Report Links Breed, Spay/Neuter Status to Certain Allergies in Dogs
This post was supposed to be published yesterday. Due to a computer glitch, it was not. I apologize.
Several different forms of allergy have been identified in dogs. I have mentioned flea allergy many times on this blog. Dogs also may be allergic to ingredients in food, or to detergents or other chemicals that contact their skin. Finally, like people, dogs may react to environmental allergens such as pollen, mold spores, and dust mites.
The final form of allergy mentioned above is known as atopy. The most common symptom of atopy is itching, especially on the feet, face, or abdomen. Dogs with atopy may also suffer from hair loss, skin infections, and ear problems. Atopy often occurs simultaneously with the other forms of allergy listed above.
The March/April issue of Banfield Magazine contains a report based on data from a large chain of veterinary hospitals in the US. The report attempts to identify risk factors for atopy in dogs. Two findings stood out to me.
First, the study found that spayed and neutered dogs were approximately three times more likely to be diagnosed with atopy than their unaltered cohorts.
Second, the study identified the ten breeds most likely to suffer from atopy. Those breeds are: West Highland White Terrier, Bichon Frise, Jack Russell Terrier, English Bulldog, Staffordshire Terrier (also known as Pit Bull), Rat Terrier, American Bulldog, Havanese, Lhasa Apso, and Cairn Terrier.
I have some thoughts about the data. The report does not discuss whether spaying and neutering is truly a risk factor for atopy, or whether confounding factors might be influencing the numbers. On average, spayed and neutered pets are more likely to receive veterinary care than their fertile brethren. Is it possible that non-sterilized dogs with atopy simply aren't being taken to the vet?
Also, I was surprised to see that Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers did not make the top ten list of breeds diagnosed with atopy. So was Elizabeth Lund, the report's author. Here is what she had to say on the matter.
Although Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers have been thought to be more likely to have atopic disease, our results don't support an increased risk for these breeds. They are both very popular breeds--consequently, by sheer proportion in our population, we may see more cases of atopic disease in these breeds than high risk breeds of lesser popularity.
The article definitely provides food for thought. However, I should point out that it was published in a corporate magazine rather than a more prestigious, peer-reviewed journal. Although the data are interesting, it might be wise to take them with a grain of salt.