All of the options get quite overwhelming!
You may be thinking, “Steroids for my dog’s allergies?”
Are they really necessary?
And, is my dog going to look like a bodybuilder?!
Many of my clinic clients question common dog allergy medicines and how they work.
Below is a primer on some of the most common dog allergy medicines.
Corticosteroids are standard therapy for dog allergies.
And, they’ve been used as dog allergy medicine for a very long time.
Corticosteroids work primarily by gene repression.
In other words, corticosteroids prevent the immune cell activation leading to an allergic response.
However, there are few controlled studies evaluating the efficacy of corticosteroids in the treatment of dog allergies.
Prednisone is a common corticosteroid used for treating dog allergies.
I generally recommend using prednisone in a descending dose.
For example, I often prescribe prednisone at:
- A dose of .5 mg/lb once daily for 7 days
- Then, 0.25 mg/lb once daily for 7 days
- Afterward, 0.25 mg/lb every other day
The acute side effects of corticosteroids are well known.
Side effects include:
- Frequent drinking
- Increased urination
- Ravenous appetite
- Excessive panting.
In addition, chronic use of corticosteroids may also lead to:
- Iatrogenic Cushing’s disease
- Gastrointestinal ulceration
- Opportunistic infections (especially UTI)
- Musculoskeletal problems (muscle wasting).
It’s always best to use the lowest effective dose necessary to control symptoms.
Sometimes, using an antihistamine combined with topical therapy may have a “steroid-sparing” effect.
Occasionally, long-term use of corticosteroids as dog allergy medicine is necessary.
I recommend dosing every other day in such cases.
Also, with corticosteroids, every other day dosing is safer than daily dosing for long-term use.
Injectable corticosteroids aren’t any better than oral preparations as dog allergy medicine.
In fact, I recommend against using injectable, long-acting corticosteroids as dog allergy medicine.
I feel they pose too much risk of adverse effects.
Allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT)
Allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) is a safe and effective nonsteroidal therapy for dogs with atopic dermatitis.
ASIT is currently gaining popularity as a dog allergy medicine.
In fact, studies show 65-70% of patients improve significantly with immunotherapy.
Intradermal testing is the best method for formulating ASIT.
Pet parents must realize that ASIT is a long-term therapy for atopy.
In other words, it may take 3-6 months or longer to see major improvement.
For immunotherapy to be effective, you must also control secondary infections and concurrent allergies.
In addition, frequent follow-up is necessary. Follow-up can be by phone or in person.
A recent study shows immunotherapy is most successful in dogs whose owners have frequent contact with their doctor.
In my practice, I personalize immunotherapy schedules to each patient depending on the pet’s individual response.
A textbook approach to immunotherapy is usually less effective.
Cyclosporine (Atopica) is an immunosuppressive drug originally developed to prevent human organ transplant rejection.
And, many dogs experience relief when using Cyclosporine (Atopica) as dog allergy medicine.
However, some suffer immune side effects.
Modified Cyclosporine (CsA)
Modified cyclosporine (CSA) absorbs better and is more bioavailable following oral dosing.
Doctors prescribe CsA to manage human atopic dermatitis.
And, recent studies show CsA works well for canine atopic dermatitis.
The recommended CsA dose for canine atopic dermatitis is:
- 5 mg/kg, once daily
- Using the modified formulation of CsA
In some dogs, dosing every other day after 4-8 weeks keeps symptoms away.
Likewise, twice-weekly dosing works for some dogs long-term.
Just like most medications, CsA can cause side effects. For example, common side effects include vomiting and diarrhea.
However, both side effects usually resolve spontaneously within a few days.
On the other hand, CsA does have some rare, more serious.
For example, rare side effects include:
- Cutaneous flushing
- Excessive panting
- Renal changes
- Gingival hyperplasia
- Muscle tremors
- Secondary infections.
Some people taking CsA for long periods of time develop malignancies.
Therefore, I don’t recommend using CsA for dogs with a history of malignancy.
Also, when using CsA therapy, I recommend:
- A CBC and serum chemistry panel prior to initiating therapy
- A CBC 30 days after initiating therapy
If lab work is normal, then I repeat the tests every 3-6 months.
In addition, recommend a UA and/or urine cultures 1-2 times yearly to check for bacterial cystitis.
Powerful Tools for Overcoming Dog Allergies
- Learn more about dog allergies.
- Switch to a Limited Ingredient Diet. PET | TAO Limited Ingredient Diet is naturally low in foods that stimulate an allergic response.
- Supplement with medicinal mushrooms. PET | TAO Complement Immune is a mushroom blend for easing inflammatory response and ease allergy symptoms.
- Try digestive enzymes and probiotics. PET | TAO Harmonize Gi boosts gut health and combats food allergens.
- Feed Freeze Dried Lung Treats. According to TCVM, Lung is on the same meridian as the skin. Therefore, lung treats help both breathing and skin allergies. Lung treats support lung and skin similar to a glandular supplement in a “like treats like” fashion.
- Learn more about TCVM Herbal Remedies. Chinese medicine offers many amazing natural solutions for dog allergies Some good examples are: