Allergies, Atopy, and Your Pet
Atopy, or a genetic predisposition to developing allergic reactions to things in the environment such as dust, mold, and pollen, is one of the most common causes for seasonal skin problems in pets. Other than flea allergies, it is the most common cause of allergies in dogs.
Any breed can have atopy, but certain breeds seem to be at a higher risk. These include Golden Retrievers, most terriers, Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, and Bichon Frises. Atopic pets often show the first symptoms of the disease between 6 months and 3 years of age.
Often symptoms of atopy and environmental or seasonal allergies include:
Your pet’s ears, armpits, face, paws, and belly are most commonly affected, and are often where you will notice your pet’s allergic behaviors.
A diagnosis of atopy is not always an easy one. Many times a pet is labeled as atopic after ruling out other conditions such flea allergy, parasites, infection, and food allergy.
Intra-dermal skin testing or blood testing may be done to confirm the diagnosis. Atopic pets are often reactive to multiple allergens.
Atopy is a chronic, condition and can be very frustrating to deal with. Most pets that are atopic will have symptoms for their entire life. Most pets’ symptoms are manageable, however there is no permanent “cure”.
Here are some ways to help keep your pet comfortable.
Atopic pets often have secondary bacterial and fungal infections. When allergies occur, the normal flora (microorganisms that inhabit the skin) may overgrow and cause an infection. These must be treated separately from the atopy and may be itchy in and of themselves.
Some atopic pets suffer from low thyroid hormone. Your vet may recommend testing for this, as regulating the thyroid can greatly reduce symptoms of atopy and improve response to treatment.
Atopy is a frustrating condition. There is no one-size fits all treatment, and all pets respond differently. Your vet will work with you and your pet to develop a treatment plan that works best for your individual situation.
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