Published on December 16th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin0
Canine Atopic Dermatitis its Causes & Management
Canine atopic dermatitis is as sort of inflammatory skin condition that’s caused by allergic reaction. It’s very common; in fact, it’s the second-most common sort of allergic skin disease in dogs, and can be brought about by a host of different allergens – including dust mites, grass, mould, and spores.
The disease tends to be seasonal, since the allergens that cause it are usually seasonal. You’ll typically notice the reaction quite early on in the dog’s life: between three months and several years, with the symptoms gradually worsening as the dog ages.
Dogs which suffer from CAD invariably suffer a reduced quality of life – and they also place a financial burden on their owners, too. Veterinary charities, under increased budgetary pressure, are often unable to offer much help.
What causes canine atopic dermatitis?
CAD has a number of different causes, as we’ve already touched upon. This means that making a diagnosis is extremely difficult. In order to identify CAD as the culprit, it’s necessary to go through all of the other potential causes of the symptoms are eliminated.
For example, pruritus and skin inflammation can be caused by factors other than allergic reactions: ectoparasites, infectious microbes and adverse food reactions can all be to blame, and so all must be eliminated as possible causes in order to establish the presence of CAD.
How can we manage Canine Atopic Dermatitis?
When it comes to managing the condition, we’ve many different tools at our disposal. Among the most popular of these are corticosteroids and EFA supplements, as well as special shampoos and antihistamine medications. We might also resort to more cutting-edge treatments; immunosuppressive drugs like ciclosprin A are increasingly turned to when CAD rears its head. Such treatments, however, are expensive – and so for many dog owners unjustifiable in the long run.
Of course, environmental measures might be far more effective – since it the dog never comes into contact with the allergen, it can’t well suffer an allergic reaction. By keeping your dog’s living space clear and clean, you’ll limit their exposure – and thereby limit the amount you’ll have to spend on medication.
Corticosteroids are often the first medication that your vet will reach for when the presence of CAD has been established. The most popular of these are low-cost, can be administered orally, and they’re effective within a matter of hours. For the first treatment following diagnosis, corticosteroids typically save dog owners around £30 a month for a 10kg dog – though obviously, in the real world this figure might vary substantially.
When a dog suffers from CAD, they’ll be at heightened risk from a number of other inflammatory skin conditions. By taking steps to manage these causes, we can reduce the cost of antibiotics and immunosuppressive agents – and ultimately reduce the cost of caring for the affected dog.
Among the most common flare factors are ectoparasites like fleas and ticks. If a dog’s skin is crawling with these creatures, they’ll be at increased risk from CAD – and the symptoms of the condition will be made worse. Good flea control is essential, then, in getting the problem under control. Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t take flea control as seriously as they might – perhaps being dissuaded by the up-front cost of flea medications. This is especially common during winter, when many owners mistakenly assume that ticks and fleas are no longer a threat.
Another flare-factor is a microbial infection. If your dog is suffering from skin inflammation, then harmful microbes with have an easier time finding their way through gaps in the skin. Again, if the infection is identified early on, and steps are taken to properly control it, the cost of steroid therapy or immunosuppressors can be much reduced.
One condition that’s closely associated with CAD is CAFR, or cutaneous adverse food reaction – the sort of allergic reaction that occurs when a dog ingests an allergen. CAFR can cause pruritus in much the same way, but it’s difficult for the veterinary industry to guard against it – as doing so means feeding a specialised diet for as long as eight weeks or more, which can be enormously expensive. For this reason, the presence of CAFR should be contemplated only after other flare-factors have been considered.
What medication can combat CAD?
Once we’ve established that CAD is present, owners will often want to know which medications will yield the best possible results (and for the lowest possible cost). In most cases, a multi-modal approach which incorporates many different medications will yield the best results.
A diet which is high in essential fatty acids (EFAs) like omega-3 and omega 6 is widely-considered to be an effective safeguard against inflammation. These can be obtained from a number of sources, including evening primrose oil in the former case, and fish oil in the latter. It has been suggested that supplementing dry food with a tablespoon of sunflower oil might provide a cost-effective way of introducing the necessary acids into the dog’s diet – but there’s little hard evidence that this yields any benefit. EFA supplements will typically yield benefits only in the long-term.
Another effective, low-cost solution are antihistamines. They’re cheap, widely-available, and cause relatively few adverse side-effects. They work by blocking histamine-related pain and pruritus, by tying up never receptors in the central nervous system, and just beneath the skin. They’re at their most effective when deployed before the CAD takes place – so if your dog is allergic to a seasonal allergen, like pollen, it’s best to commence therapy just before the season commences.
CAD is a long-term and potentially extremely debilitating condition, which much be handled with great sensitivity in order to give the dog the best possible quality of life. Often, a multimodal approach to therapy is called for: one which uses many different medications and environmental changes to effect the best possible outcome. If you’re the owner of such a dog, then you should prepare yourself for significant long-term expenditure managing the condition – but be reassured that this expense is necessary to safeguard the health of the dog.