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I would like to help you and your dog with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.
Thanks for that information!
What you are describing in your Staffie certainly sounds like she has allergic dermatitis, which means that allergies are making her itchy.
This could be to something in her food (eg meat, corn, wheat or OTHER things), to insects biting her, or most commonly to atopy, which is an inhalant allergy.
With humans and inhalant allergies we call it hay fever. In ragweed season,lots of people get hayfever - itchy, watery eyes and sneezing. Dogs with inhalant allergies to things like ragweed pollen get ITCHY!
I feel that atopy (inhalant allergies) are most likely because you mention that it happens every year at this time. That suggests that she itches due to something that is pollinating at this time of year.
So, dogs with allergic dermatitis can be VERY itchy and often need long term corticosteroids or immuno-suppressants like Atopica in order to relieve the itch. Atopica is a fantastic drug to use in cases like this. It is not cheap, however.
Here are some links to further information about allergic skin diseases in dogs: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/allergic-dermatitis-in-dogs/page1.aspx
You might want to ask your vet about Atopica as a long-term option for your dog. It does not have the side effects of steroids, and apart from the cost, is a very good choice for many dogs with atopy. Dogs usually start at a slightly higher dose and then are weaned down to the minimum needed to control the itchiness.
Here is more:
So, before we talk about other treatment options, let me just mention that dogs with atopy can be allergic to not only dust mites, but also to various plants that may be pollinating at various times.
It is often very useful to keep a diary with an "itchy" rating in it to be able to determine what times of year it is worse. I'm not sure what plants you have pollinating now where you are, but it is really helpful to keep a journal.
Here are some links to further information about atopy: http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=597 http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=599 http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=1535 http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=652
It is very hard to CURE this problem, and often we simply try to CONTROL allergies. If we want to try to cure this problem, then the only way to do that is to do “allergy shots” the same way people do when they have environmental allergies.
First, a blood sample is taken to try to determine what the patient is allergic to.
This blood test is most helpful if the patient is allergic to something he or she is INHALING, as the test doesn’t always help determine what the animal may be sensitive to in the food, or that he or she may be in contact with (eg grass or wool).
The laboratories I am most familiar with that are used for this are VARL in California or Greer in North Carolina.
Here’s a link to each:
So, the idea with the blood test is to determine what the patient is allergic to. Then, you either have to eliminate it (if possible) or make a “vaccine” (“allergy shot”) to help reduce the animal’s allergies.
You may know people who have allergy shots?
We start with TINY amounts of the allergen, and give it as a "vaccine." Slowly, we desensitize the animal to each thing he or she is allergic to.
This can cure the pet of the allergies, so he or she no longer reacts to them. Certainly, this is not something that a general practitioner vet can do - it needs a Veterinary Dermatologist to do this.
With this, the patient needs allergy shots every week for an extended period of time – months to years.
The advantage to this approach for treating your dog is that she does not need systemic (injections or pills) steroids or cyclsporin. AND eventually you could hope to have a non-allergic dog who needs no further treatment.
The disadvantage is clearly the cost!
Also, if this desensitization takes 2 years before she is allergy-free, then you have to balance that against qualilty of life.
We always worry about putting patients on long-term medications. In a case like this, steroids/cyclosporin control the problem. They work fast, but they only control the symptoms.
The allergy shots cure. They don't work fast, but eventually she might not need them any more.
Does that make sense?
So, when I diagnose a patient with atopy, I always start by warning people that we probably CANNOT CURE this! The best we can ever hope for is to control it. Anything that can be done to decrease his allergic tendencies should be done, and lots of little things may start to have a big effect.
What I suggest for dogs with atopy: 1. Bathing It can be soothing to give your dog a *cool* bath in the tub, and apply a soothing colloidal oatmeal conditioner (I used Aveeno colloidal oatmeal treatment on myself and was suprised how much relief I got from it)
Here is one example of a Conditioner: http://www.calvetsupply.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=373 After bathing, towel dry gently, and then keep her in a warm room snuggled in the towel so that you don't need to blow dry her at all
2 Antihistamines If your Staffie were my patient, I would evaluate her for being a candidate for being on antihistamines year round.
They are safe in the majority of patients, and although they don't stop the itching the way the injections or Atopica does, they do "take the edge" off and make future flare-ups less severe.
Adding these in might mean you could decrease the use of prescription medications. As with humans, some dogs do better on one type of antihistamine, and not on others. Often, we have to try a few different ones, giving each a trial of several weeks before knowing whether it helps, and before moving on to another. Common anti-histamines we use in veterinary medicine are Diphenhydramine (Benadryl here in Canada), chlorpheniramine and hydroxyzine. Here is more about each, including dose: http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/diphenhydramine-benadryl/page1.aspx http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/chlorpheniramine-maleate-chlor-trimeton/page1.aspx http://www.petplace.com/drug-library/hydroxyzine-atarax-anxanil-vistaril/page1.aspx With anti-histamine use it is really important to use them at the recommended frequency as they help PREVENT itchiness, but don't do as much at stopping it once it has started.
3.Essential Fatty Acids Again, if she were my patient, I would put her on a dietary source of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids) daily added to her food. These work best when used at the same time as anti-histamines as they "potentiate" each other (make each other work better).
Your vet would be able to provide these for you - some brands are DermCaps and EFA-Z.
You could make your own using evening primrose oil for the Omega 6 fatty acids. You could then add in a fish oil to provide the Omega 3's. Extra strength fish oil is most useful - it provides approximately 600mg of combined EPA and DHA per capsule. You can find a listing of companies that make such a thing here: www.nasc.cc.
The omega-6/omega-3 ratio should be 5 to 10. Here are some examples of combined Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids: http://www.1800petmeds.com/Derm+Caps-prod10062.html http://www.vetrxdirect.com/product/view/ALLERDERM-EFA-Z-PLUS
4 Air filter I would also consider getting a HEPA filter for your house. In Canada, you can get these at hardware stores. For $100 - $300 (depending on the amount of space you want to have filtered) it removes tiny dust particles from the air, which is another thing to help your dog a bit. Make sure that there are no pollutants in her environment. Avoid cigarette smoke, fireplaces, incense, hair sprays, air fresheners and other things with small particles that can be inhaled.
5. Quercetin This homeopathic remedy works to inhibit mast cell's participation in the manifestation of allergy signs. This is similar to the way antihistamines work in Western medicine. I have not used this myself, but my colleagues have used it and recommend it to "take the edge off" and allow you to reduce the atopica.
The vets I know who use it give 400mg three times daily in medium to large dogs that have severe signs.
6. Vitamin E This can also be helpful when added in. The dose I use is about 5-10 IU per lb daily. So, in a 60lb Staffie, that would work out to 300 to 600 IU per day. You can purchase this at any chemist/pharmacy.
7. Probiotics If your girl were my patient, I would put her on a probiotic.
They are very safe and help a lot of dogs! It just helps to promote the growth of "good" bacteria and reduce the "bad" bacteria in a natural and safe way. This can help to decrease stimulation to the immune system.
You can use FortiFlora products which are available from your veterinarian, or you can use Culturelle which is available at pharmacies in the USA (and perhaps in Oz?). For the Culturelle, a 60lb dog would get 1 to 2 capsules daily sprinkled on her food.
Here are links: http://www.dogbuffs.com/purina-fortiflora-probiotics-dogs-cats www.culturelle.com
8. Limited antigen diet
Quite often, allergic dogs can react to things things they are EATING as well as things they are inhaling.
Because it is hard to know WHAT a patient may be allergic to, vets do usually recommend changing the food so she is on some different protein sources. If she has been eating duck, then switching to something that does NOT contain duck is a good idea. This could be fish, seafood, or anything else novel (rabbit, venison, duck, etc). ***In order to know that she cannot be allergic to it, the protein has to be one that she has never had before!*** There is nothing magical about any one protein source, it just has to be something that she has not had before. So, you have to check ALL the foods she has previously eaten and make a list of all the proteins she has been exposed to. Then you have to find a food that has NONE of those in it. Also, she can have no other sources of food or treats (rawhides, chew toys, not even PB) while she is on the elimination diet. I strongly recommend a home-made diet so you know exactly what it going in to it. The site, www.balanceit.com , has a section where you can get custom balanced recipes easily for your adult pets. You can put in the promotional code HOMEMADE at checkout and the recipe will be free. Just choose a recipe with a meat that Millie has never had before (goat? rabbit? venison?) and use that to make the food. When you get to the payment/invoice type window, zero out the bottles of supplements (if you're going to buy them elsewhere), put the promo code in, and hit the "apply" button next to it. Then your invoice will recalculate and go down to zero if you only have one recipe there. You can continue on through the process without entering any payment info from there, and it will take you to the recipe for the pet you entered. Finally, all home recipes for dogs need supplementation with essential fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins, and minerals. The amounts of these are totally dependent on the animal and the base diet. There is no universal "supplement" that covers everything appropriately. If you do not feel up to making a home-made food, then another option would be a "hydrolyzed" protein food. These are available only through a vet. The idea with this is that the protein is broken down so that the immune system can no longer recognize it. So, to the immune system it is no longer a protein, and (theoretically) the body cannot become allergic to it. These are fairly new in veterinary medicine (just a few years old) and so far, I have not had dogs become allergic to it, so I am crossing my fingers! Your vet would have a number of different brands of prescription foods that have these “hypoallergenic” diets containing hydrolyzed protein. You could contact your veterinarian to try one. There are prescription foods that your vet could provide that serve this purpose. One of these is Royal Canin HP food: http://www.medi-cal.ca/diets/diets.php?diet=10
9. Acupuncture This has been reported to improve immune function in dogs. Your vet could refer you to a veterinarian trained in this modality.
10. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) My colleagues trained in this area use Tri Snake subsitute from Mayway. **Use the Plum Flower Brand.** Hua She Jie Yang Wan is the Chinese name of the formula from Plum Flower. Here is a link: http://www.chineseherbsdirect.com/hua-she-jie-yang-wan-p-179.html and the company's phone number is(NNN) NNN-NNNNfor the company that makes them. The dose is 3 to 6 pills given THREE times daily for a dog that weighs about 30 to 60 lbs . Give them a week to work. 11. Herbs There are veterinarian trained in alternative medicine and the herbs that they recommend are yellow dock, sarsaparilla, Xiao Feng San. These are dosed based on size - so a 60lb dog would get roughly 1/4 to 1/2 the dose of a human. I hope that these things will help! Any small thing that decreases your dog's allergic tendencies is good and with lots of small things we can hope for a big improvement over time! Fingers crossed for you! I would definitely start with the food, the Omega 3's and the Hepa filter as these are quite easy to do. If this has been helpful, please Accept my answer and leave feedback. If you have more questions just click on reply and I will still be here to provide further information if you need it! The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian. Fiona