Seasonal atopy may be the cause of your dog’s scratching
Atopy can be regarded as the canine equivalent of hay fever in humans. It is a seasonal allergic reaction to substances such as inhaled pollens, house dust mites and animal dander (tiny particles of saliva, skin, fur etc). However, whilst humans respond with sneezing and runny noses, animals show their allergic reaction by itching and licking.
Atopy can be genetic (inherited). It is more common in certain breeds such as Westies, Staffys and Golden Retrievers. Dogs with atopy usually have itchy ears, feet, armpits and groins. Some dogs may just have recurrent ear infections or an obsession with licking between their toes. Atopy often starts in spring and summer and gets worse each year. Eventually the itching may become a year-round problem. A lot of scratching often leads to secondary infections with yeast and bacteria, which further contribute to the animal’s itchiness.
Your pet’s symptoms will help the vet establish if atopy is a likely cause of its itchiness. If necessary the diagnosis can be confirmed through allergy testing. Murdoch veterinary skin specialists visit our Broome clinic occasionally for a referral clinic on your doorstep! This may involve a blood test or an intradermal skin test. If the substance (allergen) causing the itchiness can be identified, a specific vaccine can be made up for your animal. This is administered in gradually increasing doses to try and desensitize your pet and reduce its itchy response to the allergen.
Atopy rarely goes away completely and it is likely that your pet will need at least intermittent treatment for the rest of its life. Medications such as corticosteroids, antihistamines, essential fatty acids, antibiotics and medicated shampoos can all be used in various combinations to help reduce the itchiness and keep your pet comfortable. Regular check-ups with your vet will help determine the appropriate treatment and also make sure there are no concurrent problems such as fleas or food allergy.