Skin: atopy

Atopic disease • atopic dermatitis • allergic inhalant dermatitis

Vetstream Canis ISSN: 1757-8256 Canis logo

This article is available in full to registered subscribers

Sign up now for a 10 day trial or log in


  • Cause : inherited predisposition to develop hypersensitivity-mediated skin disease against environmental allergens.
  • Signs : pruritic skin disease (may be seasonal), recurrent skin and ear infections.
  • Diagnosis : suggestive history, compatible clinical signs and exclusion of other pruritic skin diseases.
  • Treatment : desensitization or symptomatic management.
  • Prognosis : guarded - problems likely to persist lifelong.
    Print off the owner factsheet on Atopy to give to your client.


Clinical signs

  • Diagnosis is clinical and by exclusion of other pruritic skin diseases.
  • Atopy peri-orbitalFig.1 Atopy peri-orbital
    Facial erythema and pruritus (Fig. 1).
  • Atopy extremitiesFig.2 Atopy extremities
    Pedal erythema and pruritus (Fig. 2).
  • Atopy chronic - groinFig.3 Atopy chronic - groin
    Ventral erythema (Fig. 3).
  • Pyoderma metatarsusFig.4 Pyoderma metatarsus
    Secondary staphylococcal pyoderma (Fig. 4).
  • Pinnal erythema.
  • LichenificationFig.5 Lichenification
    Lichenification of the flexor surface of the tarsal joint and/or the extensor surface of the carpal joint (Fig. 5).
  • Chronic or chronically relapsing dermatitis.
  • Salivary staining of coat.
  • Otitis externa chronic - Cocker SpanielFig.6 Otitis externa chronic - Cocker Spaniel
    Otitis externa (Fig. 6).
  • Hyperhidrosis.
  • Conjunctivitis.
  • Lichenification (Fig. 5, above).
  • Alopecia.
  • Rhinitis.
  • Asthma.
  • Cataracts . (Figs. 7-8)

Differential diagnosis

  • Contact hypersensitivity .
  • Intestinal parasite hypersensitivity.



  • Good if seasonally affected; 90% can be satisfactorily controlled.
  • Many develop multiple allergies over succeeding years → increased difficulty in control.
  • Cost and time implications for owners of severely affected dogs may lead to requests for euthanasia.

Reasons for treatment failure

  • Failure to diagnose concurrent disease, eg flea allergy, food sensitivity.
  • Many cases become less responsive to glucocorticoids with the passage of time - frequently due to a failure to manage concurrent disease.
  • Inability of client to cope with treatment schedules.
Sorry, we couldn't find that content.
Let us know and we'll sort this out.