Skin allergies in dogs – an essay about treatments and options

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Finding triggers and avoiding them Often is the hardest part

This is why it is so important to search and find the trigger of an allergy and remove it as the most important step. Once it is known it can be avoided that will basically solve the entire problem without medication. The problem is that it can be really hard to find the trigger OR triggerS – often it’s not only one involved.

And the second hurdle: It can be to really hard to avoid the triggers even if known.


When it comes to food avoiding may be a little easier. But in terms of environmental allergies there’s hardly a chance to completely avoid those.

Take action and support your dog’s immune system!

Now, despite all of the bad news, allergies are not a lost case. There are things we can do as dog owners to provide relief.

The first step I would ALWAYS recommend – unless THIS would be the unlikely trigger of the allergy – is providing the dog with an immune boost.

That means high quality nutrition and possibly a supplement rich in minerals and vitamins in order to strengthen the dog’s immune system.

Neither good nutrition nor supplements will END an allergy.
BUT!
They help the immune system to be stronger in its fight. And strength is what an allergy ridden dog’s body needs badly.

The second step is allergy testing.

This can be done in different ways. Either by having a real allergy test or if you already have a suspicion regarding the trigger via trial and error by switching foods, detergents or …, meaning avoiding the suspected trigger and see if symptoms disappear.

Medication – here’s the Catch

The third way is medication.
There are three major routes regarding medication when allergies are involved. None of them HEAL the allergy. They all only treat symptoms.

The first two are intended to produce quick and short-term results:

  • antibiotics
    steroids (shots or pills)

The third option is intended to bring long-term relief:

  • immunosuppressants

Antibiotics

kill bacteria and by this assist and end the body’s fight against those intruders. Antibiotics can be used topical (locally on the skin in the form of creams and dips, for example) or systemic (in the form of shots or pills).
The systemic application always has a bigger impact on the entire body – including negative effects – than the  topical use.
The systemic use impacts the gut flora, which is one of the body’s defense lines. Continued use of antibiotics can not only lead to the addressed microorganisms to develop resistance. If the gut flora is weakened by antibiotics that can impact s whole lot of processes in the body, weakens the immune system and can lead to a higher risk of relapse or new infections.

Steroids (Glucocorticoids)

act anti-inflammatory in the body and help healing wounds and lesions. Used for steroid therapy are often glucocorticoids which are also a substance naturally produced by the body itself to aid healing processes. Giving an additional shot of glucocorticoid basically boosts the body’s own healing mechanism.
The application can be topical or systemic. That depends on the problem to be treated.
Especially if administered internally steroids weaken the immune system among many other side effects, therefore enhancing chances of relapse and new infection after the treatment ended.

Immunosuppressants

An immunosuppressant inhibits the body’s natural immune responses. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism in the body to fight infection. But it can get out of hand and become chronic. The body kind of looses its strategy and just shoots without stopping. A process that becomes very weakening and exhausting over time. The same happens when allergies are present. The body starts to fight harmless substances it mistakes as dangerous. And it doesn’t stop as long as these substances are present.
Immunosuppressants end this reaction and thus give inflammation a chance to heal.

In allergy therapy immunosuppressants are mostly used as pills and in long-term application because as soon as the suppressant is being ceased the bodies defense will “awaken” again and the inflammatory processes caused by the allergy will resume.

The downside is that the suppression of the immune response is not selective.
Harmless substances are no longer being attacked by the immune system, but neither are threatening intruders, such as bacteria etc. Immunosuppression therefore exposes the body to serious health risks regarding infections. Even a simple cold or a tiny cut can become a massive problem for patients on immunosuppressants.

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2 thoughts on “Skin allergies in dogs – an essay about treatments and options

  1. Hi, I’m just wondering if you can help, I have a bull terrier and she’s pregnant she’s got a load of scabs at the back end on her back above her tail she’s been itching them and it’s left a big sore and her hair falls out with the scabs I don’t know what is causing this how would I find out ?

    • Danielle,
      I am so sorry. I will probably not be an immediate help. In such cases there rarely is.
      The itch and hair loss could absolutely be related to the pregnancy. Just as humans, dogs go through hormonal changes during a pregnancy and that can have some undesired side’effects, so to speak.
      But it could as well be completely unrelated. Allergies, inflammation, hair loss and itch can be caused by an abundance of triggers. Environment, nutrition, general health, genetics, stress or lack of exercise – just to name some things.
      My experience is that in Bull Terriers allergies are very often related to their nutrition. Even if it’s not the trigger, a good nutrition supports the immune system which then helps the dog to cope better with allergies.
      What I would do in your case is, first, take a VERY close look into the time period since the hair loss and itch started and try to see if anything changed for your dog since then. Products you use it could come in contact with (detergent etc.), food, treats, seasons, stress or boredom.
      And then I would make an appointment with a vet you trust and discuss your findings with them.
      In the meantime you could use a disinfectant for animals and epsom salt rubs (it the spot is not raw and open, because epsom salt stings, dogs usually hate that) to prevent the spot from attracting secondary infection, because that will only make things worse and harder to handle.
      If you want, feel free to post the vet’s opinion and your own findings here. I will be happy to help keep digging through the information you are able to gather in order to maybe get closer to the causes.

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