BACKGROUND: Canine atopic dermatitis (cAD) is a common allergic skin disease that is known to affect individuals early in life; the natural history of its initial development has not been documented. Some breeds such as West Highland white terriers (WHWTs) are highly predisposed to cAD.
OBJECTIVES: To follow 100 WHWT puppies during their first three years and to record the onset of clinical signs of cAD.
ANIMALS: One hundred and eight puppies from 29 litters were included and 90 were followed for three years.
METHODS AND MATERIALS: Puppies were examined initially while with their breeders. After adoption, the owners were contacted twice each year and dogs were examined by veterinarians if signs compatible with cAD were detected; diagnosis of cAD was by two different definitions. The onset, location of the clinical signs and severity of cAD, as well as co-morbidities were recorded.
RESULTS: The prevalence of cAD in the cohort was 52%. Most affected dogs (60%) developed signs of cAD during their first year of life and males were over-represented. The location of clinical signs mirrored those of previous descriptions. The severity of cAD was mild in 36% and severe in 13% of affected WHWTs. Dogs with cAD often exhibited other atopic diseases, but only gastro-intestinal signs were significantly different between WHWTs with and without cAD. Adverse reaction to foods was diagnosed in 24% of dogs.
CONCLUSION AND CLINICAL IMPORTANCE: This longitudinal study of puppies from a predisposed breed sheds new light on the early development of cAD in WHWTs.