Canine atopy and what it means to your pet.
When you own a dog, he quickly becomes part of the family.
An indispensible part of home and hearth, he shares in your day to day life and holidays.
Before long you can’t imagine life without him.
So when you realise your dog is suffering, it’s peculiarly distressing. You know he’s not his usual bouncy self, but can’t put your finger on why. He’s lost his appetite, he’s engaging in the kind of annoying behaviours you’d assumed he had outgrown. At times you’re tempted to believe he’s simply being naughty, but that isn’t the case.
Watch him closely. Does he have a runny nose? Is he continually scratching at his ears and tummy? Do his eyes look dull and watery? Does he lick at his paws for no apparent reason?
If he answers to all of these symptoms, your dog could be suffering from canine atopy.
This condition is extremely common- second only to flea allergy in frequency- yet many owners have never heard of it.
What is canine atopy?
As Skin Vet Clinic explains, canine atopy (sometimes known as atopic dermatitis) is caused by an allergic reaction to substances in their living environment. Many substances (better known as allergens) can trigger a reaction; they’re often the same allergens that prompt human conditions such as hay fever and asthma. Since it’s caused by an inherited tendency to develop antibodies, an extreme case may appear to be allergic to everything. It’s believed to affect up to 10% of all dogs.
It doesn’t usually develop until the dog is between 1 and 3 years old, and- like the human equivalent- can be seasonal at first. Though attacks are often triggered by summer and autumn pollen, this can broaden until he reacts to other kinds of pollen, household dust, plants, feathers … you get the idea. New reactions are prompted by the substances he comes into contact with, and it becomes a year round condition. While it affects dogs across the board, certain breeds are more susceptible: golden retrievers, Dalmatians and boxers are particularly prone.
What can you do?
Since it shares similarities with other skin conditions, canine atopy can be tricky to diagnose; the vet may have to do tests to rule out other candidates.
Once they’ve confirmed your dog has canine atopy, they need to discover what he’s allergic to.
This may involve intradermal testing (where a number of allergens are injected into the dog to see which provoke a reaction) or a blood allergy screen test.
As The Barrier Animal Care Clinic makes clear, there are two chief ways that your dog’s atopy may be managed. The first, medical therapy, entails the use of various drugs, e.g. antihistamines and steroids. Other important elements are medicated shampoos and a flea control programme. The second method, immunotherapy, is the creation of a desensitisation solution. By injecting this substance into your dog, the theory is that over time the dog will develop immunity. It’s to be regarded as a coping method rather than a cure.
Taking care of your dog
You should have discussed with your vet which foods, shampoos and other supplies are best suited to your dog’s needs. By smart research and shopping around, you should be able to identify what will work best. Pets Funky is a reputable online pet boutique with an enormous range of dog supplies. You may find their range of skin creams especially useful to ease his itching.
A good way of boosting your dog’s mental and physical well being is by enrolling him in dog training classes. Clever Dog Company offers a great range of classes for puppies and dogs of all ages, going from the basics to more advanced training. When my friend’s dog Lady had been laid low by canine atopy, she started going along; a month later, she was like a completely different dog.
As you can see, it’s important not to allow your dog’s life to be governed by his condition.
By getting canine atopy diagnosed early on, seeking appropriate treatment and giving him plenty to do and think about, you’re ensuring he leads an active, enjoyable life.