Like most allergic reactions, atopic allergy, one of the most frequent types of allergies in dogs, is the result of a complex combination of environmental factors, genetic susceptibility, and excessive immune response.
Also known as atopy, atopic dermatitis is an skin allergic reaction to certain substances present in the air when inhaled or absorbed when in contact with the skin. It occurs most frequently between the first and third year of life and, although it may affect all breeds, some of them are more susceptible to allergic reactions.
Certain plants and pollen, whether from trees such as cedar or oak, grass or weeds, are seasonal allergens. Some foods or their ingredients and substances such as wool, feathers, mold, mites, and dust are present throughout the year.
Seasonal atopic allergy only causes pruritus in the ears and abdomen, without changing the appearance of the skin. During the time of exposure to the allergen, other manifestations can be observed such as rhinitis, sneezing, tears, itchy face and frequent licking of limbs.
If exposure is prolonged and involves multiple allergenic agents, the symptoms persist throughout the year. These cases can lead to more complex skin conditions that produce changes in the skin, abrasions, hair loss and secondary bacterial infections. The most common ophthalmological secondary infection associated with atopic allergies is superficial pyoderma, an infection caused mainly by a staph, which is bacteria that resides on the skin. Many other bacterial infections, especially in the ears and some otitis, are the consequence of atopic allergies.
The numerous causative agents of atopic allergies make prevention difficult, since it is almost impossible to avoid the contact of the animal with so many and varied substances. However, skin care and control of mites and fleas that cause irritation and scratching helps to significantly reduce the risks of lesions and associated bacterial infections.
Brushing the dog’s coat helps keep the skin free of potentially allergenic substances from both the outside and the inside of the house.
HEPA filters help eliminate impurities in indoor environments as they are able to suck up dust and bacteria, thus preventing pollen and other allergens from remaining inside the home.
The diagnosis of atopic dermatitis is based mainly on its physical manifestations such as pruritus and irritation, the presence of ectoparasites and/or cutaneous infections.
Intradermal allergy tests, IDAT, as well as serologic tests, ELISA, allow to draw a complete immunological profile of the dog and to identify the allergens, hence contributing to increasing the chances of success of immunological therapies.
The treatment offers four different therapeutic options:
- Therapy with medications to counteract symptoms by administering corticosteroids and antibiotics.
- Specific immunological therapy, SAIC, against a previously identified allergen. It consists of the subcutaneous injection of the allergen(s) responsible for the reaction, increasing its dose gradually over a certain period of time. The benefits of this type of therapy are only visible after 6 to 12 months of therapy.
- Control infections, whether they are on the skin or not, that can affect both the health of the skin and the immune system.
- Concomitant therapy to reduce symptoms and prevent complications. It is common to use antihistamines combined with the administration of essential fatty acids, especially Omega 3. It is important to carry out periodic checks aimed at preventing fleas, other allergies or skin conditions.
Although atopic dermatitis is a lifelong disease, it can be perfectly managed through the correct diagnosis and prevention of associated complications
Is your dog susceptible to allergies? Find out in 13 Dog Breeds With Sensitive Skin – Preventing Atopic Dermatitis