Canine Allergic Dermatitis

Spring and summer is the time of year we, as veterinarians, see an increase in the "itchy dog syndrome." While itching in our canine companions may be the sign for any number of problems, such as skin infections or skin parasites, to name a couple, the most common cause of the itchy dog is allergies.

Allergic inhalant dermatitis, or atopy, is one of the most common skin problems seen in the dog. Our pets will react to any variety of substances, including trees, grasses, weed pollens, molds, house dust, feathers and dander. When our dogs become allergic and, therefore, itchy, the most common complaint by the owner is their pet's incessant licking, chewing and scratching at its feet, flanks, ears and groin. Dogs may lick and scratch so severely they self-traumatize and develop bacterial skin infections. Allergic dogs are somewhat frustrating to the owner and the veterinarian, as allergies cannot be cured, but only managed.

Management of the allergic dog is specifically tailored to each individual dog and owner. While some dogs may need only an occasional course of antihistamines, other dogs need a complex treatment of immunotherapy, baths, antihistamines, special diets and omega fatty acids. Fortunately, we are able to test our dogs for specific substances that they may be allergic to and, therefore, develop a specific individualized treatment protocol. So when your favorite family friend is scratching at his ears and licking at his feet, consider having him checked for allergies.
Acknowledgement: by Dr. Amy Reese, Missouri Valley Veterinary Clinic, Bismarck, ND. Reprinted from the July-September 1999 issue of "Focus On All Fours," the CDHS newsletter.