Common allergens include medications, insect bites or stings, grasses, pollens, molds, and foods. Dogs can acquire allergies or inherit allergic tendencies. Eventually, the dog may begin reacting to all kinds of allergens, from dust and feathers to molds and wool.
Atopy is characterized by an itch-scratch cycle that's usually triggered by pollens. Pugs with atopy itch and scratch constantly, especially on the face, feet, and legs, as well as in the external ear canal. The result is thick, flaky skin, hair loss, and scabbing. It's not unusual for dogs with atopy to develop frequent ear infections or secondary bacterial infections (infections that develop as a result of the wounds caused by scratching).
Allergic skin disease is an inherited condition common to pugs. It usually appears in young dogs, from one to three years of age. It takes a lot of testing, including skin scrapings, bacterial and fungal cultures, and intradermal skin testing, to determine whether a dog is suffering from allergic skin disease or some other type of allergy. A good flea-control plan is also important, because flea allergy dermatitis can resemble atopy. Once atopy is diagnosed, there are several ways to manage it:
Change the dog's environment as much as possible by limiting exposure to known allergens.
Antihistamines, essential fatty acid supplements, and medicated shampoos can help control itching and scratching.
Severe cases may need intermittent low doses of corticosteroids to relieve itching.
Allergy shots (hyposensitization) as a last resort can sometimes help.