Causes of Atopic Dermatitis (Itching) In Your Pet and How to Help

5 minute read
Causes of Atopic Dermatitis (Itching) In Your Pet and How to Help

Your pet is your best friend – we’d expect no less! So, if you’ve noticed your furry friend scratching and scratching, it’s important to know that it may not just be a seasonal allergy. Something might really be wrong with your little buddy. Atopic dermatitis is an itchy disease that can either occur in one place on the body, or it can cover their entire body. Scientists speculate that between 3-15% of furry animals have atopic dermatitis at least once in their lives, although a third of them are dogs.

At UCARI, we know that you want to give your pet the best life possible, so we have a convenient test that allows us to help you identify what’s causing Fido’s itching, and we’re happy to share steps to help you alleviate it. But first, let’s explore atopic dermatitis together, so you know exactly what you may be dealing with.

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis in Pets?

Atopic dermatitis happens when your pet eats or breathes something that their body doesn't know how to process. Those particles cause a type of allergic reaction within your pet. You will see your pet grooming, rubbing, biting, or scratching itself repeatedly. The pet will often experience the symptoms in their legs, paws, underbelly, or face, although dogs may also suffer from digestive distress. Typically, you will notice these symptoms between six months and three years of age.

Animals Prone to Atopic Dermatitis

If you own one of the following breeds of pet, you should be on high alert for atopic dermatitis and excessive itching because they tend to be more susceptible to these allergies.

  • Bulldogs
  • Old English Sheep Dogs
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Terriers

Airborne Allergies

Unfortunately, just about anything can trigger an allergic reaction. When an animal is exposed to something that its body recognizes as a foreign invader, it triggers the immune system to kick into overdrive, and it’s your furry friend’s immune system that causes negative symptoms. For humans and pets alike, atopic dermatitis is often caused by environmental allergens like:

  • Grass
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Plants
  • Dust

In canines, the most common type of airborne allergen is dust mites. Where a human might sneeze, wheeze, or cough, a dog will start itching themselves ferociously in an attempt to relieve the symptoms. A veterinarian will need fur or blood samples to determine whether an allergy or another medical cause is responsible for your pet's incessant itches. Proteins in the blood can also shed some light on what is triggering the allergic response in the first place.

Food Allergies

Although not as common as environmental allergens, food allergies are still quite common in our four-legged friends. Between 5-20% of dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis find that some kind of food triggers their allergies. Dogs can show certain types of gastrointestinal distress after consuming food that has not agreed with them. Those symptoms might include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Gas
  • Nausea

Animal proteins are the typical cause behind these allergies, so you should be sure to keep your pet away from human food, especially dairy products, meat products, and eggs. It may be tempting to feed your pup the table scraps they want so badly, but you have to try to resist those puppy-dog eyes. Some dogs have also been known to develop allergies to soy or gluten products, so it is better to be safe than sorry.

Flea Saliva

Ugh, fleas be gone! Fleas are a common pest, and their biting can cause itching in and of itself. However, some pets are unlucky enough also to be allergic to their saliva. The proteins in that saliva can cause more inflammation and irritation than a normal bite would. This is on top of the normal dangers associated with flea bites like the spread of rabies and other serious diseases. A reaction to the saliva might last anywhere between five to seven days after the bite.

How Can I Treat My Pet's Atopic Dermatitis?

If you believe that your pet is suffering from any kind of allergic reaction, you should get them to a vet as soon as possible. If your pet is having a lethal reaction, you may save their life. However, even a non-lethal reaction can be a terrible annoyance for your pet. The vet will identify the source of the allergy and figure out what your pet needs for immediate and long-term treatment if necessary. In addition to medical intervention, your vet will likely recommend one of the following.

Allergy Avoidance

Your fur baby may very well be allergic to food, in which case your best option is to eliminate that food from their diet. If it is a common ingredient in their pet food, the vet may be able to recommend a hypo-allergenic brand for you to switch to. If the allergen is environmental, it may be impossible to avoid entirely, but by giving the animal frequent baths, you might be able to reduce the inflammation and discomfort your furry friend is struggling with.

Allergy Medications

Your vet may also prescribe certain medications for your pet in order to combat the allergens, especially if they are something that can't be avoided entirely. Typically, steroids are the medicine of choice for allergic reactions because they reduce inflammation and are fast-acting. If your pet only needs occasional medication, your vet will likely recommend injections.

Allergen Specific Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy allows your pet to build up a tolerance to the allergen, so your pet can naturally fight back with its own immune system. Between 60-80% of dogs actually respond quite well to immunotherapy, although it should be kept as a last resort for pets who can't use certain allergy medicines and cannot avoid the allergen responsible for their troubles.

Keep Exploring

Now for the good news! UCARI cares about you and your pet, which is why we offer a convenient, affordable, non-invasive test for your fur baby that can be performed in the comfort of your own home and by using just a sample of their fur. By joining the UCARI community of animal lovers, you can start figuring out if your pet is allergic or intolerant to anything in their food or their environment, so you can work with your vet to create a plan to keep your furry friend happy and healthy! Because in the end, friends don’t let their furry friends suffer with atopic dermatitis! 

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