Your dog’s severe scratching sessions tell you that humans are not the only ones plagued by allergies. It is upsetting to see your beloved pet so miserable as he scratches to the point of hair loss and open wounds. Some allergens, such as fleas, can be avoided, but it is impossible to completely shield your dog from exposure to others. Understanding how allergens affect your pet and discussing treatment options with your veterinarian can minimize your companion’s discomfort.
Exposure to any substance can produce a hypersensitive response, prompting the body’s immune system to overreact. The offending substance is the allergen, and the inflammatory result is the allergic reaction. In humans, inflammation often strikes in the eyes and respiratory system, causing such symptoms as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes. In dogs, inflammation most commonly occurs in the skin, causing their symptoms to present as itching and scratching. Persistent scratching compromises the protective outer layer of skin, which increases vulnerability to secondary bacterial and yeast infections. The main categories of allergies in dogs are airborne atopic and food allergies. Atopic dermatitis accounts for most of the allergy cases seen. There are no cures for allergies, but there are options to relieve your dog’s symptoms.
If your dog suffers from severe allergy symptoms for several months each year, you may be referred to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist for allergy testing. This skin test must be performed after your dog has been off of antihistamines and steroids for several weeks in order to achieve accurate test results. The testing procedure entails injecting small amounts of various allergens into your dog’s skin, and then observing the injection sites for reactions. The results of this test enable the preparation of a personalized allergy shot that your dog will receive on a regular basis in an attempt to desensitize him to the problematic allergens. Most veterinarians offer instruction so that owners can confidently administer the allergy shots to their dogs. This form of immunotherapy can help your dog considerably, but he still may require symptomatic relief during peak flare-up seasons.
Your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine, such as Clemastine, to block the release of the histamines that incite inflammation. Many antihistamines have a calming effect, which may be welcomed if your furry friend has worked himself up into an itchy frenzy. Fatty acid supplementation to your dog’s diet and the use of topical ceramide lipid sprays can soothe itchy skin. Corticosteroids may be used to provide immediate relief. Corticosteroids include injections, such as Depo Medrol, tablets, such as prednisone or dexamethasone, or topical sprays. Long-term use of corticosteroids can result in serious side effects, so your veterinarian will use these drugs sparingly. A cyclosporine drug, Atopica, is effective at reducing inflammation and relieving itchiness, but long-term use of this drug can also lead to detrimental side effects.
If your dog’s scratching has resulted in a secondary bacterial infection, your veterinarian will prescribe a course of antibiotic therapy in addition to symptomatic treatment. There are a number of medicated shampoos on the veterinary market. Depending on the present state of your dog’s skin, your veterinarian will prescribe one that will be most effective at soothing your dog’s itchiness and treating his skin if a bacterial, yeast or fungal condition is present. Allow the shampoo to rest on your pet for several minutes after lathering so that its extended contact with your dog’s skin achieves maximum results. Once you and your veterinarian have worked together to find the medications that work best at alleviating the allergy symptoms, you and your dog will both be much happier with his improved quality of life.
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