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Atopy in Dogs

By: Dr. Mark Thompson

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Treatment

Initial treatments may alleviate symptoms, but do not treat the underlying cause of the allergy. Immunotherapy (allergy shots that work by modifying your dog's immune response to allergens) is considered the best treatment for moderate to severe or long-standing cases of atopy.

Your veterinarian may recommend the following:

  • Antihistamines
  • Fatty acid supplements
  • Antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infection of the skin (called pyoderma)
  • Soothing shampoos
  • Corticosteroids (cortisone-like drugs such as prednisone) are very effective at reducing the symptoms of atopy, but they have many potential side effects that limit their long-term use. Corticosteroids should be used cautiously in the treatment of dogs with atopy.
  • Cyclosporine( Atopica®, Cyclosporine capsules, USP)

    Home Care

    Atopy cannot be cured and most dogs require some form of therapy throughout their lives. You will need to administer any medications prescribed by your veterinarian and avoid offending allergens as much as possible. Skin testing (also called allergy testing) can be performed to identify the specific substances to which your dog is allergic. As time goes by, however, most dogs with atopy become allergic to more and more allergens, making avoidance impractical in the long run.

    You should practice strict flea control. Other itchy (pruritic) skin diseases such as flea allergy dermatitis may have an additive effect on your dog's skin condition.

    Observe your dog for rashes and worsening of any skin lesions. Secondary bacterial infection of the skin (pyoderma) is common in dogs with atopy and can contribute to their discomfort.

    Preventive Care

    Atopy probably is an inherited disorder in dogs. Since enviromental exposure to allergens is important in the development of disease, it cannot be prevented. Airborne allergens, such as plant pollens, are difficult to avoid, and there is little that can be done to prevent the development of atopy in a predisposed individual. Dogs that grow up in low allergen environments (dry climate with high elevation) may be less likely to develop symptoms.

    Managing atopy in your dog takes some patience. However, by combining different methods of therapy, paying attention to your pet's environment as well as you can, and observing your pet so that you can begin treatment as early as possible, you can make your pet feel his best.

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