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Dr. Louis Gotthelf
Dr. Louis Gotthelf, Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 2438
Experience:  Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, Owner of a small animal clinic and an ear/skin clinic 35 years
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German Shepherd With Allergies I have a 2 ½ year old female

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German Shepherd With Allergies
I have a 2 ½ year old female German Shepherd with allergies. I am desperately trying to help my dog live a healthy, happy life. She had been on prednisone for most of her life. After receiving conflicting information about prednisone and the potential health concerns of taking it long term, I am in search of information about the effects that prednisone has and if there is an alternate medication that can be as effective without the potential harmful side effects. Marley, (dogs name) gnaws on her legs and back, scratches her ears, behind her ears, and her sides. She is miserable. We have tried Benadryl, shampoos, sprays, fish oil, and Allerderm spot on, to provide relief and in the hopes we could eliminate the prednisone. Every time we wean her off of the prednisone she gets a skin infection. We wipe her off after coming in from outside. I wash her bedding weekly and use a cover. I vacuum, sweep, and mop every other day. Everything combined isn’t effective. The only thing that seems to be effective is the prednisone thus far. The following, a background on Marley, it might be too much info, though I am not a Vet and do not want to assume what is important:
We have given Marley all of the recommended vaccinations by our Vet. We also give her heartgaurd plus year round. We use frontline plus on her 9 months out of the year.

@11 Weeks old, had fleas, treated for fleas, and skin infection. Called breeder and the entire litter had fleas 
@16 Weeks treated for infected tick bite, antibiotics
@6 Months Spay and Umbilical hernia repair
@6 Months (I week after spay) Urinalysis treated for infection, antibiotics
@7 months Old Went In because she was constantly scratching and biting herself, prednisone 20mg (Every other Day)
@10 Months Treated for diarrhea, Metronidazole 250mg, Temaril P, Endosorb
@13 Months added 6000mg of Salmon Oil to food daily
@ 15 Months, Refill for prednisone, tried Benadryl
@19 Months Treated for skin infection Cephalexin 750mg (30) Allerderm Spot On Treatment
@20 Months Treated Itchy Skin, Prednisone 20mg (To be given every other day)
@20 Months went to Dermatologist Specialist and had Intradermal Allergy Test done and started Injections. I asked Doctor if I should try to do a food trial as well, he stated that the prednisone wouldn’t have been effective if it was a food allergy, so he didn’t believe she could have a food allergy. My Vet disagreed. The Dermatologist said to keep her on the prednisone for 6-9 months and then wean her off at the same time starting Benadryl towards the end.
Now, nine months later…..when weaning her I went to 10mg every other day of prednisone and added 75mg of Benadryl twice a day and that seemed to be working, I was hopeful. Though it went downhill from there within two days of being weaned off the prednisone completely she started scratching and biting. I am not sure how long the allergy shots take to work either. The Benadryl seems to have little effect. I shampooed her in oatmeal shampoo and that relief was short lived. Now, her skin is red, her ears are red, she has red irritated spots and sores on her skin. She is scratching and biting and is miserable. Her head and face are hot to touch. I will be taking her in on Monday, because she may have another skin infection. My question, where do I go from here? When will I know if the shots are going to help? Should I do a food trial? Does the prednisone cut years off of my dog’s life? Is there a medication that is less harmful? Is there any other treatments I am not aware of? She is miserable, and prednisone has been the only effective tool, yet I do not want to give my dog something that could be more harmful in the long term. Help please, so frustrated. Thank you.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf :

Hi. I'm Dr. Gotthelf. I have been a vet for 35 years and I would like to use my experience to help you with your pet's medical problem.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf :

It sounds like you have been through the war with Marley. Your question is about the long term effects of steroids. At the low doses that you are using, there probably will not be any permanent damage. Giving steroids is like drinking wine. A little each day is OK, but a bottle a day can be very harmful. The problem I have with prednisone is that it is in and out so fast that the dog's skin never really gets a chance to completely calm down. When I need steroids, I prefer dexamethasone as an initial injection and then a small amount in tablet form as a follow up. Dexamethasone is 5X as anti-inflammatory and it lasts longer. In addition, it does not cause the dog to drink as much water.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf :

OTher suggestions that I can offer to help with itching include a dip in an insecicide for sarcoptic mites. Either phosmet or amitraz are recommended for that. Many times parasites cause these chronic skin problems. I like to dip these dogs to rule out mange mites.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf :

Another drug that is very helpful is Atopica, which is cyclosporine. This drug is not harmful as an anti-inflammatory, like steroids, but it does cost more. It works as well as steroids. To decrease the cost, I use a herapeutic dose of an antifungal drug called ketoconazole, which cuts the dose of Atopica in half.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf :

There is a new drug that should be released in the next month or so called oclacitinib made by Pfizer. This drug stops the sensation of itching that goes from the skin to the brain. It seems to be very effective in stopping the itching. Ask your vet or your Dermatology specialist about this drug.

Dr. Louis Gotthelf and 2 other Dog Specialists are ready to help you

I'm just following up on our conversation about Marley. How is everything going?

Dr. Louis Gotthelf