What Is Atopy and How Can It Affect Your Vizsla?

Vizsla lying on a path against the background of a forest

Vizslas are a great family or working dog that are found in homes all across the country. These adorable pups originated in Hungary but have made their way into a favorite breed far beyond these borders. Meaning pointer in Hungarian, these dogs are great for trekking through the woods or going on a hunting trip together. They are great dogs for obedience and agility activities, making them ideal for active owners. When they aren’t preoccupied with working, Vizslas are a great companion to have in your home. Vizslas are highly social dogs and love to be around people all the time, and this mixed with their gentle and intelligent personalities make them the perfect addition to your household. 

These dogs are smooth-haired and great to cuddle with, though they can be prone to atopy. Thankfully this is a common health issue in many breeds that can easily be treated and managed by a vet. So if you fear your Vizsla may have atopy, don’t panic. We’ll go over everything you need to know about atopy and how it may be affecting your beloved Vizsla, so you can be well informed about everything you need to know regarding this condition.

Vizsla Atopy Explained

Atopy is not only found in dogs but also in other animals and even humans. There are five different types of allergies found within dogs, and canine atopic dermatitis is one of them. Atopy, also known as canine atopic dermatitis, is a form of allergies that’s common in all different breeds of dogs including Vizslas. This type of allergy causes their skin to itch in reaction to common allergens, such as grass, pollen, dust, mold, or other seemingly harmless substance that causes a hypersensitive reaction within your dog’s immune system. 

Atopy is an inhalant allergy, meaning your Vizsla will experience symptoms when exposed to airborne allergens. This is very similar to what humans experience when they have seasonal and non-seasonal allergies that cause them to sneeze, get itchy eyes, and other related symptoms. Rather than occurring when your dog lays on the grass, it’s caused by the grass pollen they breathe in. This can make this condition difficult to observe the exact allergen causing it since the dog does not have to come into physical contact with it.

Vizsla atopy can be seasonal or take place throughout the year. When your Vizsla is experiencing this form of allergic dermatitis, they will have patches of skin that become itchy and typically red from all of the scratching they do trying to appease it. In Vizslas, the areas that are usually affected are behind the ears, feet, belly, and in skin folds, though other areas can also become itchy. Symptoms of this condition typically start within one to three years of age, though they can be diagnosed at any age. If you adopted your Vizsla at an older age, they may have undiagnosed atopy. No matter the age you notice the symptoms of atopy, you should get them checked out by a medical professional to confirm or rule out this condition.

Causes of Atopy in Vizslas

Atopy in Vizslas are known to be an inherited disease and triggered by environmental factors. Unfortunately, atopy is hard to avoid in Vizslas since it’s an inherited condition passed down through family members with no way to prevent it. Despite this, just because Vizsla atopy is common doesn’t mean your dog is destined to get it. Many Vizslas may go their entire life without experiencing symptoms of atopic dermatitis. 

If your Vizsla does have a genetic disposition to this condition, you will typically notice signs by the time they turn three, though they can be mild enough to go unnoticed for longer. The cause of allergic dermatitis such as atopy varies by dog. Every dog will be triggered by different allergens that cause them to become itchy. 

Some common allergens that cause atopic dermatitis can include different pollens, grass, house dust mites, mold, and other environmental allergens. What the exact cause of your Vizsla’s atopy is will depend on what they are specifically allergic to. Causes may also be seasonal, meaning you will notice symptoms during certain times and then they will seemingly disappear for a while.

viszla dog running through water

How Atopy Can Affect Your Vizsla

As a Vizsla owner, you want to provide your dog with the best life possible even if they are experiencing canine atopic dermatitis. The main concern regarding the impact of atopy on your Vizsla’s life is its comfort level. Being itchy due to allergies can be very uncomfortable for any dog. Excessive scratching to try and appease the itching can cause your Vizsla’s skin to become irritated, greasy, or even pick up an odor. Being in a constantly itchy state with no relief can also be distressing for dogs. If left untreated, they may feel as if they are always uncomfortable and looking to satisfy an itch.

Vizsla atopy can become more severe if left untreated, causing your dog to become very uncomfortable. This condition can also get more severe during certain seasons and times of the year. Just like allergies can trigger asthma and hay fever in humans, atopy can also cause respiratory issues in some dogs. These symptoms can cause your dog to feel distressed and restless. Breathing issues due to atopy can also make doing activities your Vizsla loves more challenging and difficult. It is important to get your dog checked out for Atopy and other types of allergies if you notice any signs and symptoms associated with these conditions, so they can comfortably do all of the things they love.

Life Expectancy of a Vizsla with Atopy

All Vizsla owners want to spend as many healthy, happy years as they can with their beloved dog. While atopy can greatly affect your dog’s comfort level and aspects of their health, thankfully it will not take any years off of their life. 

Once diagnosed, a dog that is experiencing canine atopic dermatitis will likely be put on a treatment plan to help combat their allergies. The treatment chosen will vary depending on their specific allergies, but it will usually help manage their symptoms. 

After you and your vet have found a treatment plan that works for your dog, they will be able to continue living their normal, healthy life. This condition will not impact their life expectancy, meaning you can still enjoy up to the typical fifteen years alongside your Vizsla. 

Signs That Your Vizsla Might Have Atopy

Knowing the signs and symptoms of atopy can help your dog obtain an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. All symptoms are visible to an owner through behaviors and skin condition, making it an easy condition to notice. Symptoms of atopy may be present all year round or only exist during certain times of the year. Whether they are seasonal allergies or non-seasonal, the symptoms of atopy will be the same. The main symptom to keep an eye out for is consistent, excessive scratching and licking. 

If your Vizsla is experiencing atopy, they will seem to have an itch that can never be fully satisfied. These will typically be areas on their feet, face, around the eyes and ears, in their armpits (also known as axillae), on the inside of their thighs, and between the creases of their paws. Though these are the most common areas of itchiness caused by atopy, others may also be affected. If you notice your Vizsla itching or licking more than usual, it is best to get them checked out no matter the area they are focusing on.

Dogs may also rub their skin against furniture, the ground or walls when experiencing atopic dermatitis. Some dogs may lay on their back and move their hips and head side to side, looking like they are dancing. Though this may be cute to an owner, it can be a sign they are experiencing atopy and trying to satisfy the itchiness caused by it.

Redness in areas of their skin is also a common indicator of atopic dermatitis. This can be difficult to spot due to the darkness of a Vizsla’s fur, but it may still be there. If during a bath – or other times when you see your Vizsla’s skin beneath their fur – you notice it is red, it may be best to get them checked for Atopy. 

Greasy skin can also be another sign of atopic dermatitis in Vizslas. Any change in your dog’s skin texture or fur should be noted as a possible symptom of allergies, as well as odor. Dogs with atopy may exhibit a yeasty odor from their impacted skin.

While the symptoms of atopy may seem obvious to an owner, this condition will need to be diagnosed by a vet. Your vet will be able to perform an allergy test to confirm if atopy is in fact what is making your Vizsla itchy, as well as narrowing down what environmental allergens are triggering this condition. This process can be difficult to complete as your Vizsla may be allergic to more than one thing. Providing your vet with a complete medical history will help rule out allergens that are not causing canine atopic dermatitis as well as confirm possible culprits. Once your vet has determined the cause of atopy within your Vizsla, they will be able to give them a specified treatment and get them on the road to recovery. 

Vizsla dog sitting on path in a field

How to Care for and Treat Your Vizsla for Atopy

Though atopic dermatitis can be uncomfortable for your dog, there is luckily a wide variety of treatments to help manage this condition. These treatments consist of eliminating the allergy all together and managing symptoms so your Vizsla can be more comfortable.The treatment chosen by your vet for your Vizsla will depend on the exact cause of their allergies. To choose the correct treatment, your vet will first need to narrow down the exact allergens causing the reaction. 

Once the allergens have been discovered, the best way to eliminate or minimize the allergy is to desensitize your Vizsla to the specific substances. This is done by creating a serum that consists of the allergens themselves. This serum will be injected into your Vizla’s skin in a series of shots. This process is called hyposensitization, and it will cause your dog’s immune system to decrease its hypersensitivity to these offending allergens. By slowly increasing their presence, the allergens will become more tolerated by your Vizsla’s immune system. This will cause their body to realize this foreign substance is not a threat and does not need to be attacked with an allergic reaction. These injections can significantly reduce itching once hyposensitization has been achieved completely.

Though hyposensitization is relatively successful, it may not work for all dogs. When this process is not successful in eliminating the allergies that they are experiencing, other remedies can help manage symptoms. Your vet will also be able to offer other avenues to bring itch relief by addressing the chemicals that are released within the skin during inflammation. These can minimize skin irritation and itching caused by canine autopic dermatitis.

In addition to these methods, certain omega-3 fatty acids can provide relief for canine atopic dermatitis. These can help reduce inflammation and improve your Vizsla’s general skin condition, allowing it to better function against environmental allergies. Healthier skin is the key to providing a barrier against environmental allergens.

In some cases, secondary bacterial skin infections can be caused by cases of atopy. If this has occurred, your vet will most likely prescribe an antibiotic. All of these alternative treatments that have been listed besides hyposensitivity won’t eliminate the allergy itself, but they will minimize itching and other symptoms caused by it. 

Hypoallergenic shampoos may be prescribed by your vet to help maintain a healthy skin barrier and minimize allergy sensitivity. Though atopy is caused by airborne environmental allergens, some allergens may also be absorbed by your Vizsla’s skin. Frequent baths for your dog using hypoallergenic shampoo can help to reduce itching. These shampoos also may include omega fatty acids, which will be absorbed during the bathing process and help combat allergy symptoms.

All of these treatments for canine autopic dermatitis will help eliminate your Vizsla’s hypersensitivity to certain allergens or combat symptoms of itchiness. Thankfully due to the wide variety of treatment options, your dog can be back to living a comfortable and healthy life even after being diagnosed with atopy. 

Unfortunately this condition cannot be prevented, but it can be easily treated. While there is nothing an owner can do to avoid their Vizsla experiencing this, they can easily take the steps to allow their dog to recover from atopy. 

The most important steps to take as an owner of a Vizsla with atopy is getting them diagnosed accurately. Once diagnosed, it is essential to stick with the care plan you have been provided by your vet.  No matter what is prescribed to you by your vet, it shouldn’t greatly interfere with your daily life. These simple steps will allow your dog to live comfortably and give you peace of mind that you are doing all you can to ensure your Vizsla’s health and happiness. 

How to Help your Vizsla Live a Fulfilling Life with Atopy

Providing your dog with a happy, fulfilling life is the ultimate goal of any dog owner. Atopy will not get in the way of making sure your Vizsla lives their best life possible. While atopy can be a lifelong condition, your Vizsla can still live comfortably and do the things they love after being diagnosed with this condition.

The best way to help your Vizsla live a fulfilling life with atopy is to get them properly diagnosed. Once diagnosed, you will know which allergens are causing atopic reactions and can begin to combat them through hyposensitivity or other avenues recommended by your vet. No dog wants to be itchy all of the time, which can hinder their happiness and cause distress. Many dogs may become lethargic or anxious when dealing with the itchiness caused by atopy. The best way to help them be happy and fulfilled is by eliminating this feeling, allowing them to relax and focus on doing the things that they love.

Besides combating this condition, simply being a loving and caring owner for your Vizsla is the number one strategy to ensure they live a fulfilling life with atopy. Taking them for long walks, playing fetch, and snuggling are all ways to make sure your Vizsla is spending the most time they can doing their favorite activities. Make sure you are giving your Vizsla some extra love after their diagnosis and treatment of atopy. 

Atopy is a common condition seen within Vizslas. Though any health condition can be scary for a dog owner, this one can be easily managed. After diagnosis, you and your Vizsla will be back to living many more happy and healthy days together.

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