We really do understand that living with a constantly itchy dog is very stressful.
Atopic dermatitis is a lifelong condition, but the good news is there are many effective treatment choices that can keep your dog happy, healthy and mostly itch free!
Your dog’s treatment plan will depend on their individual signs but focuses on:
Tackling the itch- there are very effective treatments options.
Strengthening the weak skin barrier and preventing skin infections
Keeping on top of other things that may increase itch – such as regular effective flea control and keeping any skin infections under control.
Avoiding allergic triggers as much as possible.
Dogs will have atopic dermatitis for the duration of their lives but fortunately there are many excellent treatment options which can be tailored to your dog. This article aims to give an overview of the available options, but decisions will be made based on your unique pup.
It is important to remember that not all medications will be suitable for all dogs, some will be better tolerated or more effective in certain individuals.
Some of the things that will be considered when choosing the best treatment plan for your dog:
Whether their itchy signs are seasonal or all year round.
Whether your dog is affected all over their body or just in certain places (such as the ears or feet)
How badly your dog’s skin has been affected.
The size and nature of your dog! How easy it will be to give them a regular bath for example.
Tackling allergy from many different angles often gives the best chance of success for long term control.
Anti itch medications – these come in the form of tablets, liquid, monthly injections and topical sprays /creams. Different ones may need to be tried because not every medication works for all.
Allergen specific immunotherapy (allergy vaccine)- If your dog has had allergy testing then a vaccine can be made specifically for your dog containing allergens they are most allergic to. It works by giving slowly increasing amounts of the environmental allergens gradually desensitising your pup to them. It can take 9 months or longer to have a good effect. Unfortunately, it is not effective in all dogs.
Antibacterial/antifungal shampoos, foams, wipes and pads- Normal bacteria and yeasts that live on your pup’s skin can take advantage of the weaker skin barrier and cause infection. A regular washing/cleaning regime is usually recommended to keep them at bay!
Antihistamines- these are only helpful in a small number of cases.
Essential Fatty acids (EFAs)-improve barrier function to prevent further penetration of the allergens. Containing the right balance of omegas 3 and 6 they can be added to the diet or found in specific skin diets.
Avoiding the allergen/reducing exposure – If your dog is allergic to pesky house dust mites it is impossible to avoid them completely but washing bedding on a hot wash and avoiding soft furnishings, carpets, bedrooms and bathrooms as much as possible can help reduce the numbers your dog comes into contact (we know this is often impossible!). There are household sprays available that can also reduce numbers.
To help avoid storage mites keep any dry dog food in an airtight container and thoroughly wash the container between batches of food.
All year round flea control.
Regular use of an ear cleaner in pups prone to ear trouble. Sometimes with steroid drops also.
Feeding a good quality hypoallergenic diet can help in many cases.
It is expected that your dog’s skin will flare from time to time. It’s normally the ears and paws that start to become itchy first! To try and catch these flares early we recommend that you check your dog regularly at least weekly:
Check the ears for redness and discharge
Look at the paws especially between the toes
Check underneath in the armpits and groin.
If there is redness, a rash, spots or crusting present there may be a skin infection that needs treating. Consult with your vet to help your pup return to good health.
In the vast majority of cases, atopic dermatitis can be controlled very well and dogs can lead a long, happy, healthy and relatively itch free life . Even with the best care they might still have occasional ‘flare ups’, but if caught early these can usually be speedily resolved.