How can I help my dog with allergies?
Original Question: We have a 9 year old Cockapoo with allergies. Our vet thinks it's most likely caused by food and environmental factors. We have had him on Apoquel for about 6 months and it seemed to work really well at first but now we are finding that even on the loading dose (5.4 mg 2x per day) he has started to lick his paws and scoot again. Not quite as bad as he was prior to the Apoquel but certainly more than he was when the Apoquel first took affect. Our vet does not want him on this high of a dose so is now recommending we try Atopica along with Apoquel until the Atopica starts to work. We have also done the food elimination diet and currently have him on Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein diet however she is recommending we try Royal Canin Anallergenic (protein from chicken feathers). Just wondering what your opinion is of the two drugs and food? Thank you. - Donna
It sounds like you’re really in the thick of things with these allergies.
Allergies are a big subject and they have many treatments. It’s really important to always consider the fundamentals of allergy treatment in pets. One of them is the idea of trying multiple products, whether it is shampoos, medications, supplements, and topical agents. Many of the treatments listed in these categories can be combined to reduce the symptoms of allergies.
When it comes to allergy tests for dogs, you could always consider doing an intradermal test or allergy blood panel to see if it provides results as to what your dog may be allergic to. These are expensive tests and their results are sometimes put into question by most specialists, but I have seen in many cases that they have proven to be quite valuable. If it identifies as an allergen that your dog is sensitive to, you can do your best to eliminate it from being exposed to it.
Speaking about medications and treatments, your question about your current medications is a good one. Both those medications work very well and often they work extremely well just on their own. I have come across cases that are stubborn or unresponsive to them. At the end of the day, your dog is an individual and will have unique responses to any medication compared to the general population. I think the most logical step is to start trying other treatment modalities that you haven’t yet tested. Some of them are trying different over-the-counter antihistamines. You’ll find our antihistamine therapy chart for dogs has a lot of instructions guiding you on how to use these drugs. They are very safe and you’ll see how it explains that some dogs will respond to certain antihistamines but not others so there is a lot of trial and error involved. A useful remedy that a lot of people have tried is using omega-3 fatty acid’s that you apply directly to the skin if you haven’t done so already. These products have sometimes been known to have a terrific effect where medications haven’t worked at all. You could also consider starting to use an anti-itch or a hypoallergenic shampoo for dogs and trying it at different frequencies, such as once a week or twice a week, to determine if it is having a beneficial effect.
If you implement a couple of these treatments then you can evaluate how your dog is doing while you reduce the dosage of medication. You may find that the allergies are controlled better, controlled the same, or maybe there is a minimal effect. I always find that controlling allergies is really about finding a treatment that your particular dog responds to.
Lastly, I would also just make sure that you’ve considered other conditions. Sometimes they can have a yeast infection on their skin that looks like an allergy and this can be cured very easily. I’d want to make sure that a thorough skin-scraping test was performed to make sure this is not the case. Also, it’s very common for dogs with allergies to get secondary bacterial infections, therefore, you want to make sure that you are controlling these because the medications you are currently giving will have no effect on a bacterial infection. You should also speak to your veterinarian about performing these tests if the allergies are not brought under control.
Hopefully some of these thoughts help. Good luck going forward and thanks for your question.
Dr. Clayton Greenway
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