CHRONIC ITCHING is most commonly caused by allergies or parasites, but hormonal imbalances can also be a cause. Bacterial and yeast infections are often secondary to allergies and can be the underlying cause for RECURRING SKIN AND EAR INFECTIONS. Allergies can be due to food, insects, or environmental factors like dust, pollen, or mold. Allergies usually start at about 1 & ½ years and can occur throughout life. Fleas can be the primary cause of allergies, or make an already allergic dog even itchier! Allergies can be an overreaction of the immune system to substances that are usually considered harmless. Most allergies are not cured, but controlled.
PARASITES: Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats. For the flea allergic pet, 100% flea control is essential as just ONE SINGLE flea bite can cause severe itching for days. Florida Veterinary Dermatologists recommend systemic (oral) flea control in addition to rigorous environmental control for flea allergic patients.
FOOD ALLERGIES: Are most commonly caused be the protein ingredient such as beef, chicken, or pork, and less often by carbohydrate sources like corn or wheat. Food allergies must be diagnosed by feeding a diet or novel protein, or one that has been hydrolyzed (broken down) so small that the body doesn’t recognize it as an allergen, and a single digestible carb source. A low antigen diet must be fed exclusively for a period of 12-16 weeks and during this time NO other treats or supplements are given. Non- prescription foods that claim to be “hypoallergenic” or “for sensitive skin” are NOT the same as a low antigen and are not recommended for food trials. Low antigen diets are expensive and you will NOT find quality prescription veterinary diets at a feed store or pet shop. Dr. Long recommends Hill’s and Royal Canin based on these products’ Quality Research Evidence.
ATOPIC DERMTITIS: Is an inherited or acquired predisposition to develop allergic symptoms following repeated exposure to normally harmless substances such as pollens, molds, and dust. Inhalation and SKIN CONTACT to these allergens can cause severe itching in pets. Reduce allergen exposure by bathing weekly with hypoallergenic moisturizing shampoo, avoid stuffed toys, and wash bedding regularly, remove pet from area when dusting or vacuuming, use air conditioning with a high quality filter system, keep pets off freshly mowed grass, and minimize houseplants.
TREATMENT OPTIONS MAY INCLUDE A COMBINATION OF:
FREE FORM: Omega 3 fatty acids: HIGH doses of DHA/EPA can reduce itching and inflammation, aid in management of healthy skin, and improve response to other allergy therapies. This brand is especially formulated for animals, and is better absorbed and utilized by your pet. EPA/DHA must be dosed at 180mg/10lb for allergic conditions. Read labels carefully: 1000mg Fish Oil does not equal 1000mg of EPA/DHA.
ANTIHISTAMINES: Only work on about 20% of itchy dogs. They are safe to use for life, but can cause drowsiness. Several types may need to be tried before you find the one that works best on your pet. Most antihistamines work better in conjunction with EPA/DHA.
TOPICALS & SHAMPOOS: Some give temporary relief of itching and restore skins natural barrier. DISCUSS THESE WITH US FIRST. Good adjunct to treatment but usually not effective alone.
STEROIDS: Have many potential short term side effects, such as excessive drinking, urinating and eating as well as increased susceptibility to infections, and are reserved for adults with short seasonal problems, or where other therapies have failed.
FLEA CONTROL: Florida veterinary dermatologists recommend systemic (oral) flea control products such as COMFORTIS or TRIFEXIS for pets with allergies.
NEWER TREATMENTS INCLUDE:
APOQUEL: Apoquel is a prescription tablet that stops allergic itch at the source. Apoquel is not a steroid. Starts relieving itch in 4 hours and controls it within 24 hours. This medication is used in dogs 12 months of age and older that allergic itch and atopic dermatitis. It is a safer option that steroids and is meant to be given long term.
CYTOPOINT: this is a biological therapy for your dog’s immune system. Cytopoint contains engineered antibodies designed to neutralize one of the main proteins that sends itch signals to your dog’s brain. Cytopoint starts controlling itch in 1 days and can control signs of atopic dermatitis for 4-8 weeks, depending on the individual patient. There are no systemic side effects and this treatment can be used on a dog of any age or ailment.
PRESCRIPTION DIETS: there are newer veterinary diets available clinically proven to help treat dogs with atopic dermatitis. These include Hill’s Derm Defense, Royal Canin’s Skin Support, and Purina Veterinary Diet’s DRM. These diets are in addition to the formulations available for food allergy pets.
Our veterinarians will design a treatment plan for your dog based on your pets’ physical exam findings, previous treatment, and medical history.