Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. In fact, this is the second most common allergic skin disease in dogs. These allergic reactions can be brought on by normally harmless substances like grass, mold spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens.
Dogs normally show signs of the disease between 3 months and 6 years of age, though atopic dermatitis can be so mild the first year that it does not become clinically apparent before the third year.
Despite the fact dogs are more prone to atopic dermatitis than cats, it does occur in felines. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
Symptoms and Types
Often symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis progressively worsen with time, though they become more apparent during certain seasons. The most commonly affected areas in dogs include the:
Around the eyes
In between the toes
The signs associated with atopic dermatitis, meanwhile, consist of itching, scratching, rubbing, and licking, especially around the face, paws, and underarms.
Early onset is often associated with a family history of skin allergies. This may lead the dog to become more susceptible to allergens such as:
Airborne pollens (grasses, weeds, trees, etc.)
Mold spores (indoor and outdoor)
House dust mite
Your veterinarian will want a complete medical history to determine the underlying cause of the skin allergies, including a physical examination of the dog.
Serologic allergy testing may be performed, but it does not always have reliable results. The quality of this kind of testing often depends on the laboratory which analyzes the results. Intradermal testing, whereby small amounts of test allergens are injected in the skin and wheal (a red bump) response is measured, may also used to identify the cause of your pet's allergic reaction.
The treatment will depend on what is causing your pet’s allergic reaction. If the reaction is due to atopy, for example, hyposensitization therapy can be performed. Your veterinarian will give your pet injections of the allergens to which it is sensitive. This decreases itchiness in 60 to 80 percent of dogs, but may approximately take six months to a year to see an improvement.
Medicines such as corticosteroids and antihistamines can also be given to control or reduce itching. Cyclosporine is effective in controlling itching associated with long-term skin allergies, while sprays can be used over large body surfaces to control itching with minimal side effects.
Living and Management
Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis only rarely goes into remission or spontaneously resolves. However, bathing your dog in cool water with anti-itch shampoos may help your alleviate its symptoms.
Once treatment has begun, your veterinarian must see the dog every 2 to 8 weeks to ascertain the effectiveness of the treatment and to check for drug interactions. Then, as your pet's itching becomes well controlled, it will need to be brought into the veterinarian's office every 3 to 12 months for checkups.
If your veterinarian should find the trigger for your pet's allergies, he or she will advise you as to how to best avoid those type of allergens.
A smooth, raised wound that itches
The disappearance of the signs and symptoms of a particular disease; this is often used in association with cancer
A condition in which the skin becomes inflamed
A form of hypersensitivity or allergy in certain animals.