Atopic Dermatitis - it's in the air!
Atopic dermatitis or Atopy, as it is more commonly known, is an allergic skin
reaction caused by the inhalation (breathing in) of allergens. These include
pollens, housedust, molds, feathers, etc.
Classicaly, atopy is a seasonal allergy with the animal reacting to pollens over
the summer period and then the clinical signs disappear over winter.However, as the
animal gets older it can become more allergenic, reacting to more
and more allergens (not only pollens) until it displays clinical signs throughout the year!
Initial clinical signs include scratching, licking - especially the feet, sneezing, face rubbing
and a runny nose.This can progress to hair loss, crusting of skin with secondary bacterial
infection and later a thickened, dark skin.
Because the skin can only react in a limited number of ways to a limitless number of potential
"attacks" on it, the same clinical picture can be the result of any one or a
combination of a multitude of possible causes. Thus a skin allergy caused by atopy
has to be differrentiated from flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), food allergies, hormonal
imbalances and pyodermas to name but a few.
Identifying the particular allergen(s) responsible is best done by intradermal skin
testing, although that also has its limitations. Consult your Veterinarian for the
nitty gritty on this procedure.
This is probably the hardest type of allergy to address adequately because it is
usually almost impossible to remove the pet from the offending allergen that is
floating around in the air.
Although there are specfic treatments available (again, consult your veterinarian for the latest)
in many cases one can only manage
and make the animal as comfortable
as possible for as long as possible. This requires work and dedication on the part
of the pet owner.