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LIFE for the veterinarian working in companion animal practice would be easier if canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) was a single, readily diagnosed disorder. It is not. First briefly mentioned as a specific disorder in 1953, it was then said that ‘atopic allergy may be produced in animals by plants, parasites, drugs and other agents’ (Kral and Novak 1953). In 1969, the first edition of what was to become the veterinary dermatologist's ‘bible’ gave the subject only a few pages (Muller and Kirk 1969). Even today the prevalence of the disorder is not known clearly; estimates put it at about 10 per cent of all dogs (Hillier and Griffin 2001). There is general agreement that, in terms of the causes of pruritus in dogs, atopic dermatitis is second only to flea bite hypersensitivity.
In a paper summarised on p 537 of this issue, Kovalik and others (2011) discuss the use of a human generic form of ciclosporin for the ‘treatment’ of CAD. In it, they give a definition of the disorder which states that CAD is ‘currently defined as a genetically predisposed inflammatory and pruritic allergic skin disease with characteristic clinical features associated with IgE antibodies most commonly directed at environmental allergens’. However, this reflects only a part of a wider definition, which separates ‘atopic disease’, in which IgE hypersensitivity to allergens is increased, from ‘atopic-like dermatitis’, a disorder in which IgE hypersensitivity cannot be demonstrated (Halliwell 2006).
Canine atopy has in the past been …