About Allergy

An allergy is an exaggerated and adverse reaction by the body’s immune system to external substances. As soon as the immune system encounters anything that is foreign to the body, it responds by creating antibodies and immune cells. When the same substance is encountered again, the body decides whether to react and how. This is where things go wrong in allergy patients. Instead of reacting slightly or not at all, there is a severe reaction.

What happens in these cases?
On repeated contact with an allergen (a foreign substance), the immune system reacts as follows: it produces substances that lead to an inflammatory reaction of the skin (and sometimes the mucous membranes as well) and initiate itching

Types of allergies in dogs

Allergies in animals are quite common. 10-15% of all dogs have some kind of allergy. The most common type of allergy in dogs is atopic dermatitis: a hypersensitive reaction to airborne allergens, such as pollen and mites.

Other types  that dogs may suffer from are:
Flea allergy caused by contact with flea saliva;Food allergy where  certain food components function as an allergen; contact allergy where the reaction is  caused by antigens that come into contact with the skin (carpeting, blankets, shampoo and the like).

Because the symptoms associated with the various allergies may look very similar, it is important that a proper clinical examination is carried out to find the  exact cause of the allergy.


Atopy is one of the most important forms of allergy in dogs. Between 3% and 15% of dogs suffer from an atopic condition1. Atopy is hereditary and it can lead to allergies against the pollen of some plants (e.g. grasses, weeds, trees), fungi or various dust and storage mites. Certain breeds appear to be at higher than average risk of developing atopy. Such breeds include the Lhasa Apso, Schnauzer,Alsatian, Boxer, Labrador, Golden Retriever, Poodle, West Highland White Terrier, Cairn Terrier,Jack Russell and Fox Terrier2.

The symptoms of an atopic individual usually manifest themselves before the age of 3 years. The initial symptoms are often mild and are tolerated by owners because they respond well to short-term symptomatic therapy or because they initially only appear at certain times of the year such as pollen allergies in the summer.

1Hillier, et al. Vet. Immunol. Path. 81 (2001) 147-151
2Sousa, et al. Vet Immunol. Path. 81 (2001) 153-157