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by Clinton Cotten, DVM
This is the time of year in Florida when allergies (Atopic Dermatitis=AD) are at their peak. For pets the common itchy skin disease is AD which is caused by pollen, house dust mites, molds, dander, etc. Licking, scratching, or red skin may be the only sign of AD. AD may occur all year round, not just in the spring. The constant licking and scratching can cause secondary bacterial, fungal, or yeast infection of the skin. The scratching of ears and licking of feet are also signs of AD.
Diagnosing AD requires a complete medical exam along with history, skin and/or blood testing. The tests may be done in the hospital or sent to a diagnostic lab. The diagnosis will help determine a treatment plan.
Treatment plans can be as simple as avoiding the material causing the allergic reaction. They can include antibiotics, antifungals and shampoos with conditioners to treat the secondary infection. The plans will also include medication to treat the allergic reaction. These medications can be used alone or in combination. Medications are listed below.
Antihistamines - Over the counter - Varied response to each product. Inexpensive.
Glucocorticoids - Prescription - Work very well, but have side effects. Inexpensive and have been used for years.
Immune Suppressive drugs – Prescription - Work very well when used correctly. This medication is expensive.
Immune Modulation drugs – Prescription - Works very well. Newest medication on the market. They come in tablet and injection form. Have a mid-range expense.
Allergen-Specific Immunotherapy (allergy shots) – Prescription - This therapy permanently reverses the immune system and is considered the gold standard of therapy. Time consuming, slow to work and compliance is difficult. Expensive.