Cinder, a female flat-coated retriever, became a patient at our clinic in January 2011 after she was adopted from the humane society. She was about 8 ½ years old and had been with 2 previous owners before now. Needless to say there was some change and resulting stress in her life. She had some itchy skin and watery eyes that winter.
As we moved into late spring 2011 Cinder's itchiness continued and she was treated with oral antihistamines and acupuncture. Acupuncture would give her immediate relief but that would wane after about 5 days. She was on regular flea preventative and had no sign of fleas. At this time Cinder was diagnosed as likely allergy to pollens or “atopy”. The pollens may be from trees, grasses or shrubs. They gain entry into the body through inhalation, but also if the pet licks the pollen from the feet. Some plants can cause skin inflammation from direct contact; this is often seen on the underbelly.
As the weather got warmer her itching intensified and she was treated with oral steroids, which were only moderately helpful. Because steroid use can be associated with side effects, we switched to Chinese herbal formulas for allergies and used them along with antihistamines and added a fish oil source of omega-3-fatty acids. Fish oil has been shown to reduce inflammation from skin allergies as well as benefit overall health in both humans and animals. Cinder also continued to respond to acupuncture treatments with several days of immediate itchiness relief.
In addition, topical medications that contain steroids were used intermittently; these are not absorbed into the blood stream to any significant degree and can give some extra help controlling itchiness.
Treatment for mild itching continued on into the fall and through the spring. At this point food allergy had to be considered as pollen allergies are normally seasonal. A specially formulated hypoallergenic diet was begun in November 2011.
After she had been on the special diet for about 4 month Cinder's need for additional medication was greatly reduced. We have been able to manage the itchy skin with herbals, antihistamines, topical medicated spray, bathing, and fish oil.
Cinder's case illustrates beautifully the need to “slay the dragon with a thousand tiny cuts”. The fish oil and the medications work together, called synergistic, to provide an enhanced effect against allergies. This combined with acupuncture and herbs allowed the most comfort for Cinder. Cinder is like many dogs in that often a pet has more than one type of allergy. In her case she is probably allergic to everything (fleas, pollen and food) but we are able to easily eliminate fleas with modern preventatives and lessen the effect food may have with the special diet. Cinder's owner is also instructed to mechanically remove pollens with wipe downs once she has been outside.
As of this writing Cinder's allergies are almost completely under control, or resolved.
Here are the thousand tiny cuts, many only used as needed.
-Antihistamine, we tried 3 different types to find the best one.
-Chinese herbs, 2 different formulas used
-Medicated topical spray
-Monthly, year round flea control
-Medicated baths when needed
-Mechanical removal of allergens (pollen) from the fur.
-Avoidance of allergens