Skin Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis
Skin allergies are one of the most common ailments of dogs and cats, especially in Hong Kong’s warm, humid climate. The constant itching and irritation of a skin allergy can cause significant distress to a pet, affecting their overall demeanour and quality of life.
Allergies occur when the body responds excessively to normal environmental components (called allergens), resulting in skin inflammation, irritation and itching. This itching is often self-perpetuating – more scratching means more skin damage and more inflammation, and hence more itching. In some cases this can become so severe that bleeding and bacterial infections develop.
Statistically, the most common cause of skin allergies are airborne allergens, being the major factor in over 70% of cases. Airborne allergens include plant pollens, spores, dust mites and molds. Airborne allergens often cause itchy eyes and ears as well as generalised skin irritation and redness over the body.
Food allergens are also involved in a significant number of cases, and usually involve a food protein such as beef or chicken. Food allergens usually cause most irritation around the mouth and the feet. Contact allergens, such as a carpet or a rug in the house, are also a factor in some cases, and usually cause redness and irritation in the areas that the allergen touches, often the belly.
When treating skin allergies it is important to approach the problem from all angles, including Limiting Allergen Exposure, Reducing Skin Inflammation and Improving Skin Health. Although it is difficult to cure an allergy, a good treatment plan can greatly reduce irritation and significantly improve an animal’s quality of life.