The Itchy Signs of Atopic Dermatitis
PetSmart Jon Plant, DVM, DACVD / Banfield, The Pet hospital®
If your dog is in his early years and seems to be itching, biting her paws and hind legs, she could be suffering from a common disease called atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin disease caused by a heightened sensitivity to common things in the environment such as pollens, mold spores or dust mites in the home.
Atopic dermatitis is impossible to diagnose with certainty through lab tests alone. As a result, your veterinarian may also look at your dog’s history and physical examination findings, as well as run simple tests to make sure that there aren’t other causes of itching involved. Alternate causes could entail fleas, food allergies, bacterial or fungal skin infections or scabies. Once other causes have been ruled out, your veterinarian can do allergy testing to detect the specific allergen your dog is suffering from.
Symptoms of atopic dermatitis include excessive grooming, licking and chewing of the paws, abdomen or hind legs. Flare-ups of this condition may come and go, but if your pet has atopic dermatitis, they often present themselves during the first two years of life. Acute moist dermatitis (“hot spots”), scratching and ear infections may not all appear at once, although you may notice that they follow a particular pattern. Your furry friend could lose his or her hair, get scabs and have redness of the skin.
Always consult your vet or Banfield doctor if you suspect that your pet is abnormally itchy. The treatment of atopic dermatitis should be tailored to your pet’s individual needs, and should include regular bathing, often with medicated shampoos and conditioners. Once it develops, atopic dermatitis is a lifelong disease, and your doctor can help you develop a management plan. Treatment of atopic dermatitis may include antihistamines, nutritional supplements, allergy desensitization injections, corticosteroids, or a new prescription medication manufactured by Novartis Animal Health US, Inc. called Atopica®, which your veterinarian may recommend if your pet does not tolerate or is not kept comfortable with other medications.