VET’S VIEW: Spotting the signs of allergies in dogs...

LAST week, while walking down a country lane, it was delightful to see clumps of snowdrops that hadn’t been there a couple of weeks ago, a sure sign that spring is around the corner.

Of course, the emergence of plants from their winter dormancy can be a less welcome sign for allergy sufferers.

It is estimated that around ten per cent of dogs suffer from atopy, an allergy to airborne particle such as plant pollen and mould spores, which manifests itself as itching.

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Atopy is more common in certain breeds such as the Labrador retriever, cocker spaniel and many terriers.

Signs will usually start at a young age and continue for life.

They may be seasonal, particularly if pollen-related, but can occur all year round.

Initially, the signs may be localised to a part of the body such as the ears or feet, but again frequently spread to involve other areas.

Your vet may suspect that your pet has atopy if he or she has recurrent bouts of itching and parasites such as fleas and mites and other infections have been ruled out.

It is also helpful to eliminate food allergies, even if you haven’t recently changed your pet’s diet, as these can produce very similar signs, and your vet can advise you how to do this.

How do you manage atopy?

Well in mild cases, or those that perhaps have a limited seasonal appearance, it may be sufficient to treat the symptoms of itching as and when they occur.

But if the disease is more severe, or more persistent, your vet may advise allergy testing to develop a specific immunotherapy.

However, this is only effective in a proportion of cases and still needs to be continued long-term.

So spare a thought for those allergy sufferers – both human and animal – for whom spring is not always such good news.