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Allergic Dermatitis

Atopy or possible Food Allergy

The Strategy 

Confirm allergy (constellation of clinical signs, clinical examination/s, biopsy of skin, skin scrapes/cytology, blood allergy testing, skin allergy test) 

Determine if food allergy likely – factors the vet uses: 

  • Age of onset of itch <1yr old = food more likely 
  • Defaecation >3 times daily = food more likely 
  • Intermittent GI signs = food more likely 
  • Known GI upsets to certain proteins = food more likely 
  • No response to steroid = food more likely 
  • Distribution of lesions/itch – complicated!! 

Consider a rigorous Food trial if above suggestive: special hypoallergenic diet +/- wet/dry or feeding from a freezer/fridge to control Storage Mites – especially important if signs present <12mths of age, or in certain “at risk” breeds eg. Bichon, Wheaten terrier, Golden retriever. Please note: we do not recommend allergy blood testing to identify food allergies – these tests are unproven and can be very misleading: food trials designed by the vet are far more informative and reliable. 

If Food Allergy is not a high probability consider supplementing the diet with essential fatty acids. There are several ways to do this, from feeding a specialised veterinary “Skin” diet, to adding one of several high quality, pharmacy-grade supplements to your pets’ usual diet. Speak to us for guidance appropriate for your pet. 

Identify and control any secondary infections in the skin (bacterial/yeast) eg Medicated shampoo antibiotics, antifungals 

Control/remove excess grease and/or moisturise over-dry skin. 

Identify, remove and protect against “Flare Factors” - Routine flea prevention and control is vital.  Pets on our Pet Health Plan are automatically covered with monthly preventatives. 

Reduce burden of House dust mite exposure using a household flea spray (we can supply the most effective types), keep house as dry as possible (vent shower/cooking/tumble drier, avoid drying clothes on radiators), exclude allergic pets from room when vacuuming and for 3 hours afterwards (or a HEPA filtered hoover), boil wash (60 C) pet bed weekly (consider having 2 beds eg. Pet crate beds, or a cotton sheet cover for bed: “1 on, 1 in the wash”. 

Repair the “leaky skin” and sooth irritation using special veterinary medicated shampoos/spot-ons. 

Reduce skin contact with allergens (ideally with a hypoallergenic shampoo to wash off the allergen). Rinse feet after returning from walks/garden if grass allergy. Watch pollen counts (TV/internet) and use extra symptom control when counts high. 

Symptom relief 

In most cases, we resort to reducing/eliminating the symptoms of eth allergy – itch/scracth control is key. Nowadays we have a huge range of appropriate, safe medications designed to stop itch-scratch cycle. Often, symptom relief is best achieved by a combination of some/all of the following: 

  • Injectable monoclonal JAK inhibitors 
  • Oral JAK inhibitors 
  • Anti-inflammatory veterinary skin diet 
  • Antihistamines supplied by the vet 
  • Anti-inflammatory oils in food 
  • Topical steroid spray (totally safe – not detectable in the blood) 
  • Corticosteroids (creams or injections or tablets) 
  • Shampooing (medicated) 

We can also, on occasion, supply a hyposensitising vaccine (help 70% of dogs to get a 70% improvement in itch) specifically designed to combat the allergens identified on blood test as significant for your dog. We do less of these courses now since the advent of the JAK-inhibitors – frankly these newer drugs are so effective, and almost side-effect-free, that we simply don’t see the need to use the hyposensitising vaccines for most pets.  

Allergies cannot be cured, but with a careful planned approach most patients can be kept very comfortable, with minimal or no side effects. 

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