Atopy is an allergic condition in pets. It is thought to be inherted, an is usually first seen between 6 months and 4 years of age, although possible from 3 months to 7 years. Susceptible animals become allergic to pollens (grass, trees, and weeds) house dustmites, mould and fungal spores, wool, flea saliva antigens, and become intensly itchy when exposed to their allergens. Allergy is usually due to a range of allergens.
The signs of atopy are generlized itching around (i.e. itchy all over). Dogs are espesually itchy around the ears, under the front leg, feet, around the eyes and on the belly. Mild cases have only one or two affected areas, while more sever cases involve them all. Cats are usuallt the most itchy around the head. Initially the itch may come and go with seasonal changes in pollen numbers and types. Over time this seasonal pattern often becomes all year around. The intense itchiness casuses the animal to chew, scratch and bite resulting in inflamation/redness of the skin, hair loss, brown saliva staining of fur fromlicking (espesually seen on front feet), scaling, crustiness, darkening and thickening of the skin, ulceration and secondary skin infections. Inflamation and redness of the eyes may develop from animals rubbing these andrecurrent ear infections are also very common (as the ear are lined in skin, which affected).
The diagnosed of atopy can be made after we have seen a pet more than once with the itchiness, or in severe cases involving most of the usual affected ares of the skin. Other possible causes of the itchiness are food hypersensivity, flea allergic dermatitis, mange mites, yeast infection of skin, or contact irritation. The veternerain will examine your pet, and usually perform skin scrapings, 'sticky tape' preparations, and/or ear smearss to examine under the microscopeor send to the labatory. In In some cases we will request you undertake a food allergy trial to rule out this possible cause ( or contributing cause) of the itchiness.
It is important to understand that atopy and allergies are generally not curable, but rather a disease that can be managed, to help keep your pet more comfortable. The one exception to this is hyposensititation (see below referals).
Treatment recomendations are based on the serverity of clinical signs. Mild cases can often be managed with oral antihistamine tablets. We may have to work through a few different types of these before we find one that works well for your pet, trailing each for around 10 days. Advantages of using antihistamines include being non-prescription, so once an effective medication is determined they can be purchased over the counter from us without a consultation. They are administered as needed not as course, and have a few side effects: drowniiness (seen initially but most patients developea tolerence to this after a short time) and increase appetite.
More severe or chronic cases with inflamed irritated skin are usually treated with corticosteroid injections and tablets. These settle the the inflamation and itch, allowing healing as the pet leaves area alone. Short term use of medications as prescribed by your veterinarain is fine, how ever high doses and long term use can result in side effects of immune suppression with an increased susceptibility to infections, increased hunger, thirst, and urination, muscle weakness, thin and hair loss.
If secondary skin infection are present (which are common), antibiotics and specialized shampoos may also be prescribed.
Most atopic pets are extremely sensitive to fleabites, so a regular good quality flea treatment like a monthly frontline or advantage is important. We recommend all atopic patients and their house mates pets be treated. This is because, although flea bites may not affect the housemates pets, they are carrying fleas, which will bite the affected pet.
Treatment Options For Atopic Pets
it is important to understand and allergy