Is atopy a common condition for dogs? | TeamDogs

Is atopy a common condition for dogs?

Vet advises how to help those suffering from this itchy skin disease

Danielle Elton

Posted 4 months ago ago

We don’t like to see our dogs in pain, especially if there’s nothing that can be done to ease their suffering.

We want our dogs to live their best lives free from any discomfort.

And while our vets do all they can to help, there are just some conditions that unfortunately have no cure.

This is the case with a skin condition called atopy.

One concerned owner got in touch to ask for a vet’s advice on the disease, wanting to know if they were right in thinking there was no cure, and wondering whether it was common.

They asked: “My four-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier has been diagnosed with an allergic skin disease called atopy. Pills keep the itching under control all year round but I have been told there is no permanent cure. Is this common?”

David Grant MBE, a former vet at the RSPCA Harmsworth hospital for animals, answered the Staffy owner’s question as well as offering advice on how to ease itching.

He said: “Atopy is indeed a common problem affecting around 10 to 20 percent of dogs. Any dog can be affected, but it is more prevalent in pedigree dogs. Itching is the main sign, typically affecting the face, ears, feet and abdomen.

“Canine atopy was first described in veterinary literature in 1941 yet, in spite of a huge research effort, we are still waiting for a definitive cure.

“But there is now a better understanding of the problem and new ways of controlling the  symptoms, particularly the unpleasant itchiness.

“Atopy is an allergic response to environmental allergens, most notably pollens and house dust mites, but potentially many others.”

David also described the condition as sharing similarities with hayfever that us humans can experience.

He added: “In susceptible dogs, however, the allergens enter the body due to inherited defects in the skin barrier, resulting in the immune system mounting an allergic response.

“Research has resulted in a number of strategies to improve the quality of life of affected dogs.

“Drugs can interrupt the itch pathway in various ways. An injection of a monoclonal antibody blocks the itch signal in nerves, and hyposensitisation injections alter the immune response in some dogs. There are also topical products that aim to improve the skin barrier. 

“Combinations of treatments are often required for good control.”

Do you have a question about your dog’s health that you’d like to put to a vet? Get in touch by emailing

Be the first to comment!