Seasonal Allergies... Pollens are high and so symptoms of atopy will be raising their ugly heads. Order of events... Pollens that your  dog's immune system over reacts too, surge and become high in your dogs environment.  Your dog's immune system is exposed to these pollens when 1) he licks himself and ingests them, 2)he breathes the air and his respiratory systme is exposed, 3) he walks and rolls around in the grass and pollens cross through the inflamed, abnormal skin and further exposes the over active immune system.

Symptoms include red, watery eyes, rubbing of the face and eyes which results in red, thickened skin and hair loss, licking and scratching of the arm pits, sides of the body, the flanks and the groin and the FEET.

Once the skin is inflamed and is no longer normal, the bacteria (mostly staphylococcus) and yeast (malasezzia) which normally sits on top of the skin not causing a problem invades the dermis and further causes inflamation, itching and foul skin odor. Dogs that develop secondary yeast infections will have brown pigment that stains white hair.  This is evident in the skin and hair between the dog’s toes, pads and in the white toe nails.

Successful treatment depends on a multi pronged approach. The staph bacteria must be treated with an antibiotic that kills staph and has good penetration into the skin. My first choice is  generic cephalexin - it is an inexepensive twice/day antibiotic. Your dog should be treated for 3 wks as it takes that long to truly get rid of a bad skin infection.

Skin cells and exudate from the nail beds and between foot pats should be examined for the presence of malasezzia yeast. If these peanut looking organisms are present then your dog should be treated with oral ketoconazole daily for 3-4 wks. Yeast is very itchy and if it is not addressed it will continue to cause your dog to lick at his feet long after the allergies and the staph are gone. They are the organisms most often responsible for “the brown boots often seen on white footed dogs”.

Topical treatment for staph and malasezzia is available and can be successful, but it is much more labor intensive and you must be very dedicated to frequent, continuous application. My favorite topicals have chlorohexidine, climbazole, and phytophingosine.  Shampooing three times a week and making sure the dogs soak in the shampoo for at least 15 minutes will remove dead skin and hair.  This will shorten your dogs recovery time.  Once your dog is back to normal the mousse or spray products work well in maintenance and preventive protocols.

The itch that is triggered by Atopy (pollen allergies) is best treated now days with Aoquel or Cytopoint.  Apoque is a great new non-steroidal anti-itch drug that has minimal side affects.   Cytopoint is a new  monoclonal antibody that specifically targets and neutralizes canine IL-31. Canine  Il-31 is a chemical the immunes system makes which sends the itch signal to the brain in atopic dermatitis.  Short term use of steroids such as prednisone, or long term use of Atopica are other drugs available to modulate the overactive immune system that is causing Atopy.

Nutritional support year round can make a huge difference in minimizing, and in cases of mild disease, eliminating the syptoms of Atopy.  For this affect,  I have found a prescription Fish and Potato based diet to be the most reliable diet choice. My favorite is the new VRS codfish and potato diet or Royal Canin’s Skin Support. There may be some over the counter diets that will work, but to date all over the counter diets that have been independently evaluated have been contaminated with ingredients not listed on the bag. If your dog has an adverse food reaction to FISH then another option will need to be explored.

Probiotics added daily to the diet will also help with developing a good microbiome and healthy gut. Leaky guts not only causes soft stool and occassional puking, they  also allows all those grass and weed pollens the dog is licking off his coat to invade the immune system. VRS Entero trubenefits, Purina Forti flora and Iams Prostora are the probiotics shown to have the most viable organisms in the package you are putting in your dog’s food.
For dogs who are experiencing very long year round pollen seasons, or you are in the southern half of they U.S. where there is NO appreciable winter, then allergy testing for specific allergens your dog is reacting too with follow up allergen specific immunotherapy (allergy vaccines) is a sensible way to go.  Desensitization takes a minimum of 6 months and for most dogs 18 mos. to see an improvement.  Therapy is usually life long. The goal of immunotherapy is to decrease year round symptoms to shorter seasonal symptoms.

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