When diagnosing atopy, a systematic work-up (clinical history, clinical examination, treatments etc.) and accurate reporting during the entire process is of vital importance.
The following items are key points in the clinical history:
- Age at which symptoms first developed; In 75% of all atopy patients, the first signs appear before the age of 3. Sporadically, symptoms occur in animals under 6 months of age. The first symptoms have often escaped the owner’s attention, or a quick response occurred after administering symptomatic medication. In other cases, the animal recovered spontaneously after the season or the environmental factors have changed.
- Breed predisposition: Certain breeds appear to be at higher than average risk at developing allergy. Such breeds include the Lhasa Apso, Schnauzers, Poodles, Terriers (West Highland White, Cairn, Jack Russell and Fox Terrier), Dalmatians, German Shepherds, Boxers, Retrievers and Labrador1.
- Seasonal effects: Regarding pollen allergy, the symptoms are generally seasonal in the initial phase. As the allergy progresses, the symptoms may occur throughout the year. Allergens such as house dust mites and cat epithelium may cause allergic reactions throughout the year.
1Sousa, et al. Vet Immunol. Path. 81 (2001) 153-157
Clinical symptoms of atopy
Clinical symptoms (atopy)The most obvious sign of an atopic condition is itching. Commonly, dogs will lick or bite their feet and can be seen rubbing their heads along the floor or other objects. This can cause skin inflammation. Occasionally, allergic animals will develop watery eyes or sneeze.
Regularly inflammation of the skin on paws, head, armpit or groin associated with the itching are the most important criteria for making the diagnosis. The skin inflammation can be exacerbated by bacterial (staphylococcus) or yeast (Malassezia) infections.