One of the most frequent reasons dogs come in to see us here at Cheltenham Vet is itchy skin (and often itchy ears as well). A common cause of itchy skin in dogs is atopy or atopic dermatitis. Atopy means allergies to things in the environment. It is diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes of itchiness.
There are many environmental allergens that can affect allergic dogs. Common allergens include grasses, pollens and dust mites. Dogs with skin allergies are genetically predisposed to them. The barrier function of their skin is not as good as it should be. We are not able to completely cure dogs of their allergic tendencies but there is a lot that can be done to manage the skin to keep these dogs comfortable and dramatically reduce their itchiness.
Dogs with atopy are prone to recurrent bacterial and fungal skin and ear infections. These need to be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications before we can control the underlying allergic itching. Once the infection is controlled there are several medications available to control the ongoing itch. These include prednisalone (to be used carefully in moderation) and a new drug called Apoquel. It is important dogs with skin allergies are on effective flea control as they often react to flea saliva. We are finding Comfortis monthly tablets to be very effective in controlling flea allergies.
For ongoing maintenance of atopic dogs we want to improve the barrier function of their skin. Omega 3 fatty acids added to the diet can improve the skin barrier. Try Paws dermega www.blackmores.com.au
We also want to avoid drying the skin out. Atopic dogs should be washed with a suitable shampoo (such as Paws megaderm www.blackmores.com.au or dermcare Aloveen dermcare.com.au ). The shampoo should be well diluted before being applied and rinsed with copious luke warm water to hydrate the skin.
If the allergies are severe and cannot be easily controlled with a safe level of drugs we may consider referral for your pet to a specialist dermatologist for allergy testing and in some cases an immunotherapy vaccine can be used to try and reduce your dogs sensitivity.
So, if your dog has itchy skin there is lots we can do to help. Contact us today to discuss an individualised plan for your pooch.