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Spring Allergy Season: A Closer Look at Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

By Aletha Carson, DVM
April 18, 2024
3 minute read
Spring Allergy Season: A Closer Look at Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs - Whistle

As the buds bloom and the world reawakens, spring brings with it not just beauty but challenges for dogs with atopic dermatitis. Commonly known as atopy, this chronic condition affects an estimated 10-15% of the dog population and can significantly impact their quality of life. With no cure currently available, understanding and managing atopy is crucial for ensuring that affected dogs enjoy spring without suffering. 

Understanding Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis in dogs is an inflammatory condition triggered by environmental allergens such as pollens, molds, and dust mites. When these allergens contact the weakened skin barrier of atopic dogs, they cause an intense allergic response. This condition is often rooted in genetics, with certain breeds like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Bulldogs being more predisposed. Mixed breeds are also affected depending on what they inherited from their parents.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The primary symptom of atopy is excessive itchiness, leading to behaviors like scratching, licking, and rubbing. This can cause hair loss, redness, and secondary skin infections that exacerbate the dog's discomfort. Diagnosing atopy involves a detailed clinical examination and a careful review of the dog's medical history, as there is no definitive test for the condition.

Managing Atopic Dermatitis During Spring

Minimizing exposure to known allergens is crucial. This can involve:

• Keeping windows closed during high pollen days.

• Using air purifiers to reduce indoor allergens.

• Regularly wash your dog’s bedding and toys with hypoallergenic soap.

Medical Treatments

Treatment for atopy is tailored to the individual dog and may include:

Topical Therapies: Medicated shampoos and creams help soothe irritated skin and reduce inflammation.

Oral and Injectable Medications: These can control the immune response and alleviate itching. Options include corticosteroids, cyclosporine, and newer treatments like Apoquel or Cytopoint.

Allergen-specific Immunotherapy (Allergy Shots): This involves gradually exposing the dog to small amounts of allergens to desensitize their immune system.

Don't forget flea control: Fleas also enjoy spring in most areas and can hatch in great numbers quickly. If you are using increased bathing to help your dog stay comfortable, make sure you are using an oral flea prevention.

Technological Aids

Devices like the Whistle are invaluable for early detection and management of atopy. They track a dog’s behavior, alerting owners to increased scratching or licking, which can indicate a flare-up. Intervening before the increasing itching leads to further damaged skin can help prevent secondary infections.

Springtime Tips for Dogs with Atopy

Dietary Considerations: There are special diets that have been tested and have shown to strengthen the skin’s barrier and support overall skin health.

Bathing Routines: Use hypoallergenic or medicated shampoos to wash away allergens and soothe irritated skin.

Vet Visits: Keep up with regular check-ups to adjust treatment plans as needed and catch any secondary infections early.

Managing atopic dermatitis in dogs requires a comprehensive approach that includes veterinary care, environmental management, and the strategic use of medications and technology. With the right strategies, dogs with atopy can enjoy the spring season with minimal discomfort, maintaining a joyful and active lifestyle.


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