Help your dog with chronic skin allergies

Alabama Living Magazine

“Scratch a dog and you’ll find a permanent job.” – Franklin P. Jones, humorist

One of the top reasons pets come to the vet is for allergies. Most of the allergies in young to middle-aged dogs are like eczema in humans. It is also called atopic dermatitis. We think this is hereditary, as some breeds like Goldens and Pitbulls are more prone to atopic allergy. The chronic allergy cases can be frustrating and difficult. Here is a plan we tend to follow in these cases.

1. Identify the cause:

This can be done by blood testing at your vet’s office or by skin-prick test at veterinary-dermatologist’s office. A common finding is flea allergy. The best bet against flea bites is keeping your dog on flea medications. I know flea/tick medications are not cheap, so in case of limited finances, try at least three months at a time, twice a year in fall and spring, instead of the random month here and there. Regular vacuuming is a very effective flea control. Please avoid toxic flea bombs and flea spray.

2. Food sensitivity:

Sorting this one out is a challenging task. The concept is simple: eliminate the offending agent. However, it is not that simple! Some folks feel going grain-free or using a novel protein diet helps their pets.

However, for a proper elimination-diet to work, the priority has to be very strict vigilance over ALL food and treats so that no unwanted proteins get in the dog’s system. Because sticking to this strict diet is difficult, I do not recommend this as the first line of treatment.

3. For stubborn cases, consider cooking for your dog.

The idea is to have the best ingredients possible in your dog’s food, as you are in charge of all the food sources. In my opinion, there is nothing like a home cooked meal under proper guidance. Talk to your vet about coming up with a recipe.

One website to check out is, based on the book by Dr. Donald R. Strombeck, a professor emeritus at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine. It’s an excellent free resource. Both of our dogs have been on home cooked food for many years now and their annual blood work looks great!

4. Eliminate possible indoor toxins like plugins, spray perfume, scented candles, etc.

This, of course, includes smoking! There are many resources on the web about indoor air pollution in a common household. Use outdoor pesticides cautiously.

5. Avoid using harsh chemicals on the skin unless absolutely necessary.

I don’t like frequent shampooing unless the skin is excessively oily; I prefer not to strip away the key oils from the skin. If the skin smells due to overpopulation of bacteria and yeast, medicated shampoo can be used but let’s concentrate on supporting the skin so that bacteria and yeast do not have a chance to overgrow.

6. Talk to your vet about running some blood work like basic chemistry and thyroid level.

Skin allergies are sometimes difficult to sort out. Standard treatment choices include steroids, newer non-steroidal anti-inflammatory meds like apoqueal, and allergy desensitization injections. Work with your inspired veterinarian to find a workable solution for your pet.

Goutam Mukherjee, DVM, MS, Ph.D. (Dr. G) has been a veterinarian for more than 30 years. He works part time at Grant Animal Clinic and is a member of North Alabama Electric Cooperative.


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