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New Help For Itchy Pets

                       by Geoff Gardner, DVM

Springtime can be a challenging season for many of our pets in Florida.  There are many different pollens, grasses, trees and molds that can cause them to begin to itch.  Most of us dog owners have experienced sleepless nights because our furry friends can’t stop scratching. 

They are a number of treatments that have been available for years, including steroids, antihistamines, and cyclosporine.  These can be effective, but some, especially steroids, can have adverse effects.  These can range from drowsiness, suppressed immune systems, and increased water intake, to weight gain and the risk of diabetes.

Some new treatment options are available currently which offer hope for an improved quality of life with few side effects.  This new modalities have the advantage of giving long term, effective relief from a patient’s itch and thus preventing recurrent skin infections, hair loss, and inflammation. 

The first is immunotherapy drops, which involves identifying your dogs specific allergens and targets the root cause of the reactions.  A blood sample is taken and sent to a laboratory for testing.  The test results will reveal your pet’s allergies to allow a treatment protocol to be developed.  The drops contain precise quantities of allergens that are placed inside your pet’s mouth, ideally beneath the tongue.  The sublingual drops are much easier to administer than injections, and are equally effective.  Many patients will start to experience a reduction in their clinical signs in the first 1 – 3 months of therapy.  The drops are administered twice daily and some patients may eventually be able to stop the treatment once complete remission of symptoms is achieved. 

The second option is a new medication called Apoquel.  Apoquel is a tablet that specifically targets your dog’s itch and works within 4 hours.  It is extremely safe, without many of the side effects associated with other treatments.  Because it is not a steroid, it will not cause your pet to gain weight, drink excessive amounts of water, or be more at risk for diabetes.  It is the only treatment specifically designed to go straight to the source of the dog’s itch and allow them to enjoy a renewed quality of life. 

Apoquel is administered twice daily for the first two weeks, then once daily after that.  Most itch is effectively controlled within twenty-four hours.  The advantage of a medication like Apoquel is the ability of a long term abatement of clinical signs associated with allergies.  The need for repeated visits to your veterinarian, and treatments such as antibiotics, sprays and shampoos is dramatically reduced or eliminated. 

Be sure to discuss these options with your veterinarian at your pet’s next visit and so be able to decide which one best suits your individual situation.  The transition to a better life for your dog and their allergies may be within reach.