Posts Tagged ‘skin allergies’



Of all the different diseases veterinarians treat, “allergic inhalant dermatitis”, also known as “atopic dermatitis” or “atopy”, is no doubt the most frustrating for both owner and veterinarian alike.   Why is this you may ask?  Well in this article I will explain the many difficulties veterinarians run up against when trying to diagnose and treat a dog with “atopy”.   To begin with atopy must  first be diagnosed and distinguish from a number of other skin diseases which have as their main symptom itching and scratching.      These other conditions which must be ruled out before the diagnosis of “atopic dermatitis” can be made include mange, yeast and fungal infections, bacterial infections, food sensitivities, fleas and contact dermatitis.      To further confuse the diagnosis, pets with atopy often develop the secondary problems of yeast and bacterial infections and consequently more than one problem often exists at the same time.

To Further add  to both the veterinarian’s and owner’s frustration is the fact that atopy often causes intense itching and because the pet is so uncomfortable the pet owner is desperate to find some way to provide their pet “immediate” relief.     When these atopic dogs are scratching themselves raw it is initially necessary to break the “itch scratch cycle” with some form of cortico-steroid.    Although steroids are not the long term solution there is little else available that will give the necessary immediate relief.   Anti-histamines, fatty acid supplements,  oatmeal baths  or crème rinses, and herbal anti inflammatories may help some but rarely provide the immediate relief owners are expecting.     In spite of the fact that long term use of steroids has  unwanted side effects,  the short term use may be necessary to prevent self inflicted skin mutilation which leads to secondary bacterial infections .    Once the intense itching and scratching has subsided other supplements and medications may be used to replace steroid therapy.   Most veterinarians realize that steroid therapy is a stop gap measure that is simply treating the symptoms and not the cause of the problem, however, a short term, reducing dose course of steroids is often necessary until the other approaches have a chance to kick in.     As a holistic veterinarian I minimize many of the unwanted side effects of steroid therapy by using “natural hydrocortisone” rather than synthetic steroids like prednisone or prednisolone.

Another frustration veterinarian’s face in dealing with allergic inhalant dermatitis is the fact that many animals with atopy may, at the same time, have food sensitivities.    Allergic inhalant dermatitis usually starts out as a seasonal problem and progresses over several years to become a year round one.    Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are year round.    When animals have year round itching and scratching your veterinarian must try to discover whether the problem is atopy, food sensitivity or a combination of both.    If both airborne and food allergens are causing the dogs itching and scratching then both problems must be dealt with if the pet’s itching and scratching is to be minimized.   Because food allergies may be due to both the food and to chemicals added to the food, such as preservatives, coloring agents, flavor enhancers or texturizers, trying to discover the allergic component in the food is often quite difficult and requires the use of food trials that use limited ingredient diets.   A limited ingredient diet is defined as a diet that is made with only a single carbohydrate and a single protein source, such as duck and potato.    When attempting to reduce itching and scratching through a limited ingredient diet trial there is further frustration because the effects of the new diet can take up to 12 weeks to see if it is going to work.

Adding to the owner’s frustration is the fact that successfully treating atopic dermatitis usually requires that the pet be given several supportive drugs or nutritional supplements in addition to weekly baths that will help treat complicating yeast or bacterial infections.   It is also important to give liver and intestinal support supplements in order to reduce the number of air borne and food allergens entering the pet’s blood.   Veterinarians are well aware that giving a pet all these oral supplements along with weekly medicated bath requires a huge commitment on the part of the pet owner.    Understand that this commitment to daily therapy must go on for months.

If a pet owner makes this commitment and has conscientiously applied the therapeutic strategy for months with poor results then the next step would be to have the pet allergy tested in order to find which airborne allergens are causing the intense itching.    Once the offending airborne allergens have been identified a “hyposensitizing serum” made up of these allergens can be prepared and the owner can be taught how to give simple periodic injection just under the skin.    Unfortunately allergy testing and subsequent desensitization can be expensive and is not guaranteed to work.     To add to the frustration it can take up to 9 months of allergy serum injections to determine if the  hypo- sensitization approach will provide the answer.

By now I think it should be obvious that diagnosing and treating a dog or cat with allergic inhalant dermatitis is huge undertaking for both veterinarian and pet owner alike.   A thorough exam and careful history is just the beginning.   Periodic recheck exams at 3 to 4 week intervals will be necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment.    Changes in treatment may be necessary depending on how the pet’s skin is responding and how uncomfortable the pet is.     Following the veterinarian’s instructions to the letter is extremely important in order for him or her to judge whether therapeutic changes must be made.

Besides the above conventional approach to treating pets with skin allergies, holistic veterinarian can add acupuncture, herbal therapy, NAET, bio identical natural hormone therapy, FSM therapy, and monolaurin therapy.

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Alternative & Holistic Medicine: A second chance for dogs and pets

If your pet has a recurrent or chronic disease that has not responded to the best efforts of conventional medicine why not give alternative medicine / holistic medicine a chance to show what it can do. Recurrent ear infection, skin allergies, inflammatory bowel disease, and osteo-arthritis are just a few of the many chronic diseases that have conventionally required continual drug therapy to suppress symptoms which have been reducing the pets quality of life. These drugs may be temporarily successful at reducing symptoms but their long term use often results in side effects that may make the use of these drugs of questionable value.

Because alternative medicine takes a more holistic view point in its quest for healing it may focus on an organ system that appears to have no relationship to the symptoms that are being addressed. Since alternative medicine sees all organ systems as connected its therapy is often geared to using modalities that affect the organism as a whole rather than a drug geared to treat a symptom or the organ system where the symptoms occur.

When alternative medicine feels it must directly address symptoms the use of herbs, homeopathic remedies, specific nutrients, and plant produced hormones will accomplish the task with minimal side effects. Keep in mind that many of our most celebrated drugs were originally isolated from plants but then were concentrated and/or synthesized in laboratories. The extraction of active ingredient from the plant and the isolation of it from the other synergistic balancing chemicals found in the intact herb is what makes a drug more likely to produce side effects. Because drug production isolates and concentrates what it believes to be the “active ingredient” it looses the safety net that is present when using the whole herb with its less concentrated, better balanced mix of chemicals.

Alternative health care professionals believe that the pet owner should play an integral part in the healing of their pet. The practitioner believes that a partnership with the pet owner is necessary for the most rapid and successful healing to occur. In order for the pet owner to serve as an effective member of this healing partnership they must thoroughly understand their pets problem and the plan for healing. Consequently,  the holistic practitioner must schedule longer appointments to allow for client education and to answer all the pet owners questions.

Alternative veterinarians believe that inflammation resulting from nutritional and environmental toxicity in combination with nutritional deficiencies is one of the very basic causes for ill health. Minimizing toxin intake and maximizing toxin excretion is a very important aspect of holistic healing for health and healing.


Woodside Animal Clinic is a unique, very personal, one doctor practice where, for over 35 years, Dr. Simon has been healing dogs, cats, birds, rabbits, ferrets rodents, and reptiles with both conventional and alternative medicine. Dr. Simon is certified in Acupuncture, Chiropractic and Stem cell therapy. He is the author of 4 pet care books, a past president of the Oakland County Veterinary Medical Association and past board member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association.

Woodside Animal Clinic sees pets from all over Michigan but primarily from the greater Detroit area including Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston and Washtenaw counties. Cities in these counties including Royal Oak, Berkley, Huntington Woods, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Detroit, Redford, Livonia, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Warren, Centerline, Clawson, Troy, Sterling Heights, Southfield, Birmingham, Lathrup Village, Bingham Farms,
Franklin, Farmington, Farmington Hills, Novi, Northville,Wixom, Brighton, Livonia, Plymouth, Commerce, Ann Arbor, Ortonville, Waterford, Union Lake, Rochester, Rochester Hills, Auburn Hills, Utica, Grosse Pointe, Romeo and
Flint, Hartland, Lansing, Okemos, Flint, Howell, Brighton, White Lake, Romeo, Saline, South Lyon, Battle Creek, Saginaw, Windsor Canada, Toledo Ohio