Watching your dog itch themselves raw can be distressing, especially when you can’t pinpoint the cause. A common cause of intense itching is canine atopic dermatitis which luckily, can be controlled with the right changes to diet and environment as well as medication.
What is Canine Atopic Dermatitis?
Canine Atopic Dermatitis is a chronic skin condition that is a result of allergies leading to itchy skin and inflammation. It happens to be the second most common skin disease among dogs.
What Causes Canine Atopic Dermatitis?
Atopic Dermatitis is a result of allergies in dogs. Pollen, animal dander, plants, and insects are the most common allergens that cause dog allergies, but dogs can also be sensitive to food and medications. Itching, scratching, and grooming are among the signs of allergies. Other symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, paw chewing, and skin irritation. When humans have allergies, we sneeze, have a runny nose and watery eyes but dogs react to allergies with skin and/or gastrointestinal problems.
In dogs, allergic dermatitis (atopy) is caused by a genetic tendency to develop allergy symptoms after repeated contact to an otherwise innocuous chemical (an “allergen”). Allergic symptoms usually appear between the ages of 1 and 3 years. Since the condition is inherited, some dogs are more likely to be afflicted with it than others.
Bacterial hypersensitivity occurs when a dog’s body overreacts to typical Staphylococcus (Staph) germs. Dogs with hypothyroidism, inhalant allergy, and/or flea allergy are more prone to develop hypersensitivity to microorganisms. Microbiological tests are used to identify bacterial hypersensitivity. Bacterial hypersensitivity is characterized by certain alterations in the skin’s blood vessels.
Contact and Inhalant Allergies
Pollens from grasses, trees, and weeds, dust mites, and molds can trigger an allergic reaction in dogs, just as they can in people. The timing of the reaction might be used as a hint to diagnose these allergies. If so, how often does it occur? There’s a chance it’s mold or dust. Toxic pollen may be to blame if the allergic response is seasonal.
Since their pets have eaten the same diet their whole lives, many people do not identify food allergies as the source of their dog’s scratching. As a result, this finding does not rule out the possibility of food allergies in animals. Some believe that dogs are only sensitive to bad food. Irritation caused by a particular component in dog food does not matter whether the product is costly or not. Premium foods have the benefit of avoiding common fillers that might cause allergic responses.
Dogs aren’t necessarily allergic to the fleas or flea bites, but their saliva. Dogs who are only
Exposed to fleas occasionally are more likely to be sensitive to flea saliva than those who are infected more often. The effects of the saliva from a single flea bite can last from five to seven days, so you don’t need many fleas to make your dog uncomfortable.
What are the Symptoms of Canine Atopic Dermatitis?
The common clinical signs of atopic dermatitis include:
- Compulsive licking or lick granuloma in dogs
- Scratching of their face, paws, ears, groin
- Watery eyes
- A yeasty smell
- Greasy skin
- Redness or tough skin
How is Canine Atopic Dermatitis Diagnosed?
Testing for allergies is the best way to diagnose and treat dogs with moderate or severe allergies. There are a variety of testing procedures. Tests for antigen-induced antibodies in the dog’s blood are most common. Intradermal skin testing is another option. The antigen is then injected into a section of the dog’s skin that’s been shaved in a precise order, so that if the dog reacts, the antigen may be recognized. After that, the shaved region is inspected to find out if any antigens caused a reaction (this might take many hours).
What is the Treatment for Canine Atopic Dermatitis?
There are multiple different treatment options for treating atopic dermatitis but it will depend on both the actual cause of the allergy, the severity and what the dog reacts best too.
Numerous medicinal shampoos include ingredients designed to soothe inflamed skin. Bathing your dog regularly can also help eliminate allergens from the hair coat, which can lead to skin allergy flare-ups. This includes antibacterial and antifungal agents, along with substances that allow bathing the skin on a more frequent basis without causing it to become dry. The use of a rinse thereafter also helps to prevent the skin and hair coat from drying out.
Antihistamines can be given to dogs with little risk. Some owners have had success using antihistamines. As a rule of thumb, these medicines tend to have a varied effect on different dogs. It has been shown that antihistamines are highly effective at treating allergic skin conditions in some dogs. It has a negligible effect on other breeds of dogs. As a result, owners should try at least three different types of antihistamines before giving up. These include Benadryl, Chlortrimeton, Atarax and Zyrtec. Antihistamines, on the other hand, are generally seen to be worth a shot because of their minimal risk of adverse effects and their affordability.
Antibiotic and Antifungal Meds
Secondary skin infections are often treated with antibiotics. Secondary yeast infections are often treated with antifungal medicines. These should only be prescribed by a veterinarian.
Flea management is essential for dogs with an allergy to flea saliva. It’s imperative to keep flea preventative on your dog. It’s available orally and topically. It’s important to do research prior to purchasing as many brands come out with new formulas each year to battle ever adapting fleas.
Skin health is improved by Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acid supplementation. Fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties in the natural world. Many dogs with allergies benefit from these products. The fact that they are non-toxic and have almost no adverse effects makes them worth a shot.
Hypoallergenic meals include proteins and carbs that your dog has never eaten before, because allergies are the result of exposure. Tests for food allergies are the fastest and most accurate way to discover which foods your dog could or might not be allergic to. 80% of dog food allergies are caused by dairy, meat, and wheat, therefore these foods should be avoided. For example, hypoallergenic diets utilize venison, duck eggs and other non-traditional protein sources, such as duck, kangaroo, and a variety of fish. Potatoes, peas, yams, sweet potatoes, and canned pumpkin are all good sources of carbohydrates.
Diets including hydrolyzed protein are those in which the protein source has been synthesized into tiny pieces before being consumed. As a result of providing a hydrolyzed protein source, allergy-prone dogs’ immune systems are supposed to be unable to identify the protein fragments and build an immunological response, resulting in an allergic reaction to the meal.
A store-bought hypoallergenic diet works well for most pets with food allergies, but sometimes an animal’s allergies are so severe that a customized diet is the best alternative. Veterinarians should be consulted in order to tailor the diet in this scenario.
Immunosuppressive Agents and Corticosteroids
You can reduce itchiness using cortisone products such as dexamethasone, prednisolone, and prednisone. There are adverse effects associated with these medicines, therefore they should be taken with caution while treating skin allergies. Steroids should only be used if the allergy season is brief, the dosage is minimal, or the dog is in significant pain. Increased thirst and appetite, increased urination, and behavioral changes are some of the possible side effects. Diabetic complications and a weakened immune system are possible side effects of prolonged usage. There are certain canines that can only be adequately managed with a long-term, low-dose alternate day treatment.
“Cyclosporine,” also known as Atopica, is an anti-inflammatory drug that has been shown to be quite successful in treating skin allergies in dogs.
Many individuals have had tremendous success with allergy injections, but they take a long time to work. It may take six to twelve months for the condition to improve. An immunotherapy for that individual dog may be created after allergies have been identified and the dog’s treatment can begin. An injection containing a combination of these antigens can be created when the problematic antigens have been identified. They are administered over a period of weeks to months depending on the type of agent used, until the dog develops immunity to the agent. It may be necessary to give a booster shot every now and then after initial protection.
Controlling Environment Factors
Anti-allergy medication is most effective if you know the things your dog is allergic too. Avoiding the allergen completely is preferable than desensitizing your dog with allergy injections. By using a dehumidifier, or by adding activated charcoal on top of the soil on your houseplants, you can limit the growth of molds. For the greatest dust and pollen management, use a HEPA air cleaner. A/C can also help minimize the quantity of airborne allergens that circulate since the windows are kept closed.
Medicine for Thyroid
Numerous variables, both external and internal, contribute to the maintenance of healthy skin. As well as maintaining a proper skin surface, many glands in the body produce hormones that are essential for various body functions. When the thyroid is underactive, it can affect the skin and hair coat, resulting in thinning hair and dull, brittle hair, as well as skin that is oily or dry. When it comes to determining if your dog has hypothyroidism, a blood test is the easiest and most straightforward approach.
In order to cure hypothyroidism, thyroxine, a synthetic thyroid hormone, is taken daily (levothyroxine). In order to determine the efficacy of the dose and make any required changes, blood samples will need to be taken on a regular basis.
To conclude, when it comes to managing an atopic, allergic dog, it may be difficult and irritating since it usually takes a variety of approaches to control the allergy flare-ups. To optimize the chances of healing or at least managing a seriously afflicted allergic patient, a veterinarian’s proper diagnosis, owner compliance, and follow-up treatment are critical. You can find a veterinary dermatologist near you in our specialist directory or find products to help with atopic dermatitis in our product directory!