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When your dog's itch could be atopy

Does your dog scratch a lot? If you're living in a hot climate, you might well put it down to the hot sunshine but it could actually be a condition called atopy.

It may be something you have never heard of and, even if you have, you might not have realised it could relate to your much-loved pet.

Atopy is an intensely itchy skin condition caused primarily by inhaled allergens, such as molds, pollens and dust. Occasionally, atopy results from allergens that are absorbed through the skin or eaten.

Dogs with atopy are genetically predisposed to the condition and certain breeds, such as Schnauzers, Irish Setters, Boston Terriers, Scottish Terriers, West Highland Whites, Cairns and Wire Haired Terriers are more commonly affected than other breeds. Female dogs are more likely to be affected than males. Atopy usually first occurs at one to three years of age.

Atopy may be seasonal or non-seasonal but most dogs with atopy eventually have non-seasonal signs.

Itching is the main sign of atopy. Chewing, scratching and bacterial infection damage the skin. The face, paws and abdomen are usually the first areas affected. Besides skin problems, other signs, such as a runny nose, asthma, cataracts and urinary and gastrointestinal disorders occasionally occur.

Important points in treatment
1.    Both skin and blood tests are used to identify the cause of the allergy. Your vet will advise you if either of these types of tests are necessary.
2.    Keeping your dog away from the cause of the allergy is not always practical or possible. When the cause is known and avoidance is possible, this is the best means of atopy control.
3.    Treatment with anti-inflammatory drugs is often the most effective means of controlling atopy. In some dogs, however, these drugs become less effective as time passes and may cause undesirable side effects.
4.    Desensitizing injections (or allergy shots) may help if avoidance or drug therapy is ineffective. Desensitization, however, is not always effective and continued treatment is necessary.
5.    Regular bathing and grooming frequently helps control atopy.

As a general rule, once your pet has been given treatment, you should always tell your vet if any of the following occur.
*Your dog's discomfort is not relieved.
*Your dog's signs change.
*Your dog's general health worsens.
*Your dog's condition spreads.

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