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Atopy In Dogs

Atopy In Dogs

What is Atopy In Dogs?

Most of us are familiar with the term "allergy." Allergies cover a broad range of misguided or negative reactions by the immune system to foreign substances. Meanwhile, Atopy is a genetic predisposition of exaggerated or inappropriate IgE antibody production after exposure to allergens (environmental allergens) that are usually harmless.

Atopic diseases are a myriad of conditions linked by a shared underlying problem with the immune system. The atopic diseases (Allergic rhinitis, eczema, rhinoconjunctivitis, asthma, etc) are separate medical syndromes each defined by distinct signs and symptoms.

Genetic and environmental factors mainly determine the development of atopic disease.

Not all dogs with atopy will result in atopic conditions or show an immune response or kick-off symptoms after exposure to an allergen.

Therefore, all atopic responses are allergies, but not all allergies involve atopic reactions.

Symptoms Of Atopy In Dogs

  • Pruritus(Scratching, Itching, Rubbing, Licking)
  • Lesions on affected skin areas
  • Reddened patches of skin
  • Swellings or Raised pimples on affected areas

Secondary symptoms due to the dog’s anxiety to stop the itch of atopy include:

  • Chronic skin-picking (Excoriation or dermatillomania)
  • Scale formation on skin , Patches of leathery skin
  • Hyperpigmentation, or darkened patches of skin
  • Alopecia
  • Fur stained from saliva
  • Hemorrhagic crusts
  • Ear infections
  • Skin infections, such as Staphylococcal infection and Malassezia (lipophilic yeasts that lives on the skin)

Treatment Options For Atopy In Dogs

  1. Initial diagnosis to rule out other causes of itching will be done, such as food allergy, contact allergy, parasites, and fungal as well as bacterial infections.
  2. Vets would access the history of the pet’s itching and the sites of itching to ensure that they suit clinical manifestations of Atopy.
  3. This skin condition typically affects dogs’ at age 6 months to 3 years. Thus, when a young pup or a very old dog develops a skin problem for the first time, then it is less likely to be Atopic.
  4. After a diagnosis has been made, an allergy test will be performed to find out which environmental allergens the dog is allergic to, not to identify the presence of Atopic conditions.
  5. If the possible cause is found to be allergens via testing, allergy vaccination (desensitization & Immunotherapy) will be prepared for the dog.
  6. Allergy vaccines offer the best treatment to control atopy as it alters the animal’s immune response to benign environmental stimuli. The objective is to desensitize your dog to the specific allergens by infusing controlled amounts of the vaccine (small amounts of allergen, in gradually increasing doses) via an injection or under the tongue orally.
  7. Eventually, injections will gain total or partial control of their allergies after receiving regular doses of the vaccine. Your pets will become desensitized (immune response) to the allergen and will not produce n blown-up immune response. Almost 75 % of dogs on treatment will be desensitized to the allergen.
  8. In resistant cases, there are many other medications and treatment modalities with a combination of vaccines, cyclosporine, corticosteroids, etc available.

Home Remedies For Atopy In Dogs

Avoiding ingestion or inhalation of allergens is often not practical, yet, strategies to combat allergens and environmental management may be attempted to prevent sources of allergens.

Supportive therapies can be done at home, and can include topical medications, oral antihistamines, antibiotics, medicinal baths and Topical lipid skin treatments.

Discuss with veterinarian dermatologist for any home care specific to your dog’s situation.

How to Prevent Atopy In Dogs?

  1. When you find out which substances your dog is allergic to, limiting or avoiding exposure is the best way to prevent an atopic reaction.
  2. Avoidance of the allergen will be the best prevention. Pollens and dust (use an air cleaner with a HEPA filter), Molds (place activated charcoal above the exposed dirt in your house plants or use a dehumidifier)
  3. Medicated baths: medicated baths (weekly or every other week) with medicated shampoos and antimicrobial and antifungal agents relieves injured skin and remove allergens that cause skin allergy flare-ups. Afterward, apply a rinse to prevent drying out of the skin and hair coat.
  4. Dogs with skin folds can be cleaned daily with a clean, damp cloth, shampoo, wipes, ointment, lotion, spray, skin cleanser, etc.
  5. Regularly brush the dog to reduce shedding. Consistent grooming spreads the skin’s natural protective oils across the surface.
  6. Regular long-term use of moisturizing, cleansing and emollient products support a dog’s skin defenses and prevention of recurrence.
  7. Consult with your veterinarian dermatologist for Hypoallergenic vaccinations.

Affected Dog Breeds Of Atopy

The age of onset is generally between 6 months and 3 years.

Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, Shih Tzu, Shar Pei, Dalmatian, Wire Fox Terrier, Old English Sheepdog, Boxer, Boston Terrier, Scottish Terrier, West Highland White Terrier, Lhasa Apso

There is no sex predisposition.

Additional Facts On Atopy In Dogs

  1. Atopic march: when dogs have one of the atopic conditions they are at significant risk for developing another at some point during childhood. For example, most dogs with atopic dermatitis may develop allergic rhinitis, and/or there is a possibility of developing asthma.
  2. Canine Atopy is the second most common skin disorder in dogs, after flea allergies. This is expected to affect almost 10% of the dogs.
  3. Atopic dermatitis is more prevalent in female dogs than in male dogs

When To See A Vet For Atopy In Dogs?

If your pet is displaying any of CAD signs, it’s a good idea to head to your vet immediately so they can help you find the bottom of your dog’s itch.

Dog Food Suggestions For Atopy

Hypoallergenic diets

Wheat, Dairy, beef are responsible for 75% of food allergies in dogs. Avoid these items.

Novel protein sources used in this diet include venison, rabbit, lamb, duck, etc are not usually found in pet food.

Carbohydrate sources include sweet potatoes, potatoes, canned pumpkin, peas, yams, etc

Hydrolyzed protein diets- protein source has been chemically reduced to small fragments.


In general, Over 75% of dogs with atopic conditions can be satisfactorily managed but almost cannot be completely cured. It is usually a lifelong condition requiring continuous management.

Core treatments may need regular visits to the clinic. Remember to first talk to your vet about any unusual symptoms. Monitor your dog for any unusual symptoms. Don’t delay in reporting any flare-ups of symptoms to your veterinarian.

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