Ragweed Allergy ~ Dogs
We can always tell when the ragweed is pollinating because the phone starts to ring with people telling us that their dog is itchy.
Dogs can get allergies just as people can. Atopy (also known as allergic inhalant dermatitis) is a disease that occurs in humans, dogs and cats. It is an inherited disorder that causes patients to become sensitized or allergic to allergens in the environment. It is a common disease that affects 10 to 15 per cent of the canine population. However, the signs of allergies in dogs are very different from those seen in humans.
Although the age of onset is usually between one and three years of age, atopy can start at any age. At first, the allergy may surface during a particular season, but as the patient gets older, the signs of allergy tend to worsen and last all year long. The 2 most common times of year for dogs to have symptoms are late summer when ragweed blooms, and spring when trees are pollinating.
The main signs of atopy are itchiness and scratching most often in one or more of the following areas:
Face – rubbing of the face, including around the eyes, ears, and muzzle. There is often a history of chronic recurrent ear infections
Paws – dogs with atopy often bite, chew and/or lick their paws.
Groin/underarms – there may be chewing, licking, biting and/or scratching between the back legs (groin) and/or the armpits.
Eventually, the itchiness may involve the whole body. Respiratory signs, such as sneezing, wheezing, and coughing, rarely occur. If left untreated, atopy can lead to secondary infections, including bacterial and yeast infections. An infection can make itching even more severe, as well as complicating the treatment of this disease.
Your veterinarian diagnoses atopy by means of a thorough history-taking and physical examination. Since the end of summer is also prime flea season we will need to make sure your dog does not have fleas.
Traditionally atopy in dogs has been treated with corticosteroid medication, with or without antihistamines. In some dogs this causes side effects such as increased thirst and urination. We now have an exciting new medication called Apoquel, that will stop the itching with minimal side effects.
**With material from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.