Dog Skin Allergy Medication

Dog skin allergy can be caused by fleas, food or environmental allergens and can lead to other problems, such as yeast and ear infections. Many treatment options are available to reduce the symptoms, though not all options will work for every dog.

Short Term Treatment

Dogs suffering from allergies will usually have itchy, dry, scaly or discolored skin as well as hives or rashes. This can lead to yeast infections in the skin, bacterial infections and ear infections. Dogs suffering from any of these problems will probably scratch or chew on their skin excessively.

Initial treatment will usually involve reducing your dog's discomfort, which can be done with antihistamines, antibiotics or cortisone tablets, depending on your dog's symptoms. Antihistamines are effective because they block the effects of histamines, which your dog's immune system releases when a foreign allergen is detected. The histamines actually cause your dog's symptoms rather than the allergen.

Steroids can be used for severe itching and inflammation but are often avoided because they can have short term side effects and long term health effects, such as kidney and liver problems. Steroids mimic naturally-made hormones in the skin and can be given in a pill or shot.

Creams with hydrocortisone can be used for immediate but short term relief by applying them directly to the itchy area. However, dogs tend to lick these off, so supervision is necessary until the cream is absorbed.

Long Term Treatment

Because many medications can cause long term health problems if used too frequently, many medications cannot be used for allergy treatment. Creams can be used for long term treatment, but they involve frequent applications, which many owners may unwilling to do. Thus, effective long term medications are difficult to find.

Medicated shampoos are usually recommended for long term treatment, though they aren't sufficient treatment alone. These often utilize the same ingredients as the creams but in a lower dose and must be left on for a few minutes before being rinsed off.

Cyclosporines, such as Atopica, are often used for long term treatment because they are tapered off to lower doses through time. Cyclosporines suppress the immune system, preventing histamines from causing the symptoms that make your pet so uncomfortable. However, these are not effective for every dog and may cause long term problems in certain pets as well.

If environmental allergies are determined, immunosuppression therapy is an increasingly popular option. This involves determining exactly which allergies your dog experiences and making a vaccine of these offenders in low doses. These vaccines are given weekly or bi-weekly. However, they aren't effective for every dog and may take months before they take affect.

Additional Treatment

If flea allergies are determined to be the cause of the symptoms, the easiest treatment is prevention through topical or oral flea medication. In addition, holistic options are available, such as adding omega-3 vitamins or biotin to your dog's diet. These vitamins can improve skin and coat quality, thus reducing the effects of histamine on your dog's skin.

Since many medications cause side effects, allergic reactions and long term health problems, not all medications are right for every dog. Treatment often involves experimenting with which medications are most effective for your individual dog.