You have noticed that your dog is scratching more and more often… Itching is obviously annoying him… It is clear that something is going wrong and you are worried because your four legged companion is feeling uncomfortable.
You are determined to help your dog and solve the problem at all costs. The veterinarian has just finished the clinical examination of your dog, and you are expecting to hear the diagnosis… You get his answer – it is allergy!
Before you hurry to ask him what the best dog allergy medicine is, please don’t imagine that your veterinarian is a wizard who will cure the animal in a minute by using some omnipotent magic pill, because things will not go that easy. Allergies in dogs are actually a complex health issue and therefore the strategies for their management are very complex too.
What does it mean?
It means that you must get prepared for a long and serious mission! It is a mission in which your role will be of utmost importance, as well as the role of your trusted veterinarian. Make sure you have entrusted your dog’s health to the best possible vet, the one you can trust and the one who will access the entire issue responsibly, patiently and carefully. Your dog, you and your veterinarian will create a circle of trust, and you will actually become teammates in a dream team that will have to face this health issue and solve it successfully.
The story behind
But, let’ s start from the beginning… As in any other battle, the better you know your opponent the better are your chances for successful outcome, especially if you are able to find his weaknesses and know how to use them in your favor. For this purpose you must first completely understand the processes that are taking place in allergic reactions.
Some of them can be managed by using allergy medicine for dogs in order to control the course of the allergic reaction and eliminate the typical symptoms or at least decrease their intensity. Allergic reaction represents an extremely aggressive, abnormal response of the dog’s immune system to substances from the environment, called allergens that are actually not dangerous for the dog’s health.
The main goal is to detect the allergen and try to avoid the dog’s exposure to that substance that is causing the problem, so therefore the right diagnosis is crucial thing at this stage of the allergy management. In addition to the medical history and the clinical examination of the dog, your veterinary doctor will, if necessary, recommend additional tests and diagnostic methods to detect the allergen that is responsible for the occurrence of the immune response of the dog’s body.
These methods may include elimination diet or use of hypoallergenic dog food if it is suspected that some food ingredient is responsible for the allergic reaction. There are blood tests and intradermal allergy tests also available for detecting allergens coming from the dog’s environment.
Once you have detected the cause of the problem, it is time to prepare a good tactics that will lead you to a successful outcome. A good veterinarian will elaborate a wise strategy that will bring under control the aggressive response of the dog’s immune system, which in fact lies behind the whole problem with the allergic reactions.
This strategy will be composed of several parts, including the maximum possible reduction of the dog’s exposure to the allergen, implementing effective allergy treatment including symptomatic therapy and immunotherapy, as well as proper care advice for the owner in order to provide long term control of this abnormal health condition.
Right questions and right answers…
The creating of effective allergy management plan can be similar to the contemplation of a fire management. Have you ever asked yourself what would you do first if there is a fire in the house? Would you concentrate on putting the fire out, would try to eliminate the main reason of the fire, or would you try to stop the spread of the flame by removing things in the environment that could encourage the fire even more?
What is the smartest to be taken in this regard? Well, similar questions are going through the mind of every veterinarian who is facing a case of dog allergies. How to avoid the dog’s exposure to the allergen? Which dog allergy medication to be used? How to prevent the occurrence of similar problems in the future and how to keep this problem under control in the long term?
Taking into consideration all these questions, your vet will put in order all the pieces of the puzzle and create an effective allergy management plan. Allergy medications will be his necessary tools to put this plan in action and expect a successful outcome.
Avoid the dog’s exposure to the allergen
Actually the best possible way to regulate allergies in your dog is to find an effective way to avoid the dog’s exposure to the allergen completely. If you have detected the exact substance that is causing the problem, you have great advantage and things will go much easier…
When dealing with FAD (flea allergy dermatitis), a type of allergy that is caused by flea bites, or actually caused by the proteins contained in the flea saliva, you must do everything in your power to get rid of fleas completely by using proven flea control products for your dog and the environment.
You should also bathe the dog frequently to eliminate all the traces of the flea saliva and feces left on the dog’s coat. Clean animals are less attractive to parasites. Special ant parasitic dog shampoos should be used to make sure that all the ectoparasites from the dog’s skin are destroyed.
If the dog is suspected to be allergic to some food or nutrient ingredient, your vet will recommend implementation of elimination diet that should help you detect the type of food that causes the problem. Commercial hypoalergenic dog food is also available and are used for this purpose too. If your dog is suffering from this type of allergy you must take strict care of your dog’s diet by avoiding the use of the particular nutrient for the rest of his life.
Do your best to prevent your dog’s exposure to cigarette smoke and warn smokers to avoid smoking in the presence of your pet because it is irritating for most of the animals, and it is also one of the main causes of allergies in dogs. Make sure you maintain good hygiene of your dog. Regular bathing will remove substances from the dog’s fur that may be causing problems with skin allergies. Wash the dog’s toys, the food dishes and the water bowels regularly and vacuum the dog’s bedding often.
Try to eliminate indoor moisture as much as possible to prevent the occurrence of allergies caused by fungi and mold. Provide effective dust mite control and remove the objects that are potential dust collectors. In a season when the amount of pollen is larger decrease the walks with your dog, and after returning home from walk in nature always wash the dog’s feet because this way some allergens from the outside can be brought inside the house.
Allergy treatment options
Talking about dog allergy medicine in general, the most of the drugs used in the veterinary practice work immediately and effectively but they provide only temporary relief of the symptoms. Some of these drugs, such as corticosteroids and antihistamine drugs have several side effects on the other organs to, so their long-term use carries risks for the dog’s health.
Therefore every responsible veterinarian will avoid the long term use of these allergy medicine unless not necessary. These drugs are in most of the cases designed for use in humans and therefore their use in dogs must be provided under special guidelines of a doctor of veterinary medicine.
Experienced veterinarian will use combination of different medications in the allergy treatment and he will determine the right dosage and the duration of the therapy according his experience. In addition to symptomatic therapy, antibiotic and antifungal therapy is used to suppress concurrent infections caused by bacteria and yeast.
Pros and cons of the steroid therapy
Corticosteroid therapy (medications such as dexamethasone, prednisone, cortisone etc.) works by “turning off” the immune response of the dog and thus leads to disappearance of the symptoms typical for allergic reaction. This therapy effectively reduces inflammation and itching. However, steroids have also effects on other organs and there are potential risks for the dog’s health if long-term corticosteroid treatment is provided.
Symptoms such as polydipsia, polyphagia, polyuria, and even more serious diseases such as pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, and Cushing’s disease may occur as a result of a long-term steroid therapy. There are two ways to administer this medications, injectable steroids and steroids for oral use. It is recommended to use oral medications because of the possibility of discontinuation of the therapy if any unwanted effects occur.
Dosing must be carefully determined by a veterinary doctor in order to avoid unwanted consequences. It is proven that steroid therapy shows better results when combined with antihistamine therapy and essential fatty acids.
Antihistamine medications (the most used are Benadryl, Atarax, Chlortrimetron etc.) provide inhibitory effect on histamine, the main substance that is responsible for the symptoms of inflammation during allergic reactions. Their effectiveness is successful in the treatment of about one third of the cases of allergies in dogs.
Best results are obtained in combination with steroid therapy. This treatment can cause several side effects and the most common are sedation, lethargy, dry mouth and diarrhea. These drugs are designed for use by humans so therefore the use in the veterinary medicine and the drug dosage is strictly determined by your veterinarian’s guidelines.
Therapy with Cyclosporines (Atopica, for oral use) is relatively expensive anti-allergy treatment. The immunosuppressive effect of these medications is successfully used in the treatment of certain allergies in dogs such as atopic dermatitis, which is the most common form of allergic reactions in dogs. The therapy is effective after a several week’s treatment. This type of therapy in dogs can cause vomiting and diarrhea but it has significantly fewer side effects than steroids and antihistamine treatment.
Veterinary dermatologists use diagnostic methods such as intradermal allergy test similar to the one used in humans. This method can examine the dog’s sensitivity to 60 different substances from the environment and allows detection of the exact substance that is responsible for the allergic reaction. Immunotherapy is one of the most effective ways to manage the course of the allergies.
It is implemented by increasing the amounts of the allergens in the dog’s body through series of so-called “allergy vaccines”. The immune system of the dog gradually becomes accustomed to this substance and its reactive responses become less and less pronounced. Your role as an owner will be very important during this therapy. Your vet will give you instructions how to administer the allergy shots to your dog by yourself at home properly.
Apoquel (Oclacitinib) is a new type of anti-allergy treatment available for veterinary use. The effects of Oclacitinib are to prevent itching and stop the inflammatory processes that occur during allergic reactions by selectively inhibiting Janus kinase-1 (JAK-1) and Janus kinase-3 (JAK-3). This drug should not be used in dogs younger than 12 months of age, in breeding and nursing females, as well as in dogs with severe skin infections problems.
Symptomatic topical therapy is consisted of medicated shampoos, rinses and anti-itch solutions. It has immediate but temporary itching relief effect. Cool baths with medicated (hypoallergenic or colloidal oatmeal) shampoos are often used for dogs suffering from atopic dermatitis. Hydrocortisone shampoos can temporarily reduce the itching and help the dog feel less uncomfortable.
Topical sprays and lotions containing cortisone are commonly used for localized itching (Cortispray is a non-systematic cortisone spray with local effect which is not absorbed in the bloodstream). Frequent bathing is recommended because it removes the allergens from the dog’s coat and prevents them to be absorbed in the body through the skin. Make sure you do your best to prevent the dog to lick the topical medications administered on the skin.
Topical antimicrobial therapy for local use is required against concurrent secondary bacterial or yeast infections that develop on the skin wounds which are made by scratching or chewing of the skin caused by the itching. Foul odor of the skin can sometimes be present as one of the symptoms of the bacterial infections. In some cases systemic broad-spectrum antibiotic therapy is required.
During FAD (flea allergic dermatitis) there is possibility of occurrence of so-called ‘hot spots’, hairless areas on the skin which in some cases can bleed. Topical ointment therapy must be administered in order to prevent infections and facilitate wound healing in these areas.
Some useful nutrition tips
There are some nutrition guidelines that may help you to prevent the occurrence of allergies or help you regulate their course. Probiotics (Lactobaccilus cultures) in the puppy diet can substantially reduce the chances of occurrence of food allergies in the future as adults. It is recommended to use proteins from different sources in your dog’s diet and rotate them periodically. Food supplements rich with essential Omega 3 fatty acids from fish oil are often recommended in cases of allergic reactions such as atopic dermatitis.
These natural anti-inflammatory substances can support the anti-allergy treatment of atopic dermatitis by reducing the effects of histamine and some similar substances produced in the body that are responsible for the symptoms of inflammation during allergic reactions. Vitamin supplements (especially vitamin C) in the dog’s diet are also highly recommended in the allergy management.
The most important thing
Every dog can respond differently to each of the medications used in the allergy treatment. Experienced veterinarian will make a prudent assessment regarding the choice of medications that will be used in the treatment, taking into account the necessity of application of a particular drug and the side effects that may be caused by its use.
Beside the therapy you should try to avoid the dog’s exposure to the allergen as much as possible. You should always inform your trusted veterinarian about all the unusual changes you will eventually notice in your dog or the dog’s behavior. Remember that you can do a lot to help your dog to successfully overcome this health issue, with a lot of patience, with a lot of perseverance, and above all with lots of love…