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Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats

Author: Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M., is a holistic veterinarian and nationally recognized expert on integrative medicine for animals.


Allergic dermatitis is among the most common skin diseases seen in private veterinary practice. The technical term for "allergies" is atopic dermatitis, also called atopy. Atopy is a genetic disease in which the dog or cat becomes sensitized to environmental proteins called allergens. In non-allergic pets, these allergens produce no clinical signs. In allergic or atopic dogs and cats, these allergens produce the clinical signs so commonly seen.

Allergic dogs (and probably cats) develop allergen-specific IgE antibodies (and to some extent IgC antibodies as well). These IgE antibodies are involved in type I hypersensitivity reactions in the pet's body. While th actual immunological response can be quite complicated, briefly this is what happens to cause allergies in your pet's body; IgE antibody is formed upon exposure to an environmental allergen such as pollen from grasses, weeds and trees; molds; human dander; fleas or house dust mites. The IgE antibody attaches to a tissue called a mast cell. The next time the pet encounters the allergen, the allergen attaches to the IgE antibody-mast cell combination. Upon attachment to the IgE-mast cell unit, the mast cell degranulates (disintegrates, "explodes") releasing the many chemicals contained within the cell and cell membrane. Some of these chemicals include histamine, substance P, bradykinin, and various prostaglandins. It is the presence of these chemicals that causes the clinical signs (inflammation, itching and such) seen in allergic pets.


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