The scenario goes something like this:
Your dog has red, itchy, possible flaky skin. S/he might scoot, or lick the privates areas more often that other dogs. Could be the anal glands need to be expressed often. Paws may be red from being licked so much. Eyes may be pawed at, face might be rubbed on carpets, or rough surfaces. Some dogs might be like this during the full calendar year, but many symptoms will wax and wane, and "bloom" pretty dramatically in the spring, summer and fall. Unless you live in a warm, moist climate in which case you have a good chance of seeing the full scenario throughout the year. Allergies can be a bear to live with!
Like it, or not we need to get a few things out of the way before deciding the dog has "just" allergies. The need to rule out fleas and mites can't be overstated. I've worked with numerous dogs that had these problems rather than a food, or environmental allergy, and there were others who had bacterial and/or fungal infections as well. Some critters are invisible to the naked eye, and some live under the skin, so be sure your dog has seen a good veterinarian. A dermatology vet can be worth their weight in gold.
Ok, so everything's been ruled out, and you're told the dog has atopic dermatitis (AD). Here are some facts and possible solutions to help you help your dog.
1. Combination of primrose oil and wild salmon oil can have a steroid sparing effect. The hiccup is that it takes roughly 2 months to see improvement, so this therapy is something that should be started right away and maintained. Don't expect to use it as a quick-fix. Don't use primrose (or borage, or black currant) oil for dogs with epilepsy. These oils don't cause seizures, but can trigger then in dogs with epilepsy. All other dogs can take it, but the best amounts of this and fish oil combinations aren't something science seems to agree on. I've seen success with 500 mg wild salmon oil and 500 mg primrose oil per 20 pounds of body weight. Start this now!
2. The outermost cells of skin with atopic dermatitis is deficient in ceramides (a type of fat molecule) New research indicates if you simply ingest ceramides, ceramide levels will increase in the skin. Not only does barrier function improve, but also the inflammation of the skin is reduced – at least that's what happens in experimental animals. Nobody knows with certainty if all this actually translates to helping a dog's skin, but I've used wheat germ, spinach and sweet potato for many of these dogs and they do quite well. It's a multi faceted approach though. I've never wasted time to see which of the dietary protocols works best because there's a suffering dog (and human) waiting for relief.
3. Dogs with adverse food reactions can present with clinical signs of AD, and some dogs exhibit concurrent allergy to environmental and food allergens. Consider repeating a dietary trial with an elimination diet for dogs with a previously well-controlled AD that is now relapsing.
4. Feeding kibble? Put open bags in the freezer. There's speculation that the presence of storage mites in dry food might cause some relapses of AD in dogs that are ellergic to dust mites. That's because mites have allergenic crossreactivity with house dust mites.
5. Three studies have demonstrated that non-prescription pet foods obtained from pet stores or other retail channels (including foods supposedly containing limited ingredients) frequently contain traces of ingredients that are not listed on the label. In my opinion, that doesn't mean that prescription diets are exempt from the same problem. I encourage taking control with home prepared diets for this very reason (and many others), and keeping to one protein source.
6. Bathe the dog at least once weekly with a mild, moisturizing shampoo. This is not the dog I'd choose to slather coconut oil on. Oatmeal shampoo may backfire as well. Products like Duoxo Calm work for many dogs.
7. Perianal pruritus was seen in 39 of 75 dogs with atopic deramitits, in 29 of 57 dogs with adverse food reactions. So, if your dog is rubbing, licking and generally unhappy with his butt, s/he may be dealing with either, or both causes.
8. Witch hazel can relieve itching. Liquid witch hazel can help with "weeping" or oozing dermatitis.
9. Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapple, helps to reduce inflammation.
10. Quercetin is a flavanoid with anti inflammatory properties. I use it in combination with bromelain. Here's the one I use most often. I use 40 mg/kg.
As an aside, there was some concern about quercetin, so before anyone panics about quercetin negatively affecting kidneys, thyroid function, and more...well, the devil is in the details. It's always a good idea to dig deeper. Quercetin is just one of several flavanoids that can have this effect, but a) the thyroid study was in rats, b) the amount was 50 mg/kg! So, a 60 pound dog (about 27 kg) would have to take about 1360 mg of quercetin per day. I don't know of anyone suggesting this much. This piece from 2014 seems to have sparked a little worry (all of a sudden), but I really think we need to keep up with studies whenever an antioxidant/flavanoid makes a leap from a food to a neutraceutical.
"Daisy didn't just change our lives, she changed our destiny.” ~ Maryam Faresh, Daisy
1. The oral intake of essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially those rich in omega-6 EFAs either as supplement or in enriched diets can influence superficial skin lipids and improve the gloss and quality of the coat. Oral EFAs might also provide some small benefit in reducing clinical signs of AD in dogs, but the limited degree of improvement expected makes it unlikely that EFA supplementation would be suitable for monotherapy of canine AD. The benefit of EFAs, if any, might not be seen before two months of supplementation (copy from Biomed Central)
2."A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled multicentre clinical trial of 12 weeks' duration was undertaken in 60 dogs with atopic dermatitis to evaluate the steroid sparing effect of essential fatty acid supplementation. Our findings indicate a steroid sparing effect of essential fatty acid supplementation in canine atopic dermatitis and, furthermore, that there is a time lag before the effect is attained."
3. PMID: 24797215