XLVets Pets

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Alf, a case study

by Gary Jennings BSc, BVetMed, MRCVS at Hook Norton Veterinary Group, Banbury, Oxfordshire
24 Aug, 2016

Hook Norton Veterinary Group, alongside other XLVet Practices are running a summer long campaign to help owners Scratch below the surface and raise awareness of various skin conditions and seasonal allergies. We want to work alongside owners, helping to identify and manage their pet’s conditions. There are many symptoms, some which may get over looked, but itchy or sore skin, scratching or nibbling at sensitive areas, ear discharge or head shaking, continuous rolling or rubbing, are some you should look out for.

Skin conditions can have a number of different causes and they can often be difficult to diagnose as a number of different diseases have the same symptoms.

Allergy: Itchy and inflamed skin could be caused by abnormal reactions to tiny particles in the environment such as house dust mites or mould spores, pollens and grasses that only appear at certain times of year. Your pet could also have allergies to certain ingredients in its food.

Parasites: Fleas and ticks can also be a triggering factor. They are very common in both dogs and cats. Some animals are allergic to the saliva protein from flea bites. This can develop into flea allergic dermatitis.

Here at Hook Norton we have a patient called 'Alf', a 12 year old West Highland Terrier. Skin issues and allergies are common in West Highland Terriers.  'Alf' has been living with Atopy his entire life, an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies, and has been receiving treatment on and off for the last 12 years.

Alf has shown various signs over the years all of which are distinct characteristics of Atopy including; itchy feet (excessive licking and chewing), sore/ itchy skin & ear irritations. 

There a variety of tests to try and determine what causes allergy flare ups. This means we can narrow down treatment and management options.

Topical treatments such as shampoos, lotions and wipes can be used to help sooth skin and repair damaged skin. They are used to treat skin conditions where an overgrowth of bacteria or yeasts are present. This can happen in a variety of different skin conditions. On some occasions a course of treatment can provide a complete cure, however regular washing helps to prevent recurring skin issues. Regular flea and tick treatments are a must too, as 'Alf' will be feeling itchy without the possible interference of biting fleas. There are various prescription drugs that can be tried, to help alleviate Atopy, and many are given daily until clinical improvements are seen. This normally happens within 4 weeks. Once the dermatitis has been satisfactory controlled, the dose can be dropped to every other day. In some cases, the dose can be dropped again to every 3/4 days. Steroids can be used in some cases.

Inflammation and irritation to the ear flap and/or ear canal can be triggered by allergies, the irritation being triggered by parasites, food or contact allergies. 'Alf' has to have his ears checked regularly, to assess if there is any discharge and to control any underlying disease. Regular cleaning and the application of ear drops can help to reduce irritation as and when necessary. 

It is extremely important to note that Atopy is a life-long disease that needs careful management. There may not be a simple fix to Atopy, but working with your vet and trying different treatments will help your pet have a normal happy life. 

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