Dermatitis & Environmental Allergies in Dogs (Atopy)

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Atopy in Dogs: Environmental Allergies

Does your dog lick his or her feet? Get hot spots or rashes on their skin? These may be signs of seasonal or environmental allergies, a condition called atopy.
Like people, animals can develop allergies to their environment. However, atopy in dogs usually
results in cutaneous or skin irritations.

Common Causes of Atopy

Atopy  or Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic disease or atopic dermatitis or atopy are all terms that basically indicate a genetic tendency to become sensitized to environmental allergens. Some of the more common things that animals can develop allergies to are things like  :
And these are some of the more common things that we would identify or associate. There seems to be some genetic predispositions so that when you look at atopy or atopic disease in specific breeds of dogs, there’s definitely a preponderance of the disease in certain breeds over others, so that genetic predisposition tends to manifest in certain breeds of dogs.
The clinical signs of atopy are variable and sometimes it can be limited to just one part of the body, or it can become more generalized, particularly as the disease progresses and the pet ages.
Some the key areas for atopic dermatitis for the owner to be aware of would be :
  • Ear infections
  • Face rubbing,
  • Paw chewing,
  • Recurring infections anywhere on the body that’s associated with itching, scratching, and rubbing.
As far as secondary complications from allergies, the most common secondary complications are skin infections, and these can involve bacterial infections as well as yeast infections.
The bacterial infections can be variable but we do see staph infections in dogs. A large percentage
of these are not the methicillin-resistant type infections, although on occasion, those can occur. These are not typically contagious to people as a rule.
The yeast infections that dogs get with atopic dermatitis can be particularly problematic because yeast infections, just like when they occur in humans, can be particularly very itchy, and this can complicate the underline allergy disease tremendously by accelerating or increasing the itch symptoms.
The yeast infections in dogs have a tendency to affect skin fold locations. Ears, paws, neck folds,
armpits, groin, those are the areas that are most commonly affected.
If an owner is concerned that their pet has allergies, the first thing that we should obviously do is see their veterinarian, and discuss the symptoms that their pet is exhibiting.
Veterinarians will generally be able to decipher and rate different types of itchy skin diseases based on the history and the physical pattern or distribution that’s present, so Veterinary attention is probably the most important,
and then discussing the options bases on that pet’s particular symptoms with your veterinarian would be the next step.
So when we’re diagnosing atopic dermatitis in the dog, the hallmark of the diagnosis is actually made based on history and physical findings, and ruling out other differential diagnoses.
This is important that veterinarians check for parasites, they rule out parasites, and they treat infection. Or maybe they’ll put your dog through a food trial, which could mimic a dermatitis as well. Once your veterinarian is convinced that you are dealing with atopic dermatitis and we’ve ruled out the other differentials, to determine which items to desensitize your pet to.
That can be done either through an inter-dermal skin test, which generally is going to require a referral to a specialist, or they can run a blood or in vitro allergy test that can be sent to an outside laboratory.
If you recognize the clinical signs described, you should contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will be able to perform tests to find out if your pet is suffering from atopy. I hope this information was helpful.

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