What is it?
• Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common causes of chronic itching in dogs.
• Atopic dermatitis is caused by an allergic reaction (hypersensitivity) to one or more substances in the environment.
• It typically shows itself when the pet is around 1-3 years of age.
What causes it?
• Various substances (allergens) can trigger atopic dermatitis.
• The condition is caused by an inappropriate immune reaction rather than the allergens themselves.
• Things such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, or feathers can cause this type of reaction.
• The genetic make-up of the pet is also a major factor.
• When the barrier function of the skin is impaired due to genetics or self-trauma, allergens can penetrate the skin and trigger allergies.
• Symptoms include mild to severe scratching as well as ear yeast, and bacterial infections.
• The condition can be seasonal or year round.
What tests are needed?
• Diagnosis is usually based upon history of clinical signs such as itching or biting.
• Allergy testing can be done by intradermal skin or blood tests.
• Your veterinarian should do a full examination to eliminate any other possible skin condition such as parasites.
How is it treated?
• An environmental allergy cannot be removed, but it can be alleviated to make the dog more comfortable.
• Some dogs may outgrow their allergies just like humans.
• Immunotherapy can be performed at home are often recommended, but may take up to a year to show results.
• Antihistamines or glucocorticoids can be prescribed to control itch.
• Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce inflammation of the skin.
• Topical therapy like medicated baths can remove allergens and reduce itching.
• Ask your veterinarian for more effective and new oral or injectable treatments.
What follow up care is needed?
• Atopic dermatitis is life-long and requires long term management.
• To minimize flare-ups, the dog should be examined by a veterinarian regularly.
• There are many therapeutic options for your dog that can be modified to fit the season or severity of the reaction.