Spring is in the air and with it comes tons of pollen too! We have been seeing many dogs and cats coming with severe allergies, redness, and itching. Allergies ( aka Atopy) are the usual culprit but can we cure it? Sadly, allergies cannot be cured but can be managed to the point that your pet is enjoying an itch-free life. The relevance of controlling the itch is huge because the main skin lesions and infections actually arise from the self-mutilation from chewing and the re-infection of your dog and cat licking their skin.
There are many drugs that can aid in allergies without having the severe side effects of the commonly used steroids. Apoquel is an example of an immune modulator drug that helps control the itch associated with atopic dermatitis. I recommend Apoquel for all the seasonal allergies but try not to use it year-round. I also like using the injectable treatment Cytopoint because it offers control of itch for 8 weeks without having to pill and with little effect on the immune system. Occasionally, antibiotics might be needed to control the skin infections secondary to the allergies. In our practice, we try an integrated approach to allergies. We strongly encouraged allergy testing because it helps as a guide for their pet owner to avoid the worst allergens or at least provide immunotherapy. This immunotherapy is like a vaccine made of all that your pet is allergic to in hopes it trains the immune system not to overreact to it.
When it comes to holistic alternatives I start with the food. The Gu Qi or energy from the food can really help these chronic allergic dogs and cats and in some dramatic cases completely resolve the skin issues! For example, a very hot, red and itchy dog eating chicken dry food s a recipe for continuing allergy issues! The red “hot dogs” will benefit from eating food with cooling energies like turkey or fish, having watermelon for treats and eating canned diets instead of dry (add moisture). Adding probiotics and using higher quality diets can really help control Atopy. Redirecting the obsessiveness of an itchy dog using exercise ( at least 1 hour a day walk) will calm their minds and help break the OCD licking cycle. Using acupuncture for stimulation of the immune points and calming points can also help control these itchy dogs. The main help for these patients is really looking at the root of the problem and trying to address it using Chinese herbals rather than masking the symptoms. The most common Chinese Herbals I use are all from Jing Tang herbals in Florida and include External Wind for the uncomplicated itchy dog and Damp heat skin for the chronically infected skin of atopic dogs. Even with the Integrative approach, we still have a few resistant cases but we feel better that we have done all that is there to explore medically before condemning them to a sentence of life long medication. Ask you veterinarian for advice on how to help your itchy pet!