By Michele E. Buttelman
Signal Staff Writer
For a dog owner one of the most frustrating experiences is dealing with your pet’s allergies. A treatment that may work for a while often does not turn into a long-term solution for some dogs who quickly return to licking themselves raw, or scratching the fur or hair off their bodies.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the first step is to get a proper diagnosis.
Allergy or Yeast
To treat your dog correctly you need to have the proper diagnosis, is it allergic dermatitis? Or could it be a yeast infection?
Your veterinarian can conduct the proper tests to determine if your dog has yeast or an allergy.
The most common canine skin allergy is allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis. Allergic dermatitis is an inflammatory, persistent skin condition that occurs when a dog’s immune system overreacts to a particular allergen. Allergens can be anything from plant pollen to mold spores to food to pests.
Many dogs are allergic to a variety of grasses and dust mites, as well as chicken and other components found in many dog foods.
Yeast infections can occur anywhere on a dog’s body but tend to favor, warm, moist areas like ears, between toes on the paws and under a dog’s legs. Crusty and flaky skin around the affected area resembles dandruff. The skin may also change color or texture, become pink or red, or turn gray or black. Your dog’s ears and paws may also have a smell resembling corn chips.
Ear infections marked by regular head shaking are also an indication of a yeast infection.
Allergy testing can help dog owners identify substances that trigger allergies.
Many veterinarian offices offer allergy testing services, which can be pricey. Dog allergy tests are also available online, but accuracy can vary from provider to provider.
If your dog’s allergy seems serious a veterinary dermatologist can perform allergy tests, skin biopsies and other diagnostic tests to determine what is causing your pet’s problems.
Medications and Treatment
For general itchy skin problems many dogs are treated with one of several injectable medications.
Cytopoint is an injection that a veterinarian gives under your dog’s skin. The itch usually is reduced within a few days and the effect lasts for 4 to 8 weeks.
Apoquel is an anti-itch, anti-inflammatory pill that you give your dog orally every day.
Cytopoint has fewer potential side effects than Apoquel, and that is often a reason to select it as a first choice therapy.
However, neither Cytopoint nor Apoquel are effective in every dog. Some dogs do not respond to either therapy, or respond initially and then stop responding eventually.
For yeast infections vets often prescribe oral medication including systemic antifungal medications including Ketoconazole, Itraconazole or Fluconazole.
For yeast infections in the ears your vet will normally administer an antifungal medication in the ears or send you home with cream and ear drops.
Dr. Robert Bishop, a member of the AMVA with a certificate in veterinary dermatology, recommends washing “yeasty dogs” regularly with an antifungal shampoo to control yeast infections on the body.
“Start with baths three times a week with the shampoo, make sure to let the shampoo sit on the skin for at least 10 minutes and be sure to get the soap between the toes on the paws and all areas affect by the yeast,” he said. “After two weeks reduce the baths to twice a week, then after two weeks to once a week.”
Bishop said many dogs respond to the topical yeast treatment better than the oral antifungal pills and with less side effects.
KetoHex by VetOne is one of the shampoos Bishop recommends.
When a diagnosis of environmental allergies is made for your dog, it is important to keep known allergens away from your dog. If a test reveals your dog is allergic to dust mites, try to vacuum every day.
The most common food allergens in dogs are proteins, especially those from dairy, beef, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, or wheat gluten. Remove those allergens from your dog’s diet to promote healing and relief from constant itching.
If you dog is tested and the source of its allergies are confirmed you can have a serum made for your dog, (usually around $600) that will be given to your dog in a course of treatment that should “desensitize” your dog to the allergen and provide symptom relief, much like human allergy treatments.
Dogs are also able to take human allergy medications such as Benadryl. However, check with your vet before using any over the counter product for proper dosage and safety of use.
Many pet owners have found natural treatments, including many that emphasis probiotics and organic foods, can be effective treatments to relieve itching and scratching, especially for “yeasty” dogs.
Yeast infections in dogs can be very stubborn.
Treatments include using a diluted apple cider vinegar “soak” for paws and ears.
Natural organic yogurt with probiotics added to foods, as well as Omega-3 salmon oil can help restore “gut” health and improve skin.
Some veterinarians that offer full spectrum vet services also have specialized training in dermatology. Ask your vet if they have specialized dermatology training. If not, find out who your vet recommends by asking for a referral.