BY DR NICKY THOMAS, WYNNUM MANLY VETERINARY HOSPITAL
Hay fever is a very common condition in people – everyone knows someone with a never-ending supply of Zyrtec and a hoard of tissues to deal with the associated sneezing and runny nose. Did you know that dogs can have a similar type of allergy?
Atopy is the dog equivalent of hay fever – instead of sneezing though, dogs get itchy.
Airborne pollens, moulds, dust particles and other allergens enter the skin and cause an inflammatory reaction leading to itching and scratching.
There are a number of reasons that dogs may be itchy. These include parasites such as fleas, lice and mites, food allergy and secondary skin infections.
Common findings in dogs with atopy are:
- Young age of onset (usually between one and three years-of-age).
- A mostly indoor lifestyle – airborne allergens tend to concentrate indoors.
- Chronic or recurrent skin infections.
- Foot licking is very common – the tops of and between the toes of the front paws are a common site.
- The inside of the pinna (ear) becomes red and irritated.
Atopy can be seasonal, although in Brisbane the humidity and temperature provide ideal conditions for year round allergens.
The treatment of atopy includes:
- Controlling secondary infections. These are usually yeast or bacterial infections which may require a combination of shampoos, lotions, antibiotics or anti-fungal medications to control.
- Desensitisation injections may help. There are veterinary dermatologists who can perform skin tests to determine which allergens your dog is affected by and formulate a vaccination to try and help control the allergy.
- There are a number of medications which work to suppress the immune or itch response. The newer classes of drugs target specific “itch” receptors in the body and can be very helpful in making your pet more comfortable.