One of the most common skin conditions found in dogs is atopic dermatitis. Most of these cases are caused by allergies to substances in the environment. Dog owners are aware of the possibility that their dogs have environmental allergies to plant pollen and dust, or house dust mites, but may not be aware of another very important environmental allergen that can have harmful effects on susceptible dogs: mold.
Molds are a type of multicellular fungus that can be found almost anywhere in the environment, including the air. Preferred surfaces are wood, leaves and plants, air ducts, soil and basement. They thrive in damp, damp, and humid environments, and reproduce by microscopic spores that spread through the air. Because dogs have a tendency to explore surroundings – especially with their noses – they are at increased risk of coming into contact with mold spores and breathing them in.
Molds are usually harmless in small amounts, but if a dog is sensitive and allergic to them, they can cause problems. An allergic reaction occurs when the dog’s immune system reacts to a substance with overreactivity or hypersensitivity. If the allergy becomes chronic it can become uncomfortable and even painful. If left untreated, it can cause more serious health problems.
Symptoms of mold allergies in dogs
Dogs allergic to mold usually develop a year-round skin problem. If you’re allergic to mold, symptoms can increase and decrease with humidity in the air (which allows mold to multiply more quickly), but to some extent they are present year-round because the offending allergen is not just constantly seasonal like some pollen . This allergy is most likely to occur in dogs between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. However, dogs can develop an allergy at any time during their life.
Mold allergies usually manifest as a skin condition. Symptoms can include scratches (often persistent), inflamed, and irritated skin; dry flaky skin, localized or generalized hair loss, chewing / licking (especially the paws); chronic ear infections. It is also possible, but uncommon, for mold to cause breathing difficulties such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, shortness of breath, discharge from the nose and / or eyes, and in more severe cases even loss of appetite and lethargy. Dogs with mold allergies are often also affected by other inhalation allergens such as mites.
Mold allergies cannot be differentiated from other allergy types without allergy testing. However, your veterinarian may want to do a thorough examination, history, and other diagnoses first to see if the present condition is caused or complicated by an infection or another disease that resembles atopic dermatitis.
Dog allergy tests usually take one of two forms: intradermal skin tests or blood serum tests. Intradermal allergy testing is considered the gold standard for diagnosing atopic dermatitis and involves the injection of small amounts of 40-60 different types of allergens into the dog’s skin, usually done under general anesthesia by a veterinary dermatologist. A visible swelling occurs at the injection site when a dog reacts to the allergen, which can be used to determine which allergens are causing atopic dermatitis. Blood tests can be done at a general veterinary office. A blood sample is taken from the dog and presented to a testing laboratory. The lab looks for antibodies to allergens known to contribute to atopic dermatitis. The results of these tests can be used to formulate allergen-specific immunotherapy based on the allergens in question.
Management and treatment of mold allergies
Treating allergies, including those caused by mold, usually involves two steps: getting control and staying in control. This often requires the use of one or more therapies, often in combination with one another. These include corticosteroids, antihistamines, ATOPICA® (cyclosporine capsules) and Cytopoint® (Lokivetmab).
Allergen immunotherapy, also known as desensitization or desensitization, consists of the administration of gradually increasing amounts and strengths of relevant allergens, either by subcutaneous injection or by sublingual drops. The aim of this treatment is to increase tolerance to the allergens by reducing the immune response. This custom immunotherapy can take up to 12 months before a reaction is observed. However, the engagement can be worth it as it not only prevents the current allergies from getting worse, but also prevents new allergies from developing.
Dogs with allergies often develop secondary, recurring ear and skin infections. Inflamed skin can be prone to bacterial and yeast infections, which in and of themselves can lead to even more scratches. Targeted topical antimicrobial therapy shampoos and sprays containing chlorhexidine, miconazole, and / or ketoconazole, as well as ear cleaners and treatments may be recommended. In severe cases, oral systemic treatments with drugs such as ketoconazole, itraconazole, or terbinafine may be required.
Reducing the amount of mold around your dog can help reduce exposure and thereby reduce allergy symptoms. Unfortunately, since the mold is everywhere, it is not possible to completely avoid contact. Ideally, keep your dog (and his bed!) Away from damp basements or garages. Frequent bathing or wiping with a damp microfiber cloth can help remove mold spores that have fallen on his skin and fur. Examine your dog’s favorite spots, especially under his bedding. Large mold infestations in the home can usually be seen or smelled. If mold is present, these areas should be cleaned and treated appropriately. Depending on the location, size and type of shape, this may need to be done by a professional service.
Because mold allergy is environmental and environmental allergens are everywhere, complete relief from the condition is usually not possible and most dogs require lifelong treatment. But it can be managed successfully, resulting in a happier, more comfortable dog.
P.hoto: Przemysław Iciak / Getty Images