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
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.
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