Lifestyle

Canine Atopic Dermatitis 101 (Part 1) - Solving the itching Mystery


Scratching, licking and chewing are typical behaviors of our furry friends but do you recognize they could be symptoms of various skin diseases like atopic dermatitis? Most of the times, our furry pets may well be suffering from skin and hair problems that cause itching. This is especially true in Hong Kong where the subtropical climate makes it generally hot and humid, consequently making our furry friends suffer.

According to our veterinarian, pet itchiness is one the most common complaints treated in Hong Kong. Most of the times, it is linked to skin diseases like atopic dermatitis, which are often found in dogs. Although this disease can affect all furry friends, there are certain dog breeds that are more susceptible including Golden Retriever, West Highland White Terrier (Westie), Fox Terrier, Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, and Cocker Spaniel.



Also known as allergic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin disorder result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is typified by itchy, inflamed skin that can happen as early as 6 months and continuing through 7-8 years of age in pets. After that, the problem shall diminish along with the decline in physical strength and immunity of pets. Besides itching, atopic pets may have other symptoms including licking soles of the feet and the palms of hands, rubbing the ground with its body, and biting or chewing its abdomen. These actions often lead to skin redness in areas of waist, feet, groin, armpit, root of the tail, and face, especially around the eyes, mouth and ears.

In many dogs, atopic dermatitis will unlikely progress beyond the symptoms noted above. However, when it does progress, the scratch and itch cycle can develop various severe skin lesions such as hair loss, skin peeling, animal dander, crusting, hyperpigmentation, discoloration of the skin, yeast infection of the skin (a.k.a. Malassezia dermatitis), and otitis externa. Furthermore, excessive itching can cause saliva staining on dog fur where brown stains can be found around dog’s mouth and paws.

Being a loving pet owner, dealing with severe atopic dermatitis will likely leave you feeling frustrated and your dog feeling miserable. To avoid such serious complication, you must first understand the underlying cause of atopic dermatitis. Other than genetic factors, various allergic substances in the environment are stimulants. The most common ones are food, dust and dust mites, which you can help reduce easily under various measures. For example, food allergy in your pet can be identified through specialized blood test. It is a measure that can help avoid eating potentially intolerance foods, and in turn relieve allergy symptoms. Another example is reduce your pet’s exposure to dust or dust mites by eliminating the use of carpets, dusting and vacuuming more frequently, maintaining low humidity at home, and providing washable pet bedding and mattress.



While your furry friend may suffer mild to severe discomfort from atopic dermatitis, the outwards signs can be subtle that you may never pick up the problem. As a responsible pet owner, it is very important to recognize the noted common allergic symptoms so when they appear, you can treat them immediately. If the symptoms are not properly addressed, it can be a source of ongoing misery to your furry family member. To prevent such situation, there are some effective ways or treatments for alleviating allergic symptoms in your atopic pet. You can learn all about this and more in our next article at Squarefoot.com.hk.