Q: My dog is so itchy in the spring and fall that he is miserable. I have tried food changes, Benadryl, steroids, medicated bathing and nothing seems to help other than steroids. I do not want my dog on steroids all the time because of the side effects. Are there any other options to treat allergies?
A: Allergies are a difficult condition to treat as they can only be managed and not “cured.”
An allergic dog will always be an allergic dog no matter what you do to treat the condition. The goal for medical management is to get the itch to a tolerable level and treat any secondary skin issues, such as infections, that go hand in hand with skin allergies.
Allergies in dogs can be placed into two categories: environmental allergies and food allergies. Some dogs are primarily environmentally allergic and will have flare ups with the seasonal changes. Some dogs are allergic only to certain ingredients in dog food, and there are other dogs that have both food and environmental allergies.
Treatment for allergies consists of food trials and medical management of the itch and infections. Medical management consists of drug therapy which, in the past, has almost always included some sort of steroid therapy.
More recently, there have been a few new products that have come on the market that have helped get dogs off the steroid therapy.
Two of these new oral medications that are showing some success in the treatment of skin allergies are Atopica (Cyclosporine) and Apoquel (Oclacitinib). These medications are intended to target more specifically the part of the immune system responsible for allergic skin disease. They do not have the same long-term side effects as steroids and appear to have success in treating skin allergies in a lot of dogs. Two downsides of these drugs are that they are not available in a generic form so can be expensive and they can cause vomiting in some dogs.
Another interesting product that is new to the scene is an injectable drug called Cytopoint. One injection of this medication can relieve the itching related to skin allergies for 4-8 weeks in most dogs. This medication does not treat the secondary skin inflammation and infections that come with skin allergies, but can help relieve the irritation of the itchy skin. Cytopoint is also not available in a generic form so for larger dogs can be quite expensive.
There is also the option of taking your dog to a veterinary dermatologist for skin testing and hyposensitization shots as an alternative to steroid therapy.
Q: My husband just got my daughter a ferret for her birthday without asking me! What do we feed a ferret and how do we play with a ferret?
A: Ferrets can make great pets! They are similar to having a cat as a pet as they are very curious and playful, just like kittens. They also have the same dietary requirements as cats, as they are obligate carnivores, and require daily animal protein to be healthy. Two good foods to offer your new ferret are Wysong and Zupreem which are high in that necessary protein.
As far as playing with a ferret, this is easy as they are very friendly and ready to play! Providing toys and places to hide and play on are essential to having a happy ferret.
Ferrets are very social and prefer to be with other ferrets or with their humans during the day. They also can have playdates with other ferrets to bring them some social interaction. Just be careful as ferrets are very curious and have been known to get into and eat things they are not supposed to have, so you must keep a good eye on them when they are allowed free time in the house.