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Coping with an allergic dog
Through personal experience with the challenges of owning an atopic dog, I've learn why patience can pay off


Lessons learned

I think we, as veterinarians, have a lot to learn about inhalant allergies in dogs—I know I do. You can read the theoretical stuff all you want, but when you have an itchy dog at 3 a.m., you definitely want to reach for those steroids. Also, shampoos are individual, so treat them as such. For example, when Cindy had a secondary yeast component, the anti-yeast shampoos seemed to make her worse. I have also had several Golden Retrievers in my practice that react adversely to oatmeal-based products. Topicals can be trial and error, so start with the most innocuous products and work your way up from there. Samples are great when available.

Another important lesson: Allergies last a lifetime—I don't think we convey that message nearly enough. Owners need to know there is no quick fix and that these pets are going to require a lot of maintenance and medications over the course of their lifetime. Because we may never be able to give them an itch-free dog, owners who can't accept a little itching should probably not own an atopic dog.

Finally, and most important, even though there is some pruritus (and it's all relative), these dogs can still live a happy life. We just need to find the balance between keeping them comfortable and doing no harm.

Status update

Cindy, now 13 years old, continues to receive the same diet but without meds. Most of her clinical signs have been eliminated with this fish-based diet. She has a fabulous coat, no odor, and, in the middle of an Ohio summer, only a mild left ear yeast otitis. As long as I stay on top of monitoring her ears, they are controlled as well. At the first sign of any ear discharge, I immediately use Cerulytic ear cleaner/wax dissolver with an occasional mixture of Conofite Lotion in Synotic. Throughout the course of this journey, I have learned to never underestimate the power of a good diet with the correct proportion of fatty acids. And despite the fact that Cindy improved greatly in the first two to three months of receiving the diet, it really has taken more than a year to see full improvement.

Applying what I have learned with Cindy to my patients, I always try to convey patience to the owners of atopic dogs. Although topical therapies and diet can be helpful, I advise them not to expect too much too fast. If steroids are brought into the picture — and if they are not strictly regulated — they have the potential to open up a whole new set of problems, such as pyodermas, thin skin and scaling. In some dogs, it doesn't take much to immunosuppress the skin's immunity.

The bottom line is I often feel we use steroids to satisfy human owners rather than to ease dogs' suffering. Many owners are impulsive and want that quick fix. I admit at times I wanted nothing more; however, I'm so glad I waited it out—I truly believe Cindy is healthier for it.

Dr. Jeromin is a pharmacist and veterinary dermatologist in private practice in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a 1989 graduate of The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University's College of Medicine in Cleveland.


Source: DVM360 MAGAZINE,
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