If you have allergies, you are all too familiar with the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes that accompany the condition. While some dogs are affected in a similar manner, the most common clinical sign associated with canine allergies is itchiness. Any part of the body may be affected, but the face, feet, and sparsely haired parts of the body are often prime targets. This is because direct contact between the allergen and the skin is what sets off allergic reactions in many dogs, and these are the parts of the body that are most likely to come in contact with allergens.
Since skin to allergen contact plays such an important role in canine allergies, it shouldn’t be too surprising that topical therapy plays a vital role in treating the condition. The simplest form of therapy is bathing. Frequent baths, once or twice a week is the usual recommendation, serve to physically remove allergens that are trapped within a dog’s coat and on the surface of the skin. Any gentle, non-drying shampoo will perform this function, but medicated shampoos can serve a dual purpose of allergen removal and topical anti-allergy therapy. In between baths, use unscented baby wipes on a dog’s face, feet, or other problem areas after he or she comes in from outdoors.
Products are now available that also help strengthen the skin’s natural barriers against allergens. Research has shown that dogs with allergic skin disease have altered proportions of certain types of fatty acids and other skin components, and these changes have an adverse affect on the ability of the skin to function normally. Regular use of Allerderm Spot-On, Dermoscent Essential 6 Spot-On, or Douxo Seborrhea Spot-On can stop allergic dogs from scratching, licking, and chewing on themselves.
Of course, severe cases of allergies often require more aggressive treatment. When topical therapy alone cannot keep a dog comfortable, systemic treatment becomes necessary. Veterinarians typically prescribe corticosteroids (e.g., prednisone) or other immune modulating medications like cyclosporine (Atopica) for severe allergies, but continuing topical therapy is still important even in these cases. The goal is to use the lowest effective dose of the systemic medications to try to avoid side effects. Routine bathing and spot-on products often reduce the amount of drugs needed to keep a dog’s symptoms under control.