Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Scratching the surface of canine allergies

(ARA) - Most people consider their dog to be more than just a pet. Dogs are true members of the family. So when your dog is itching uncontrollably, it is frustrating not to know what’s wrong. Once owners rule out the possibility of fleas, they are often left with questions unanswered. One problem frequently overlooked is a skin disease caused by environmental allergies.

Like humans, dogs can be hypersensitive to common airborne allergens such as pollen, mold and dust mites. But instead of showing symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes and a runny nose, dogs present symptoms on the skin that they try to relieve through constant scratching, licking and gnawing. These symptoms are typically signs of an allergic skin disease known as canine atopic dermatitis.

More than an itch
According to Kadence Research, canine atopic dermatitis affects about 16 percent of the canine population. As with human allergies, symptoms are often seasonal but can develop into a year-round problem if not properly treated. Dogs with atopic dermatitis usually start showing signs of the disease between the ages of 6 months and 3 years old, but some will show signs later due to changes in their environment.

Atopic dermatitis is characterized by intense scratching or chewing of the skin, hair loss and a foul odor resulting from the nonstop chewing and licking. The continual scratching can be bothersome to owners when their dogs are restlessly itching. It can also make the dog lethargic because they are unable to sleep due to constant irritation.

“Sam has had allergies for five or six years,” said Marj Voorhees, owner of Sam the Siberian husky. “He was doing lots of scratching, licking and itching. He lost a lot of hair around his face, eyes and ears.”

Voorhees tried using traditional medications and shampoos, as well as immunotherapy and zinc supplements in attempts to end Sam’s suffering. Sam’s therapy made him hungrier than normal and he gained 20 pounds. He also continued to itch.

There are numerous methods used to try to control the symptoms of canine atopic dermatitis. Veterinarians regularly try everything from antihistamines to steroid injections to keep their clients’ dogs from itching.

“Symptoms range from mild to severe,” said Steve Milden, VMD. “But the quality of life for a dog with atopic dermatitis can be diminished if the symptoms go untreated.”

Without a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, dogs with atopic dermatitis will continue to live in pain and discomfort; they won’t simply “grow out of it.” Anyone with active allergies can attest to how miserable life can be with an itchy throat, clogged sinuses and red eyes, so one can only imagine how unhappy dogs are when they have unstoppable itching. Luckily for dogs and their owners, there is a solution for the symptoms of atopic dermatitis.

Not your average backscratcher
The solution for dogs with atopic dermatitis comes in the form of a prescription product called Atopica (Cyclosporine capsules, USP) MODIFIED that specifically targets the immune cells involved in the allergic reaction. Similar to humans taking allergy medicine year-round to prevent flare-ups and misery, the same concept can be applied to treating dog allergies.

“I’ve been prescribing Atopica to dogs for about five years,” said Milden. “My clients couldn’t be more pleased. Their dogs seem to be happier now that they don’t itch all the time and their owners are thankful to have finally found relief for their best friend.”

Like Milden’s clients, Voorhees was able to find relief for her dog. Once Voorhees’ veterinarian prescribed Atopica, Sam was completely different.

“It made a tremendous difference almost immediately,” said Voorhees. “All of his hair grew back. It took care of the itching, too. He’s noticeably more comfortable.”

Owners should speak to their veterinarians if they think their dog may be suffering from allergies. The veterinarian will be able to answer questions and recommend a proper treatment. For more information on canine atopic dermatitis and ways to treat the disease, visit www.atopica.novartis.us or the Novartis Animal Health home page at www.petwellness.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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