Canine Atopy

Canine atopy is one of the most common forms of dog allergy. Atopic allergies are those related to microscopic particles that float through the air. A large number of dogs experience at least a mild negative reaction to some of these particles, and the result can be painful skin irritation and damage, breathing problems and more. Learn about the warning signs, diagnosis and treatment of canine atopy in order to better protect your pet against this condition.

Atopy Overview and Symptoms

Certain breeds are generally at higher risk for developing allergic reactions to particulate matter in the air. These breeds include Scottish, Boston and Wirehair Fox Terriers, Dalmatians, and Golden and Labrador Retrievers. Veterinarians believe that there is a hereditary component to atopic allergies, and parent dogs may pass along tendencies for allergic reactions to their offpsring.

A dog suffering from an atopic allergy may display any number of the following common symptoms:

  • Unusual or excessive scratching, particularly of the ears and face
  • Red or irritated skin
  • Patchy hair loss
  • Dry and scaly skin
  • Ear clogging or discharge

These conditions are broad and could be associated with a number of different conditions, so it's important that you work with a veterinarian to properly diagnose your pet's ailment before beginning any treatment plan or program. While atopy is one of the most common health problems that results in symptoms like those listed above, these signs may indicate a more serious condition as well.

Diagnosing Atopy in Dogs

Your veterinarian will begin his diagnosis by examining your dog's body for signs of atopic reactions. He will closely inspect any irritated spots on your dog's body. The most common locations for irritation in atopic reactions are the abdomen, feet, ears and face. The vet may also take a small skin scraping for further analysis in the laboratory, as this can help to rule out infection and parasites as the source of your dog's problems.

If your vet suspects that your dog suffers from an allergic reaction of some kind, the next step is to isolate and determine the allergen in particular that incites the reaction. This is generally done in one of two ways. More commonly, your veterinarian will inject small samples of allergen testers into your pet's skin in order to guage his body's reaction without harming him. Otherwise, your vet may also recommend a series of environmental changes and lifestyle adaptations in order to eliminate certain possibilities.

Treating Atopy

While canine atopy is incurable, it is possible to adjust your pet's life and moderate the symptoms of this condition. The best way to reduce his discomfort and pain is to eliminate the offending allergen from his environment as thoroughly as possible. Air purifiers can help to do this, as can hypoallergenic cushions and bedding. In addition to these techniques, many vets prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines and antihistamines to help combat the symptoms of the reaction itself. Because each dog's allergic reaction is different, each treatment will be equally varied, and it's crucial that you work closely with a vet to determine the best course of action for your pet.