Doggy Hay Fever
Atopic dermatitis is a common chronic relapsing itchy skin disease of dogs. Affected dogs first show symptoms between 6 months and 3 years of age and then itch more or less for the rest of their life. The easiest analogy to a human disease is “hay fever” but instead of a runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes, atopic dogs develop itchy feet, ears and body which can be relieved by cortisone administration.
Much like hay fever, atopic dogs are prone to flare ups when exposed to environmental allergens such as grasses, pollens, dust mites, moulds, food allergens and fleas. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections in ears and skin occur frequently and a hypersensitivity to these organisms is also suspected.
Primary lesions are redness and papules [raised red lumps] on ears, digits, underarms, belly and inner thighs. Saliva staining of feet causes light hair to darken around the toes. Secondary infections cause smell, scale, crust and hair loss whilst chronic itching causes skin to thicken and darken in colour.
Unfortunately atopic dermatitis, much like hay fever, is a condition which is managed but not cured. At Milton Village Vet we have adopted specialist dermatologist recommendations of; treating current infections, relieving self trauma with judicious use of corticosteroids and restoration of the skin’s protective barrier with correct use of non irritating emollient and moisturising shampoos and conditioners and topical and systemic essential fatty acid supplementation. Limiting flare ups is essential so good long acting flea prevention and avoidance or removal of certain plants and grasses is recommended.
For severe cases, advanced management includes specialist referral for immunotherapy which “vaccinates” dog against the disease with an 80% improvement over 2 years or newer immunomodulators like cyclosporine and Apoquel which can be both very effective and expensive.