Definition of Atopy
Atopy, also called allergic inhalant dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, atopic eczema and immune-mediated skin hypersensitivity, is a common genetically-influenced disease that makes dogs react to things that normally don’t cause skin problems. The triggers of atopic reactions are called allergens. These can be anything that causes the immune system to overreact. One dog may be overly sensitive to weed pollen in the air, while its littermate may be allergic to touching grass. Common allergens are pollen, grasses, weeds, trees, mold, dust, dust mites, grains, chemicals, fertilizers, wool and feathers. Most affected animals are allergic to more than one thing. Atopic dogs get itchy when they come into contact with something that overstimulates their immune system. At first, symptoms may be mild. Many dogs eventually start scratching and biting at their skin and become extremely distraught. This causes skin sores and infections, making the dog miserable. Atopy usually is controllable with medicine and lifestyle changes. Veterinary and owner attention are necessary to keep the dog comfortable.
Canine atopy is a clinical syndrome that involves an abnormal reaction by a dog’s immune system when it comes into contact with substances or organisms in the environment that do not cause an allergic response in normal animals. The things that trigger the atopic reaction are known as allergens. Common allergens in dogs with atopy include pollen, grasses, weeds, trees, plant fibers, mold, household cleaners, dust, dust mites, various grains, insect bites, animal dander, chemicals,
Atopy is an extremely common, genetically-influenced disease that causes dogs to become hypersensitive to things that normally would not cause an allergic reaction. The most consistent symptom in atopic dogs is pruritis, known commonly as skin itchiness. Often, pruritis is mild and seasonal, at least during the early stages of the disease, when the symptoms may wax and wane. The symptoms in some dogs never progress beyond this stage of annoying but not overwhelming itchiness.
Diagnosing Atopy in Dogs
Canine atopy can be hard to distinguish from sarcoptic mange (scabies), demodectic mange (demodicosis), flea bite allergies, food allergies and other skin disorders, which makes it somewhat difficult to diagnose. When a dog arrives at a veterinary clinic with a history of itching, scratching, licking, rubbing and biting at its skin, the veterinarian will gather detailed information from the owner about the dog’s health and background. This may include: 1) when the symptoms started, 2) whether they come and go or have stayed about the same, 3) what the dog eats and whether there have been any recent changes in its diet, 4) whether the dog is on any flea, tick or heartworm preventatives, and 5) whether any other animals in the household are showing similar signs.
Treatment & Prognosis for Atopy in Dogs
The goals of treating this common and frustrating canine skin condition are to eliminate or minimize the dog’s exposure to offending allergens, resolve skin sores and infections and restore a comfortable quality of life.Most atopic dogs are treated as outpatients. A treatment protocol will be selected based on the cause of the dog’s atopy, the seasonality of its symptoms, the distribution and severity of hair loss and skin sores, the presence of any secondary infections,