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Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary condition that presumes a predisposition to developing allergies to certain common factors such as grass or trees pollen, home mites, mold, insect stings, skin factors, etc. It affects around 10% of the world’s canine population, but also cats; there is no overall reporting on the incidence of atopy in this species.
Atopic dermatitis is a skin disease that causes itching and inflammation. This is the second most common skin problem in dogs, the first being dermatitis caused by fleas. The body areas most affected by atopic dermatitis are the feet, ears, belly, tail base, the area around the eyes, and the axilla.
Causes of atopic dermatitis in dogs
Dogs can experience many types of allergies caused by a number of allergens. Pollen, some plants or insects, but also a number of foods can cause allergies to dogs, and their symptoms include sneezing, excessive scratching, skin eruptions, and skin inflammation. Practically, dermatitis is an allergic reaction to certain substances that cause allergies in dogs. Dust mites and mold spores can also be included in this category.
How contagious is atopic dermatitis to dogs?
Atopic dermatitis does not transmit from one animal to another, even if the pet comes into contact with a dog suffering from it. The disease is “consumed” within the body, but its side effects are visible at the skin level.
Atopic dermatitis symptoms in dogs
There are cases of atopy that may get worse with the passage of time, but there are short episodes as well. As in the case of cat atopic dermatitis, its main symptoms are:
- Excessive scratching
- Red stains on the skin
- Licking the affected areas
- The skin has a distinctive smell
Any dog can develop atopic dermatitis, regardless of age or breed, but the most common breeds predisposed to allergies are Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, and Bulldogs. The atopy signs usually appear in dogs between 1 and 6 years old, but it is not a rule.
The diagnosis of atopic dermatitis in dogs
In order to be able to make a proper diagnosis, the veterinarian needs the entire health history of the dog. After a physical examination, he will be able to provide adequate treatment and at the same time determine whether it is a seasonal allergy or it can be activated at any time of the year. An examination for serological allergology testing may also be carried out, through which blood antibodies are sought.
Treatment of atopic dermatitis in dogs
It can be treated but not cured – allergic episodes can relapse at any time
As a genetic predisposition, solving the symptoms does not ensure its cure, but the problems can be kept under control if the owners can protect their animal from the allergens to which it is sensitive.
Take into account the principle of the allergic threshold: The accumulation of pruritic factors will decrease the dog’s awareness threshold! So, the more exposed it is to potential allergenic or prurient factors, the more sensitive the animal will be and the more quickly affected it will be, by a new allergic stimulus.
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Each dog can receive a different treatment for atopic dermatitis, depending on its cause. Among the most common treatments are allergen injections, immunomodulant drugs, antibiotics, or fungal medicines that can treat allergy infections.
There are alternatives to medicinal products as well, if dermatitis has an easily treatable form or as an addition to the medicinal treatment. The doctor can also prescribe a shampoo that reduces the itching symptoms so that dogs won’t make infit wounds over the body.
Prognosis about the evolution of atopic dermatitis in dogs
If dermatitis has an easy form, it can also be cured within a few days by means of appropriate treatment. The more serious cases require a visit to the veterinarian at an interval of 2 weeks to see if the treatment is successful or if a change is necessary. After the complete healing, the visit to the doctor is essential every 3 months. Even if the chances of reappearing are low, there are also cases in which this happens.
You must remember that untreated atopy can transform your dog completely. He will become aggressive with people and fear anyone who tries to approach or touch him. It is a common fact in dogs affected by dermatitis at ear level. Also, if dermatitis affects the ear, the animals may suffer from some hearing problems or even deafness.
The dogs more prone to atopy are from the breeds Shar Pei, Fox Terrier wire, Golden Retriever, Dalmatian, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Shih Tzu, West Highland White Terrier (according to the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine, ed. 10th) but also Cairn Terrier, British Bulldog, English Setter, Irish Setter, Lhasa Apso, Schnauzer miniature, Pug. The Metis of these breeds can also be sensitive.
This disease can also affect cats, and pure-breed cats are more prone than Metis.
Age of occurrence
The allergy problem is installed between 6 months and 3 years in dogs, and for cats up to the age of 5 years.
Preventing atopic dermatitis in dogs
The prevention of atopy requires, in particular, the protection of the animal from any factor causing it to feel itchy, starting with rigorous pest-free parasites (see above the principle of the allergic threshold), strict house hygiene to reduce mites, pollen, and mucus spores in the animal’s living environment, and frequent bathing with soothing skin shampoos to remove the allergens from its fur. If the allergen triggering the disease has been successfully identified, all measures shall be taken to protect the animal from it. Subsequently, the clinician will decide with the owner what the course of therapy will be.
In order to prevent atopic dermatitis in dogs, it is important to know which allergens could lead to its appearance. It is rather difficult to control this, but if the animal at a certain point faced it, in the future it will be much easier to keep it under control.
It is a life-long disease that cannot be cured, but its symptoms can be kept under control with the help of immunotherapy, medication, or prevented by the vigilance of the owners.