Canine Atopic Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment
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Canine Atopic Dermatitis: Diagnosis and Treatment

Allergies are just as common in dogs as they are in the humans, and can cause your loyal companion quite a bit of suffering. Canine atopic dermatitis is also a type of allergy that is often caused by airborne allergens even though the symptoms show up on the pet’s skin. It is one of the top 10 conditions when you must take your dog to a vet. This article explains proper diagnosis and treatment of this allergy in an elaborative manner. Let’s begin.

What is canine atopic dermatitis?

Canine atopic dermatitis is a common skin problem in which there is an inherited tendency to develop excessive IgE antibodies in response to exposure to various allergens like dust mites or pollen that are inhaled or absorbed by your dog through his skin. This common skin allergy is second only to flea allergy dermatitis in frequency, and it affects about 10% of dogs. Most dogs begin to show the allergic sign of this disease between one and three years of age. Owing to hereditary nature of this disease, several dog breeds, including Irish setters, most terriers, golden retrievers, Lhasa apsos, bulldogs, Dalmatians and Old English sheep dogs are more commonly  susceptible, whereas many dogs, including mixed breed dogs can also experience atopic dermatitis.

Generally atopic animals will lick, rub, bite, chew, or scratch at their muzzle, feet, ears, groin or armpits, causing hair loss, and thickening and reddening of the skin. Over the time, the scratched skin can develop hot spots which are raw, inflamed areas that may become infected. Once a dog develops atopy, he usually suffers more and more each year, as his skin becomes more sensitive over time. These problems include allergens in food, airborne allergens (pollens, etc.), allergens from parasites (fleas, etc.), as well as yeast or bacterial infections of the skin. Eliminating these problems may allow your dog’s itchiness to go away. Hence, it is quite important to treat other problems that could be making your dog itch while dealing with this allergy.

Diagnosis for canine atopic dermatitis

Diagnosis of the canine atopic dermatitis is based upon the results of intra-dermal testing and/or in-vitro testing of the dog’s blood.

Treatment for canine atopic dermatitis

  1. Avoidance of the allergens: This way of treatment is helpful for allergies caused by house dust mites. Various pollen exposures can be minimized by using air filters and air-conditioning. You can also avoid taking your pet outside in the early morning and late afternoon. Further, wiping down with moist cloths after going outside and frequent bathing can also help in avoiding allergens.
  2. Antihistamines: This medication for canine atopic dermatitis works in 20% of atopic pets and your pet can take antihistamines medication for its whole life. The main side effect of this medication is drowsiness. In addition to this, topical antihistamines for the eyes are helpful in pets with eye allergies (also called itchy conjunctivitis).
  3. Steroids (cortisone, prednisone, triamcinolone, etc.): Oral steroids have many potential side effects, therefore, these are reserved for only adult dogs, those with short, seasonal problems, or where other medications and therapies are not effective. Generally, the treatment of the dog is started at one dose and then it is tapered off to every-other-day usage.
  4. Cyclosporine (Neoral): This is an immunosuppressive agent that can be used at low doses in order to treat allergies successfully in about 60% of pets. Gastrointestinal upset is the major short-term side effect of this treatment. With this treatment, long-term safety is not completely known.
  5. Tacrolimus (Protopic ointment): This cyclosporine drug is quite useful for treating localized, itchy areas in atopic dermatitis. It is applied one or two times a day at first, and then frequency of this treatment is reduced.
  6. Fatty acid supplements: There are some oils that can reduce allergic symptoms in some pets. This treatment includes fish oil capsules in conjunction with a low-fat diet. This therapy of canine atopic dermatitis can help improve response to antihistamine therapy.
  7. Bathing: Dog’s atopic skin is quite sensitive and subject to drying, therefore, specially designed hypoallergenic shampoos should be used on the allergic dog. Thorough rinsing is required, and it should be followed with a hypoallergenic cream which is rinsed or sprayed to re-moisturize the skin after every bath.
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