Two New Therapies For Itchy Dogs

“I know they have side effects, doctor but Roscoe is miserable and I haven’t slept a wink for the last three nights. Just give him that shot!”

We’ve endured a lot of cold starts and icy roads to earn this time in the sun. Enjoy! These long sunny days and warm summer weather are wonderful, unless you’re a dog with allergies. Many of them, caught in a miserable cycle of seasonal itching, skin irritation and infections under a haircoat that’s much heavier than any of us would want to sport, must be longing for those blissful itch-free days of February!

The injections that our clients have learned to rely on in the past have usually been a type of corticosteroid. They are very effective and last for 3- 6 weeks. We like to use them to buy some time until we find the cause of the problem and an alternative treatment approach as repeat injections over time can have undesirable side effects. Because steroids work so well it is sometimes difficult to get an owner excited about other options. There are other stubborn cases where the other options just don’t work. Alternatives such as antihistamines, hyposensitization, frequent bathing, or allergen avoidance are all helpful but have their limitations. Fortunately, we now have two new therapies which are not only “promising”, but are available and work!

Apoquel™ is a new type of immunomodulating drug which inhibits the release of inflammatory components (called cytokines) from cells when they are exposed to an allergen, thus preventing the start of the inflammatory cycle. If there’s no inflammation then there’s no itch and no scratching resulting in a happy dog, happy owner, and a good night’s sleep for everyone!

While Apoquel™ has been a wonderful addition in the treatment of canine allergies, it is not 100% effective in all cases. (Wouldn’t that be sweet?) It does not seem to work as well in cases of food allergies, ear problems associated with allergies, and should not be used in puppies. The drug can be discontinued if needed (no tapering of dosage needed), it can have some side effects but we have been using it at the Cornelius Veterinary Clinic for two years and have found it to be quite safe overall. (And yes, it’s somewhat more expensive than previous options.)

Another new drug is also an immunomodulator called Cytopoint™. It is very similar to Apoquel but is only available as an injection. It provides relief for 4-8 weeks and is an option in some cases where daily dosing is not an option or is not working well. Because of its cost and less predictable results, we use it only in special cases.

Life still isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than before! If you have an itchy dog and both of you are frustrated but aren’t quite ready to move to Arizona, talk to one of our veterinarians at your next appointment about one of these new therapeutic options for your pet!

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