As you are probably aware, our four footed friends can suffer
allergies just like humans! I agree, in some cases, with the theory of
?treating as if? ?. If moving and skin testing are not on your list,
then treat your dog ?as if" he had allergies. Jacks may be allergic to
his food, the local flora, dust mites, cockroaches, pesticides and
herbicides, his flea collar, tick dip, dog shampoo, your laundry
detergent (if Jacks shares your bed!, carpet shampoo, and on and on!
Metabolic disorders such as a thyroid or other hormone imbalances can
weaken the immune system and cause allergic symptoms. Neutered male
dogs can develop allergies from lack of testosterone as well! Flea
bites are the main cause of skin allergy in dogs. Other causes of
itching can be intestinal parasites, skin infections from staph
allergies, and fungal infections like ringworm. A simple (and cheap)
skin scraping test can diagnose ringworm or a staph infection.
?Although any pure bred or mutt can acquire inhalant allergies, the
most common breeds that are affected include terriers (especially the
West Highland white terrier, Skye terrier, Scottish terrier and Boston
terrier), golden retrievers, poodles, dalmatians, German shepherds,
Chinese Shar-peis, shih tzus, lhasa apsos, pugs, Irish setters, and
The symptoms of an inhalant allergy include scratching, biting,
chewing at feet and constant licking. The itching may be most severe
on feet, flanks, groin, and armpits.
Inhalant allergies are often the reason for recurrent ear infections
in your dog. Several species of Staphylococcus (Staph) bacteria live
on normal dog skin. Normally Staph does not cause a problem with its
host, but some dogs develop an allergy to it.
With this type of allergy the dog develops areas of hair loss that
look much like ring worm. These areas become infected and need to be
treated with antibiotics. The Staph allergic dog usually has recurrent
?The conventional treatments have relied on corticosteroids and
antihistamines. While effective, there are numerous side effects of
corticosteroids including increased thirst and urination, increased
appetite, weight gain, Cushing's disease, Addison's disease,
osteoporosis, increased susceptibility to infection, fatty liver
disease, diabetes mellitus, gastrointestinal ulceration, cartilage
degradation, and blood chemistry anomalies. Side effects of
antihistamines are less common but include sedation and failure to
control the itching.?
I would want to start with a few simple blood tests. By drawing
one blood sample, your vet could run a panel of tests for Cushing?s,
Lupus, and thyroid disorders. (Check the prices at several vet?s
offices first). Taking steroids (prednisone) can actually cause
Cushing?s to develop.
?Iatrogenic Hyperadrenocorticism: The third cause of Cushing's is one
that we can create ourselves if we give a dog too much external
glucocorticoid, especially for chronic conditions like allergies. We
essentially do what the adrenal tumor would do by flooding the dog's
body with an excess of corticosteroid. Although both the adrenals and
pituitary will attempt to respond to our interference by cutting ACTH
and cortisol secretion, if we continue to bombard the dog's body with
too much glucocorticoid, symptoms of Cushing's disease will result.
The reason dogs are given tapering doses or every-other-day doses of
steroids like prednisone is to avoid this consequence. Dogs with this
form of Cushing's tend to have two very small, atrophied adrenal
glands. Nonetheless, if iatrogenic (veterinary-induced)
hyperadrenocorticism develops, it is fully reversible. The external
source of steroid is slowly withdrawn to allow the adrenals to "wake
up" and resume functioning.?
The most common symptoms include:
? increased/excessive water consumption (polydipsia)
? increased/excessive urination (polyuria)
? urinary accidents in previously housetrained dogs
? increased/excessive appetite (polyphagia)
? appearance of food stealing/guarding, begging, trash dumping, etc.
? sagging, bloated, pot-bellied appearance
? weight gain or its appearance, due to fat redistribution
? loss of muscle mass, giving the appearance of weight loss
? bony, skull-like appearance of head
? exercise intolerance, lethargy, general or hind-leg weakness
? new reluctance to jump on furniture or people
? excess panting, seeking cool surfaces to rest on
? symmetrically thinning hair or baldness (alopecia) on torso
? other coat changes like dullness, dryness
? slow regrowth of hair after clipping
? thin, wrinkled, fragile, and/or darkly pigmented skin
? easily damaged/bruised skin that heals slowly
? hard, calcified lumps in the skin (calcinosis cutis)
? susceptibility to infections (especially skin and urinary)
? diabetes, pancreatitis, seizures
?Other indirect symptoms to consider are the disappearance of previous
inflammatory conditions. Dogs with chronic allergies or arthritis may
appear considerably better when they develop Cushing's, due to the
heavy doses of cortisone they are giving themselves.?
?Treatment: Treatment depends on the type of Cushing's disease, as
well as on the overall health of the canine patient. As many dogs with
Cushing's are elderly and may have concurrent health problems,
treatment can be complicated. The comfort of the patient should be the
ultimate goal. In a dog with severe arthritis, for example, it may be
more humane to allow him to remain Cushingoid than to treat the
disorder. In general, surgery may be indicated for adrenal tumors.
Chemotherapy in the form of Lysodren or Ketaconazole may be used to
treat pituitary-dependent or adrenal-based Cushing's. And Anipryl may
be tried to combat pituitary-dependent Cushing's. Treatment is best
viewed as a means to improve quality of life, rather than increase
lifespan, per se.?
?Doctors tell you that steroids (cortisone, prednisone) only cause
side effects after many years. But new research shows that permanent
damage is immediate and devastating. Studies show that steroids cause
permanent, debilitating effects after a single dosage.
"Steroids are probably the most sleazy of modern day medications" says
John Mills, former professor of medicine at the University of
California, San Francisco and chief of infectious diseases at San
Francisco General Hospital more on the danger of steroids?
?Canine atopic dermatitis is an allergic skin disease most commonly
caused by an exaggerated immune response to house dust mites. We have
recently characterised the specific proteins in house dust mites that
lead to the allergic reaction. We have also studied the actual
immunological abnormalities in dogs with atopic dermatitis and
characterised the changes that occur in the skin and circulating blood
cells. We are now continuing this work to determine if these
immunological abnormalities can be reversed by allergen immunotherapy,
a widely used treatment that relies on injecting affected dogs with
the proteins they are allergic to.
Infection of the skin with Staphylococcus intermedius is a common
complication in dogs with atopic dermatitis. We are currently
studying various aspects of this secondary infection including factors
that affect the adhesion of the bacteria to surface skin cells and the
specific proteins in the organism that are recognised by the dog?s
?In treating atopic dermatitis it is imperative to consider the
situation as a whole. Bacterial infections will make the animal far
more itchy and may even contribute to worsening the allergy through
damaging the skins' protective mechanisms. So any bacterial infections
seen as a rash or pustular spots (Figure 5), need to be treated
promptly, using a combination of shampoos and antibiotics for a
minimum of three weeks, and often longer. Corticosteroid medication is
best withdrawn throughout the period of treatment as steroids can
interfere with the dogs ability to fight infection.
Yeast infection (caused by the yeast Malassezia pachydermatis) is
another complication. Spots are not seen in this disease, but instead
the organism causes redness, geasiness and a mousy odour. Dogs can be
quite depressed when infected and can be extremely itchy. Treatment is
usually with baths containing enilconazole, or miconazole in
combination with chlorhexidine. Tablet therapy is also available, but
as a surface infection Malassezia is best treated using baths.
Similarly, fleas and other ectoparasites will make an atopic dog far
more itchy. All allergic animals should have regular and efficient
flea therapy using veterinary preparations to treat both the dog and
the environment. With bacterial, yeast and parasitic problems under
control most dogs will be very much more comfortable and some may only
need minimal therapy using the least potent of the drugs available.?
?How do allergies develop? Each individual?s biochemistry is
determined by millions of genetic variables. On occasion, an
individual?s various immune responses may over-react to a certain
material and ?learn? to recognize this substance in case of future
contact with it.
The offending agent is called an antigen. Flea saliva is a good
example of an antigen that triggers ?flea bite? hypersensitivity.
When an antigen makes contact with the dog, the dog?s immune defenses
- all primed and ready for a fight since it has previously identified
the antigen as an enemy - set to work to disarm the antigen.
Unfortunately, during the course of the battle (called an
antigen/antibody reaction) side effects of the battle can cause tissue
irritation, inflammation, swelling and cell destruction. That?s when
we notice the dog going into the ?itch-and-scratch-bite-and-lick?
mode! There?s a biochemical war going on within the dog!
Immunologists have classified a number of different types of allergic
reactions. Skin and blood tests are common methods of attempting to
identify what the patient is allergic to. Probably the most common
type of Allergic Dermatitis seen in dogs is Atopic Dermatitis. This
situation is triggered by a number of antigens including inhaled
substances such as molds, dust, pollens and other static and airborne
microscopic organic substances.
Dogs with Atopy lick and chew at their paws (see photo on right) and
scratch their face, eyelids and ears. This disorder can be very
troubling for dogs and frustrating for the owner. One minute the dog
may look and feel normal, the next it will chew its paw or face raw
from the intense pruritus. A key point to remember is this: There is
no cure for allergies! All we can do is avoid the food, material or
parasite that is triggering the immune response, desensitize the
patient through immune modulation techniques, and assure that the
patient is eating a high quality diet.?
Next, check Jack?s food. Even if Jacks? food was not the original
source of allergy, it may aggravate the skin condition once it has
been established. Most vets recommend a lamb and rice based dog food,
and one with no preservatives, particularly BHT and BHA.
?According to veterinary allergists, animal protein can be an
allergen. Some of our pets are allergic to beef, some to chicken,
turkey, and most to horse meat. The animal protein most seem to do
well on is lamb. To determine the substances to which our pets are
allergic, a series of allergy tests can be administered. Some patients
when tested will test positive for all substances tested for. This is
an indication that these animals are immunologically deficient, i.e.,
the animal has no defense against those specific agents or allergens.
Also in our pets' diets are chemical preservatives. Two of the most
used are BHA and BHT for the preservation of fat. These two compounds
can cause liver and kidney damage, yet for years these products were
incorporated into baby foods. Many countries have banned their use and
importation. BHA and BHT were on the GRAS (Generally Recognized As
Safe) list because there were no known negative effects to the body of
humans and animals. In 1991, these two chemicals were removed from the
"GRAS" list, but some pet food companies are still using them in their
?Successful management of canine food allergies can mean the
difference between a chronically uncomfortable dog and one that is
healthy and free from allergy disorders. Treatment generally hinges on
finding an appropriate diet with a highly digestible novel protein
Food-allergic dogs usually develop either skin disease or
gastrointestinal disorders, or a combination of both. Karin Beale,
D.V.M., a veterinary dermatologist at Gulf Coast Veterinary
Dermatology and Allergy Clinic in Houston, says, ?The key in treating
canine skin disease is to diagnose the disorder. Once we determine
that dermatitis is due to an allergy or allergies, we can work on
managing the condition. Food allergy is not difficult to manage once
you know what it is.?
Flea bite hypersensitivity accounts for the largest number of
allergic-skin disease cases, followed by atopic allergies, or those
related to airborne allergens, such as pollen. Though less common, the
frequency of food allergies is difficult to determine because dogs
that are allergic to food often are allergic to other substances.?
?The most common and most visible symptoms of nutritionally caused
deficiencies are allergies of one kind or another. Because many
commercial foods are woefully deficient in key nutrients, the long
term effect of feeding such foods makes the dog hypersensitive to its
environment. . . It's a dinosaur effect. Animals are being programmed
for disaster, for extinction. Many of them are biochemical cripples
with defective adrenal glands unable to manufacture adequate cortisol,
a hormone vital for health and resistance to disease."
Charles E Loops DVM - "Homeopathic veterinarians and other holistic
practitioners have maintained for some time that vaccinations do more
harm than they provide benefits. Vaccinations represent a major
assault on the body's immune system.... Vaccine induced chronic
diseases range from life-threatening conditions such as auto-immune
crises to conditions destroying the quality of life of an animal as in
chronic skin allergies."
?Contributing factors are allergies, parasites and poor grooming. Flea
allergy dermatitis is one of the most common causes of "hot spots".
Successful treatment depends on identifying and controlling the
"itch". Short-term oral corticosteroid therapy can be used to control
itching, while keeping the affected area clean. Topical therapy is
Skin fold pyoderma is associated with moisture and accumulation of
debris. The environment in the crease of the fold is ideal for
bacterial growth. Skin abrasion, lesions, hyperkeratosis and
hyperpigmentation are commonly seen when itching has been a problem.
The degree of skin damage varies with each type of skin fold;
reddening of the skin, ulceration and oozing are common in most
Treatment is usually accomplished using a 2.5 to three percent benzoyl
peroxide shampoo. Initial application should be daily, with eventual
maintenance cleansing two to three times weekly. Systemic antibiotics
are seldom needed.?
Treatment of canine dermatitis:
House dust mites
Cover mattresses, pillows, dog beds, chairs, and sofas with
impermeable covers (vinyl).
Remove clutter, such as stuffed animals, from the pet?s sleeping areas
to prevent dust
accumulation and to facilitate thorough cleaning.
Do not allow the pet into areas in which dust typically accumulates,
such as closets,
the laundry room, and under the beds.
Vacuum the house with a HEPA filter as frequently as possible?at least weekly.
Keep the pet outdoors during vacuuming and for one hour afterward.
Remove as many carpets and rugs as possible, especially from poorly
such as the basement, garage, and laundry room.
Wash linen, bedding, and blankets every week in hot water (> 130 F [54.4 C]).
Keep the humidity in the home at 30% to 45% relative humidity by using
a dehumidifier, air conditioning, or a humidifier when needed.
Keep the dog away from freshly mowed grass, mulch, leaf piles, hay, and barns.
Keep the dog?s kennel dry and clean.
Keep the humidity in the home at 30% to 45% relative humidity.
Keep the pet out of basements, closets, the laundry room, and bathrooms.
More control measures:
?More recently, an oral form of cyclosporine known as atopica, from
Novartis, has been released in hopes of treating dog skin allergy
problems without the long term side effects of previously used drugs.
Atopica is usually given once a day in the beginning and eventually
tapered off to a schedule of every other day or less. The most common
side effect seen with cyclosporine is an upset stomach which may
manifest itself through a loss of appetite, vomiting or diarrhea. In
this case the dosage is usually reduced, however, the upset stomach
issues usually resolve themselves after a week or two and the dog can
then proceed with the recommended dose. As with any drugs, Atopica and
cyclosporine can have side effects and/or interactions with other pet
medications. Consequently, atopica and other cyclosporine products are
not a good solution for every dog, including pregnant or lactating
females. Please visit closely with your veterinarian regarding the
pros and cons of this and any pet med treatment before you decide
which treatment to use for your specific pet's needs.?
1) Antihistamines: This medication works in 20% of atopic patients.
Your pet can take antihistamines for life. The only side effect
usually seen is drowsiness. Several types may be tried to find the one
best for your pet. Topical antihistamines for the eyes can be helpful
in patients with eye allergy (itchy conjunctivitis). Visine A® is one
over-the-counter product that can be helpful.
2) Avoidance of the allergens: This can be helpful for house dust mite
allergies. Pollen exposure can be reduced by using air-conditioning
and air filters, avoiding the outside early morning and late
afternoon, wiping down with moist cloths after going outside and
3) Oral Steroids (prednisone, cortisone, triamcinolone, etc.): These
drugs have many potential side effects and are reserved for adult
animals, those with short seasonal problems or where other therapy is
not possible or is ineffective. Typically, treatment is started at one
dose and then tapered off to every other day usage.
4) Topical Steroids: Topical usage is safer than oral usage. It can be
very helpful if itching is localized (e.g., eyes, ears). It can be
used for more widespread disease in the form of leave-on rinses or
lotions (ResiCORT®) or a triamcinolone spray (Genesis®).
5) Cyclosporine (Neoral®): This immunosuppressive agent can be used at
low doses to treat allergy successfully in about 60% of patients. It
can also be used to lower needed dosages of steroids. The major
short-term side effect is gastrointestinal upset. The long-term safety
is not completely known. The dosage can often be lowered after a few
weeks of successful treatment.
6) Tacrolimus (Protopic® ointment): This drug is related to
cyclosporine. It can be very useful for treating localized itchy areas
in atopic dermatitis. It is applied once or twice a day at first, and
then frequency is reduced.
7) Fatty acid supplements: Certain types of oils can reduce allergic
symptoms in some patients. We can give fish oil capsules in
conjunction with a low-fat diet or prescribe special prescription
diets with the fish oil content raised. This therapy can help improve
response to antihistamine therapy.
8) Allergen Specific Immunotherapy: This involves giving an allergy
vaccine injection that is made up specifically for your pet, usually
for the lifetime of the animal. After an initial series of injections,
periodic boosters will be needed (every 1-3 weeks). 60% to 80% of
animals will improve with the vaccine. Results may not be seen for 3
to 6 months. When results are not seen in 9 to 12 months, a
re-evaluation is necessary.
9) Bathing: Atopic skin is sensitive and subject to drying. Only
specially designed hypoallergenic shampoos should be used on your
allergic dog. Rinsing should be thorough. Generally it is best to
follow with a hypoallergenic cream rinse or spray to remoisturize the
skin after every bath. Virbac's Allermyl® comes as a shampoo or a
spray and contains 1-rhamnose, which may reduce itch and inflammation.
?What can I do to treat a hot spot?
The first thing to do is speak with your veterinarian. Due to the
rapidity of spread and possibility of deeper skin infection, it is
wise to start treatment with your vet. Also, these hot spots can be
very painful to the animal -- caution is advised, use a muzzle if need
be for your protection.
1.Shave the area. The first treatment for hot spots is to dry them out
and get air to the area. Hair loss is a feature of hot spots, but hair
can also mat over the inflamed area, covering up a potentially much
more severe and large problem.
2.Cleanse the area with cool water and a gentle skin cleanser.
3.Cool compress the area 2-4 times a day with a cool wet washcloth.
4.Medications - Depending on the severity and size of the hot spot,
your veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics, topical drying
sprays or medications, and/or special shampoos.
5.Prevention of licking, biting, scratching -i.e. Elizabethan collar
6.Additional home remedies that can be used until you can see your vet:
o tea bag compresses (black or green tea) to help dry the area
out. Tea can be used as a wash or as a compress.
o Domeboro's (Burow's) solution (aluminum acetate) - available
over-the-counter at pharmacies to help dry the skin out. Can be used
as a compress or as a spray.
o Hydrocortisone creams - Some people advocate using a thin film
of an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream. I would recommend talking
to your vet first -- in general, creams and ointments only serve to
"gunk up" the area and prevent proper drying if used incorrectly.
Also, if the pet licks it, you want to make sure that it isn't toxic.
?- Bathe your pet frequently, 2 to 3 times a week. Use a mild,
hypoallergenic shampoo and a remoisturizing crème rinse that will not
dry out the pet?s skin. Your veterinarian may suggest a medicated
shampoo if your pet?s skin condition requires it.
- Limit your pet's time outdoors during peak allergy periods.
- For "paw lickers," rinse off the pet's paws after time spent outdoors.
- Use bedding that can be washed frequently. Wool blankets,
comforters, cedar shavings and feather pillows can be troublemakers.
-Mold allergic pets should not be in basements, bathrooms, laundry
rooms or garages where mold levels are high.?
For Hot Spots and Itching
Boil 1½ cups of water, remove from heat. Add 2 teaspoons oatmeal, 1
teaspoon chamomile, 1 teaspoon calendula flowers and 1 regular tea bag
(Lipton type); let steep until cool. Strain through doubled
cheesecloth. If you do not have the herbs, use 1 cup of water. Spray
the affected area as often as needed.?
Before you go to the vet:
Skin Deep, Dog skin irritations.
Canine Dermatitis & Staph
Perhaps you might want to visit this clinic, if you live nearby:
The Pet Allergy Center
& Veterinary Housecalls
1637 Sixteenth Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
(310) 450-2287 (phone)
(310) 392-7369 (fax)
There you go! Please keep Jacks! Try some of the remedies posted here,
and consider changing vets. I see no need for expensive and painful
skin testing in order to treat jacks for allergic dermatitis, but I am
in favor of the diagnostic tests for Cushing?s, Lupus, and thyroid
disorders. Good luck to you all. By the way, I have allergic
dermatitis myself, and that oatmeal and chamomile rinse sounds
soothing to me!
If any part of my answer is unclear, before rating, please request an
Answer Clarification. This will enable me to assist you further, if
Canine atopic dermatitis
Canine + Hotspots