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Atopy - airborne allergies in dogs

Atopy, or atopic dermatitis, affects dogs that are allergic to mites, pollen and other airborne substances. Here you can read about common symptoms and treatment for established atopy.
Atopy - airborne allergies in dogs

Itching can be an early symptom

For humans, inhalation allergies usually lead to symptoms from the lungs and airways, such as runny nose and asthma. In the case of atopic allergy in dogs, the main symptom is itching. The itching can be general or occur in specific areas and can cause dogs to lick, gnaw or scratch excessively.

Most commonly, the itching occurs on the face, groin, armpits, and paws, but there is great variation. Often, no skin changes are visible at first, but if a dog is allowed to scratch, injuries often occur that can become infected.

Allergens in atopy

Common causes of atopy in dogs are house dust mites, fungal spores and pollen. Atopic allergy usually appears when a dog is between one and three years old and is, to some extent, hereditary. It has been established that affected animals are genetically predisposed to overreact to various substances.

In rare cases, inhaled allergens can lead to symptoms from the respiratory tract or only the skin in the ears being affected by itching. For atopy to occur, a dog must have previously come into contact with the substances, allergens, to which it reacts. Dog's have antibodies that recognise substances and activate the immune system upon contact with allergens. The immune system in turn causes an allergic reaction.

Seasonal allergy

The symptoms are usually, at least initially, seasonal and may mainly occur during certain parts of the year. A dog can then develop an atopic allergy to more airborne substances, and as the allergy becomes more extensive, may have symptoms for most of the year.

Troublesome mites and pollen

As far as possible, you should avoid an atopic dog coming into contact with the allergens to which it reacts. However, it can be difficult as atopies can be caused by house dust mites, which are found in every home. If you clean often and avoid dust-collecting materials, you can make your dog's life easier. Allergy to pollen can also be troublesome as pollen is quite difficult to avoid.

Read more about pollen allergy in dogs 

Diagnosis of atopy

The diagnosis is made via medical history, symptoms and exclusion of other causes of the symptoms. Sometimes an elimination diet is performed to see if the dog has a food allergy. Allergy tests can confirm suspicions but cannot be used alone to establish the diagnosis. Allergy testing is done either through a prick test or a blood test.

Treatment of atopy

Depending on the symptoms and how bothered a dog is, there are different treatment options that aim to reduce the itching and inflammation in the skin. Topical treatment such as shampooing with medicated shampoos can provide relief.

If atopy is established, cortisone can be given, either in periods or on a more regular basis, either in tablet form or local treatment with, for example, a spray.

In recent years, there have been new preparations that help with itching. Hyposensitisation can also be done, where a dog is injected with small doses of the atopy-causing allergen over a longer period of time. The treatment is individual depending on the dog's symptoms.

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