Despite the mild September we have experienced, the dark evenings and mornings confirm that we have now left Summer behind and are heading into Autumn.
For the owners of many pets suffering from seasonal allergy problems caused by summer time pollens, the end of the summer itching season comes as a blessed relief. But Autumn too can have its challenges for the itchy pet.
It is estimated that approximately 20% of the adult dog population suffer from “atopic dermatitis” which is a deeply unpleasant condition where the skin becomes itchy and inflamed. Some breeds are more prone to atopic dermatitis than others with breeds like West Highland White Terriers being very prone to Atopy.
The cycle of irritation and self trauma caused by the nibbling and scratching can break the surface of the skin and lead to secondary bacterial infections. It used to be thought that the pollens were breathed in and triggered the allergic type reaction in the same manner as hay fever but it is now recognised that direct penetration of the allergen through the skin is the main mechanism of disease. The broken skin caused by self trauma allows easier penetration of the allergens worsening the cycle of problems.
As the summer pollen levels subside, a new challenge becomes prevalent. As the Autumnal leaves turn golden and fall from the trees they pile up on the ground and start to decay. Moulds and fungi break down the decaying leaves then, when a dog runs through a pile of leaves, the moulds and fungi and disturbed and come into contact with the skin triggering a reaction in a sensitised dogs.
For many dogs, the timing of the seasonal exposure to allergens can be predicted very accurately with some dogs being brought in with itching signs exactly 12 months to the day since the previous episode.
Fortunately, there are a number of treatment options for dogs with atopic dermatitis so if you suspect Atopy, you should see your vet for advice. There are a number of different ways to relieve the signs and manage the problem but unfortunately it is unlikely that an environmental allergy can be cured and so the aim of treatment is to manage the problem during periods of exposure.