Atopy or Food Related Allergic Skin Disease

Atopy and food-related allergic skin disease are caused by reactions to inhaled, ingested, or absorbed "allergens" (pollen, mold spores, dust, dust mites, food, etc.). This is similar to "hay fever" in humans. However, instead of the sinus and nasal signs in humans, pets may manifest the disease as skin irritation that can include the entire skin surface and ear canals.

What are the symptoms of Atopy?

Allergic pets may constantly scratch and bite at the skin. Some may chew or lick at themselves until wounds formOther signs include:

  • Rubbing
  • Redness of the skin (especially on the face and feet)
  • Excessive foot licking, chewing at skin or scratching
  • Ear infections or inflammations
  • Hair loss
  • Thickened or darkened skin under the armpits, on the abdomen, inside earflaps or around the anus
  • Bad odor to the ears or skin
  • Bacterial or yeast infections

Diagnosis and Treatment for Atopy

Your veterinarian can often diagnose these types of allergies by a combination of symptoms, examination findings, history, and response to treatment. Specialized allergy testing will usually reveal what is causing the reaction. This can be helpful in treatment and reducing reoccurrence of the outbreaks.

Once diagnosed, treatment may include numerous medications, special pet nutrition and topical skin treatments are available to reduce symptoms and discomfort.

Allergic skin disease can be difficult and frustrating to treat. For some pets, it becomes a recurrent problem that requires careful home care and compliance with all veterinary instructions for relief of symptoms. The earlier that allergies are diagnosed and treated, the more likely the pet will respond to treatment.

Post-treatment and prevention tips

  • Use all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.
  • Absolute flea and skin parasite control is essential. Veterinarian can recommend safe effective products.
  • If a special diet has been recommended for your pet, do not offer ANY other pet food, treats, table food, dietary supplements or flavored medications. Even small amounts of another food can lead to a recurrence of clinical symptoms. If you’re using oral heartworm prevention, check with your veterinarian as many of these contain meat flavorings – your veterinarian can recommend options for continued heartworm prevention.
  • Routine ear cleanings with a veterinary approved ear cleaner can be helpful, especially after swimming or bathing.
  • Monitor your pet's skin and ears for problems and seek treatment early. The most common signs of infection are scratching, head shaking, redness and odor.
  • It is important to check your pet's progress as recommended by your veterinarian.

Learn more

For more information on skin-related diseases, please read the articles from our Pet Health Library or visit your nearest Banfield location to get more advice on your pet’s unique needs.