Connor, a 7 year old male neutered Pit Bull mix, presented for chronic skin issues. His owner reported that Connor had been itchy for years. He had issues year-round, but tended to be worse in the summer. He chewed on his feet and licked his underside. The owner had recently noticed the development of a rash on his underside as well as hair loss and swelling associated with all four of his paws. He was otherwise a happy, healthy dog with no other previous medical issues.
On physical exam Connor had a rash on his abdomen, patchy hair loss and swelling of all four of his paws, and appeared sensitive when his paws were examined.
A presumptive diagnosis of allergic dermatitis was discussed with the owner.
Most dogs that are going to develop allergies manifesting as skin issues will do so between one and two years of age, though allergies may present at any age. They will commonly appear itchy on their abdomen and paws, though they can develop problems in other areas. Common concurrent issues associated with allergic dermatitis include recurrent ear infections and GI upset.
Allergies are a common and frustrating problem for many dogs. Fortunately, there are many treatment options. The most common initial recommendation is to try to rule out an issue with the dog’s food by instituting a diet trial using a novel protein grain free diet. When instituting a diet trial it is important to eliminate any table scraps, flavored chew toys (including raw hide treats), and treats with ingredients not listed in the special diet. Diet trials can take some time before significant improvement is seen. A diet trial should be in place for at least 8 to 12 weeks to evaluate for improvement in a dog’s clinical signs. When diet trials fail some medications can help allergy dogs become more comfortable. Steroids can often help, but have side effects and are often not ideal to continue long-term. Topical medications can be used to avoid some of the systemic side effects of these and other medications. Sometimes immune-modulating drugs like Cycylosporine or antibiotics for secondary skin infections can be prescribed. Ultimately allergy testing and subsequent hyposensitization treatment, or allergy shots, may improve a dog’s comfort long term. Deciding what type of treatment is best for your dog is an important conversation to have with your veterinarian.
Connor was placed on a course of antibiotics for his skin infection and a topical spray with an anti-inflammatory and antibiotic for his paws. He is doing very well, though the owners are aware he will likely continue to have flare-ups that will require regular rechecks with his veterinarian.