If I had to quantify what percentage of appointments outside of routine well care are represented by varying presentation of skin allergies, I would estimate that number to be as high as 30%, even higher during peak allergy seasons. Once mass hair loss and infection has set in, more aggressive veterinary intervention is almost always necessary, so early intervention and a proactive strategy is key to management of skin allergies before the condition gets out of hand.
Let us begin with all of the natural tools you can use against the onslaught of skin allergies. First and foremost, a dog or cat that is prone to skin allergies should have the diet supplemented with an omega-3-fish oil supplement. High grade omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil directly condition the skin and protect/maintain skin cells, as well as block inflammatory biochemical pathways triggered by allergens.
High grade product selection is one of the most important keys to success here, as bogus products with rancid oils are not only ineffective, they can be quite harmful to the patient. We are not here to be cheerleaders for any one particular product, so ask your veterinarian for a recommendation for a high quality omega-3 fish oil supplement.
Regular topical cleansing with an appropriate shampoo is another important adjunctive measure to the management of skin allergies. Specifically, a good shampoo for this purpose should contain essential fatty acids (EFA), salicyclic acid, and phytosphingosine. EFA conditions and nourishes the skin while helping to block inflammatory pathways topically, salicyclic acid is anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory, and phytosphingosine is instrumental in restoring the protective lipid layer of the skin often stripped out by microbial overgrowth and inflammation induced by inflammatory skin disease. Again, your vet can point you in the direction of a good quality product with these items.
The feeding of local honey can be helpful to reduce the impact environmental skin allergy via an approach known as immunotherapy. Immunotherapy refers to the gradual desensitization to allergies through consistent systemic administration of the stimulating allergens. Since locally harvested honey has local allergens in it, it can serve as an inexpensive means to provide desensitization therapy for an allergic pet.
Please note that by local honey, I am not referring to purchasing honey at the grocery store, but raw, locally harvest honey. This is sometimes available at local produce markets and health food stores. Only a small amount is needed, about 1/2 of a teaspoon per day.
Let’s face it, the natural approach alone does not always cut it, as some cases are particularly severe. Thus, if your pet is still exhibiting significant signs of skin allergy despite the above outlined measures, then I would suggest augmenting therapy with Zyrtec (generically also sold as cetirizine). A pet can safely be maintained on Zyrtec. See the dosing table for cetirizine on this Over The Counter Pet Medications Page for dosing information.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and highly regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally recognized expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.