My dog starting biting at her paws about a month ago. Knowing it was most likely an allergy I made a vet appointment right away where they gave her a steroid shot and sent me home with a pill regime to follow. I finished all the steroids with her, even though they made her miserable, and now the itching seems worse. She is so touchy that her skin spasms when I go to touch it and then she starts scratching. She is constantly biting at her front paws or rolling on the carpet when she isn't sleeping. I feed her Birkdale PetMix (holistic) which is mixed with ground turkey and she receives a joint supplement and 2 tsp of coconut oil per day. I say this because I am pretty sure it is not a food allergy (I have a kitty with that so I always feed well). She has been "grazing" on grass since the start of the season and am hoping it is just seasonal with her. I adopted her in April, so I have no reference with prior seasons. Is there anything I can do for her to ease her comfort? Allergies in pets seem so confusing, but if possible, I do not want her to be on steroids all the time. Is there anything else I should try with my vet or another vet? She is also not as enthusiastic about her food as she was a month ago, she will eat it eventually, but is not running for it. Thank you so much! Anything I can do for temporary relief would be great, long term even better!
Skin disease in dogs is never simple. The goal required for truly successful (and rational) treatment is to get a diagnosis. Allergy is a broad category which includes several subtypes, each of which behaves and responds differently. The word allergy, therefore is not a diagnosis. Expect the workup for recurrent or non-resolving skin disease to require repeat visits and a series of tests and trials over time to sort out.
At this point the dog has been seen once and treated once. That datapoint will be helpful at the next visit. There is much more to be done. Very likely skin scrapes will be used to help exclude mange mites. Beyond that medication trials may be employed to help with your dogs immediate need for relief, and your need to provide that relief while the diagnostic process continues. Seasonality can only be determined by allowing seasons to pass by. This is practical if the dog experiences symptomatic relief to medications, including corticosteroids like prednisone, antihistamines, topicals or some combination.
You have to trust your primary care veterinarian. If not find one you can trust. If you cant see a board certified veterinary dermatologist. In any case you are unlikley to get a quick answer or a quick fix. If your dog has allergic skin disease, it will never be cured, but hopefully will eventually be successfully managed.
Chewing of the paws is indeed a very common symptoms of allergies such as pollen/dust allerggies or food allergy. A seconday bacterial or yeast infection between the toes often complicates the issue. Typically in dogs with pollen/dust allergies, steroids stop the itch temporarily, and then the itch starts again when the steroids wear off. The fact that steroids did not help your dog, mean that either seconday infection is present, and/or that the issue is food allergy. In an 8 year old dog with no prior history of allergies or itching, food allergy is more common that pollen/dust allergies (which usually start by age 5). Food allergy can start after eating the same food for years, and it does not matter if its a premium or holistic diet or not. There is no accurate skin or blood test for food allergy, the test and treatment is to feed a diet with one protein and one carbohydrate source that your dog has never been exposed to before (I have the most succes with Royal Canin rabbit/potato or home cooked rabbit or pinto beans and potato) and no other treats, table scraps, rawhides, milkbones or other foods for 6-8 weeks. If the itch goes away, then food allergy is diagnosed and the hypoallergenic diet is continued lifelong, +/- new food items are introduced one a times every 2-3 weeks to identfiy the specific allergen.
I recommend rechecking with your vet so that they can perform skin scrapings of your dog's inflamed feet to look for secondary infection which is treated with antibitoics and/or antiyeast medication for 3-4 weeks. At the same time I would recommend starting a hypaollergenic diet trial. If symptoms persist then consider consultation with a veterinary dermatologist (www.acvd.org).
Kimberly Coyner, DVM DACVD
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