Medicated

Allergic Skin Disease in Dogs: Tackling the Itch


written by Dr. Jo de Klerk - Jul 19, 2021

Allergic skin disease, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an itchy condition which affects a large proportion of canines. Depending on the study which is being referred to, between 3.3% and 27% of dogs suffer from allergic skin disease.

Allergic skin disease in dogs is a chronic condition, which is difficult, if not impossible to cure. But the good news is that there are plenty of management options which will help improve skin comfort and health.

What is allergic skin disease?

Allergic skin disease is a skin condition which first appears in young adult life. Typically, symptoms first develop between the age of one and three years old, however, it can appear when the dog is younger or older. Once symptoms develop, they will be present for as long as the dog is being exposed to the allergen.

Photo Credit: by Eser Aygün, flickr.com
Photo Credit: by Eser Aygün, flickr.com

Allergens (the substance which causes the allergy) can originate from one of three places: the environment, food, or flea saliva. Unfortunately, it’s rarely the case that a dog with allergic skin disease is only allergic to one allergen and they may have allergies in more than one of these three categories.

An allergy is when the body responds to an allergen, which results in activation of the immune system. This causes inflammation and histamine release from mast cells, which in turn cause redness and itchiness of the skin. While skin allergies might share many similar symptoms to skin infections, they are a result of very different causes.

What are the symptoms of allergic skin disease in dogs?

The symptoms of allergic skin disease in dogs can vary from individual to individual as well as vary in severity. They often get worse with age, however for dogs experiencing an environmental allergy, the symptoms will usually be seasonal.

The most commonly affected areas of the body are:

• Paws – underneath and in between toes

• Belly

• Armpits

• Groin

• Ears – inside the external ear canal

• Base of the tail

In these areas, the symptoms may include:

• Red skin

• Itchiness

• Scratching

• Rubbing

• Licking

• Thickening of the skin

• Increased pigmentation of the skin

• A yeasty or musty smell

Diagnosis of allergic skin disease

To diagnose allergic skin disease, a veterinarian will begin with a thorough medical history and physical examination to fully understand the nature of the symptoms. Tests to rule out parasitic causes of skin disease may also be performed.

Once infectious causes of skin disease are ruled out, the vet may decide to perform a blood test which looks for antibodies against common allergens. Unfortunately, this test is very expensive, and not always very accurate.

Intradermal testing is another option, where small amounts of allergens are injected under the skin and the dog is observed for a reaction, such as a bump or redness, known as a wheal. This indicates an allergy to that substance.

Due to the expense of these tests, and that often the result indicates that the allergies cannot be avoided, many vets opt to treat dogs with classical allergic skin disease symptoms without testing. This is usually initiated with a food elimination trial, where the diet is changed to a hypoallergenic diet where the proteins have been altered to prevent allergic reactions. If there has been no response to a food trial, then medical treatment can begin.

Treatment of allergic skin disease in dogs

There are many medical treatment options for allergic skin disease in dogs. There are advantages and disadvantages of many of the options, and occasionally one product will work better in an individual than another. Therefore, there is no “best” option for treating allergic skin disease, and it is best to take the advice of the veterinarian as to which treatment option is most optimal.

Prednisone and Apoquel are two of the most common medical treatments for allergic skin disease can be ordered from Canada Pharmacy Online on presentation of a valid veterinary prescription.

• Prednisone

Prednisone is a glucocorticoid steroid anti-inflammatory which works to reduce allergic skin disease irritation and swelling by dampening the immune system’s reaction to the allergen.

Prednisone dosage can vary widely, depending on the size of the dog and severity of the condition. It is therefore important to follow the veterinarian’s guidance carefully. Prednisone is usually prescribed as a tapered course, starting high to relieve the discomfort, and tapering to the lowest effective dose or to finish the course.

Side effects of prednisone are extremely common, and include increased hunger, increased thirst, increased urination and weight gain. With chronic use, they can lead to stress on the liver, and poor skin and hair health.

Prednisone is available in 1mg, 5mg, 20mg and 50mg sized tablets, under several different brand names. They should be stored in a dry cool or room temperature location, away from direct sunlight. The pot should remain closed when not in use.

• Apoquel

Apoquel is the brand name for the active ingredient oclacitinib. Oclacitinib is an immune suppressant drug known as a Janus Kinase inhibitor (JAK). It targets the signalling pathway which leads to itching and inflammation.

Apoquel is initially given twice daily for 14 days, then once daily for maintenance. It begins working in only four hours and can control itchiness within 24 hours. As a result, it is effective for short term treatment, but also safe for long term treatment. Dosage can only be recommended by a veterinarian.

Side effects of Apoquel are much fewer and milder than prednisone, making it a great alternative to steroid medications. However, the most common side effects observed are gastrointestinal upsets and the development of non-specified dermal lumps.

Apoquel is made by Zoetis and available in 3.6 mg. 5.4 mg, and 16 mg sized tablets. They should be stored in a dry cool or room temperature location, away from direct sunlight, and remain in their blister pack or closed in their pot if not being administered.

• Other treatment options

While these are the two most common treatments for allergic skin disease when allergen avoidance is impossible, they are not the only options. Veterinarians may also prescribe:

- Antihistamines: These decrease the amount of histamine release from the mast cells, resulting in decreased itching and inflammation.

- Cyclosporine: This dampens the immune system so that it does not respond to the allergen.

- Omega oils: These provide a mild anti-inflammatory effect, as well as improve overall skin health. Omega oils are often used in combination with other treatments.

- Immunomodulatory injections: These injections desensitise the body to the allergen. Boosters are required several times a year once a maintenance level has been achieved.

After treatment is started, it’s a good idea to track symptoms with a resource such as an itch tracker, to determine if the treatment is the right one for your dog.

Prognosis of allergic skin disease in dogs

Dogs with allergic skin disease will usually require life-long treatment unless the allergen can be avoided, such as with a diet change. However, once on chronic medication, allergic skin disease can be well controlled.

Ordering from Canada Pharmacy Online

Canada Pharmacy Online has been a trusted source for affordable Canadian medications and prescription drugs for over 15 years. If your dog needs allergic skin disease medication, it can be easily ordered with a veterinary prescription.

Ordering your pet’s medications is as easy as five simple steps:

1. Search for medication(s) you would like to buy and click on “add to cart”.

2. Once the product has been added to your shopping cart, you may sign-up as a New Customer, or you can login as an Existing Customer.

3. If you have selected “New” customer, please complete the basic sign-up information.

4. Click on “Order Now”.

5. Print the prescription order form for your veterinarian to fill in if you have ordered a prescription item.

Alternatively, you can also order by phone or mail.

Canada Pharmacy Online is accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA) and is a member of the International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia (IPABC) so you can be sure that shopping with Canadian Pharmacy Online is safe, secure and convenient.

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