve:

  • Reducing exposure to allergens: Allergy testing may be necessary to determine which substances your dog is allergic to. Once the allergens are known, it may be possible to remove them from the environment.
  • Hyposensitization: When allergens cannot be avoided, hyposensitization may be necessary. This involves injecting low doses of the offending allergens at regular intervals initially and giving boosters as needed when signs begin to reappear. This is also referred to as immunotherapy, or sometimes “allergy shots”.
  • Other treatments your dog’s veterinarian may recommend are
    • shampoos medicated to control itching,
    • fatty acid food supplements,
    • antihistamines to control itching, and
    • corticosteroids (also to control itching).

Secondary skin problems, such as pyodermas, yeast infections, or seborrhea will need to be treated concurrently if present.

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