Allergies and atopy


What is atopy?

Atopy is a disease causing itchiness in dogs, particularly around the feet, face and belly. It often gets worse over spring and summer. There are three components to the disease, all of which must be treated individually.

  • Firstly, the skin does not form as effective a barrier as it does in normal dogs, so it is easier for allergens to get into the skin.
  • Secondly, the dog is prone to developing allergic reactions to these allergens – this is the main thing that causes itchiness initially.
  • Thirdly, the dog is prone to getting an infection secondary to the allergy and scratching – this can make matters even worse.

Unfortunately, atopy is a lifelong condition, so the focus is on controlling it rather than curing it. The aim is for your dog to be as comfortable as possible, whilst minimising side effects of treatment.

What else could be making my dog itchy?

  • Parasites – mites, fleas, ringworm
  • Primary infection – bacteria, yeast
  • Contact allergy
  • Food hypersensitivity

How itchy is too itchy?

Your dog needs to be treated for its itch if you observe any of the following:

  • Scratching that interrupts normal behaviour (playing, sleeping, eating)
  • Scratching that lasts for more than 60 seconds, or needs to be interrupted to be stopped
  • Scratching of the same area frequently

What is involved in treatment?

Because there are three components of the disease, there are three aspects of treatment:

1. Improving the barrier dysfunction

  • Bathing with cool water then moisturising immediately (Alpha-Keri Lotion)
  • Moisturising shampoos (Epi-Soothe)
  • Omega 3 and 6 fatty acid supplements

2. Controlling the allergy

  • Avoidance (grass, dust mites)
  • Topical treatments – steroids (prednisolone), natural remedies (PAW calming gel)
  • Oral treatments – steroids (prednisolone), Atopica (cyclosporine)
  • Antihistamines (chlorpheniramine), Trental (pentoxifylline)
  • Allergen-specific immunotherapy – this requires referral

3. Treating secondary infection

  • Antibiotics
  • Antiseptics