Atopy – Not Everything is Threatening!

Atopy is more common in certain breeds

What do people from different countries, nationalities, religions, languages, philosophies, and ethnicities all have in common? Well firstly they are all fragile human beings trying to enjoy their relatively short existence on this planet called “earth” in a galaxy that is billions of years old. Secondly, some of these human beings seem to find reasons to attack one another because the smallest differences between them are viewed as threatening. We often overlook the similarities we have with each other and only focus on differences so we can initiate wars and continue with centuries of hostilities. Even though it costs us a tremendous amount in lives, health, well-being, financial stability, and happiness, we still continue finding reasons that make us different rather than similar.

When I first studied about allergens and the reasons that certain organs are rejected, I began thinking that maybe people just behave a certain way because of their pre-programming, just like the cells that don’t have free will at all. This made me wonder, does free will account for anything? Can we one day use our power of free will to nudge us just enough in order to break away from the path we seem stuck on forever? I sure hope so.

Atopy affects approximately a tenth of all dogs

Atopy is a sort of an allergy that occurs when the immune system incorrectly perceives an airborne substance as a threat and starts overreacting to it. Redness, excessive scratching, chewing on the leg or paw, tail biting are symptoms that may be first noticed in the few years of a dog’s life who has this condition.

This disease affects approximately a tenth of all dogs, and some cats could have it also. Atopy is more common in Boxers, Bulldogs, Poodles, Retrievers, Terriers, English Setters, Collies, and several other breeds are also at higher risk.

Many diseases such as skin fungus, food allergies, scabies, mange, and bacterial infections for example can easily confuse a diagnosis and appear like atopy. For this reason, in order to properly get this condition diagnosed, it is important to make an appointment for your pet to get a full veterinary exam.

Although there is no sure way to cure atopy, the symptoms can be reduced so life becomes more bearable. It may be impossible to completely eliminate the causes of atopy, but contact could many times be reduced tremendously.

The best way to begin treating this condition is to try to reduce or eliminate the pet’s contact with the cause of the allergy. If it is molds that is causing the condition, then keeping the area that the pets stays in dry as much as possible will help and a dehumidifier might also help. If it’s dust, then a good quality HEPA filter might help, as well as keeping the pet out of rooms that have carpeting. In some cases that are caused by pollens, keeping the pet indoors during high pollen season and using a HEPA filter might provide some relief.

Creams, shampoos, and rinses specifically designed as anti-itching or hypoallergenic are suggested. It is also helpful to use a cream with hydrocortisone to help with the itching.

Omega-3 seems to reduce the effects of histamine in response to an allergic reaction. Fatty acids help some pets tremendously and others do not seem to benefit as much. Treating with Omega-3 for about a month should give an indication whether it will be beneficial for your pet or not. Some pets are completely cured with this, so it’s worth a try because it is very safe.

Antihistamines such as diphenhydramine and chlorpheniramine are great at helping a majority of pets with atopy. There are different ones because some pets may respond better to one over the other or some may make the pet drowsier than the others. It is a good idea to discuss these products with your veterinarian or a PetMeds pharmacist before purchasing to get an idea of the dose and the differences between each one.

Prednisone is one steroid sometimes used to control atopy and the severe itching that accompanies it

Prednisone, dexamethasone, methylprednisolone, and hydrocortisone are steroids that are sometimes used to control atopy and the severe itching that accompanies it. These medications must be dosed properly and tapered properly to avoid a multitude of potential side effects that can occur. Your veterinarian will usually use the lowest effective dose for a short term in order to avoid the potential for water gain, adrenal suppression, liver problems, infections, weight gain, and a variety of other potential side effects. These medications must be carefully given under the guidance and direction of your pet’s veterinarian.

Atopica has been FDA approved for the treatment of atopy

A drug called Atopica has been FDA approved for the treatment of atopy by helping fight the inflammation. This medication is used to prevent the pet’s body from mounting an attack against things that are incorrectly perceived as threatening foreign bodies. Relief is usually seen within a couple of months and if not, your veterinarian will most likely suggest that the medication gets discontinued.

There are other treatments such as decreasing the body’s sensitivity to certain allergens by building up tolerance to it. This takes quite a bit of time to work and may be costly, but many pets respond very favorably to this and it has enabled many pets to go back to leading perfectly normal lives after treatment.

Although pets with atopy have to generally deal with this condition for their entire lives, there are ways to help them live more comfortable and as close to normal lives as possible. Keep their environment clean, dust free, and work with your pet’s veterinarian to find the treatment that best benefits your pet. One of the best things that you can do to help your pets remain healthy is to develop a good relationship with the veterinarian. Your 1800PetMeds pharmacist is also available to answer your medication related questions.

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  1. My Golden Retriever has had problems some time now with chewing on his front and back leg to the point that it has bled and also became quite swollen. I have had shots at the vets about 3 different times, but he went back to doing the same thing with chewing. Yesterday, he chewed incessantly & his front leg was bleeding badly. I sprayed t-tree on it, but he
    still did not stop. Since it’s Sunday, vets are closed. Is there anything I may be able to put on the wound or give him (like an aspirin) that would help. I’m very worried as he is sleeping today a lot.

    Help, if you can,

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 20, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    I would try benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily and see vet in AM, as may need oral antibiotics, etc

  3. Thank you.

    Luckily, even tho’ it’s a holiday today, my vet. is open, but are so busy I have to go at 3:00 PM – but I’m glad they are open today to help my Quincy.

    Thanks again for your response, I don’t have any benadryl on hand tho’.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 21, 2013 at 10:56 pm

    You are very welcome. Good to buy some benadryl to have on hand.

  5. I can understand getting benadryl for the pain, but after having Quincy on an antibiotic, amoxil, for two weeks and having the hat/collar like devise on him so he cannot reach his front leg–as soon as that was removed he started to chew/lick that same area again. It appears there’s nothing I can do to get him to leave the front paw and even his back leg from being chewed?

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 10, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    Sometimes antianxiety meds like amitryptylline can help which is a prescription that also has antihistamine like effect for allergies as well.

  7. Okay Dr. Dym. Thank you for that information.


  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    You are welcome Carol.

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