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Managing Dog Skin Allergies

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If you own a dog that suffers from skin allergies, take heart - you are not alone! Allergic skin disease is probably the most common affliction seen by veterinarians across the country.

Left unchecked, allergies can greatly reduce your pet's quality of life (not to mention yours) and lead to secondary infections. Dog skin allergies can rarely be cured; however, they can be managed. The following is a synopsis of some of the tools your veterinarian has at his/her disposal that can be used to help control itching and reduce skin inflammation.

Steroid Anti-inflammatories
Steroids control itching and allergic reaction by suppressing immune response. Long-term use can have deleterious side effects, yet used wisely, steroids can greatly improve the quality of life for the itchy pet. Examples: Vetalog®, DepoMedrol®, Prednisolone

Orthomolecular/Bioflavonoid Therapy
This type of therapy is designed to stabilize the immune system, plus mediate the prostaglandins and leukotrienes that cause inflammation. Recommended Product: Proanthozone®

Antimicrobial Therapy
Skin allergies in the dog are often accompanied by secondary bacterial and yeast infections on the inflamed skin, which in themselves can cause intense itching. Antibiotics and/of antifungal medications, either oral or topical, can help eliminate these infections and reduce itching.

Omega 3/Omega 6 Fatty Acids
These products decrease the production of inflammatory prostaglandins, which can help reduce itching in
allergic dogs. Recommended Products: Derm-caps®; 3V-Caps®

Antinhistamines do little to control itching where dog skin allergies are concerned, yet they can help to calm allergic pets. Recommended Products: Benadryl® 1 mg per pound every 8 to 12 hours; Atarax® 1 mg per pound every 12 hours; Claritin® ¼ mg per pound once daily. 

Food Allergy Trial
Feeding a hypoallergenic diet to a dog will help rule out and/or treat skin allergies caused by food; however, you must feed it for at least four months before passing judgment on its effectiveness. Ingredients that can cause allergies include beef, milk, chicken, yeast, wheat, corn, and soy. Recommended Products: Venison-based Diets or Lamb Diets WITHOUT wheat or corn.

Hyposensitization Therapy
This therapy requires allergy testing, followed by a series of injections of the exact allergens or agents that the testing finds to be causing the reaction. Improvement may take some time. Monthly injections are usually required for the life of the pet and the serum can be expensive.

Cyclosporine (Atopica®) Therapy
Cyclosporine is a drug that suppresses the immune response without the side effects associated with steroids. It, however, can have its own side effects (related to immune suppression) and should be used under the supervision of a veterinary dermatologist. Treatment is expensive.

Other Control Measures Recommended:
Flea control
Daily brushing
Topical Colloidal Oatmeal Conditioning Spray – apply prior to brushing

To summarize, treating dog skin allergies often requires a multi-pronged approach to achieve maximum effectiveness. Since llergies can't really be cured, they must be managed, ideally by using the least amount of steroids as possible. And by mixing and matching the various therapies above, this is a goal that can often be achieved.

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