One of the commonest reasons owners seek help is because of skin conditions and the most common presentation is the itchy dog. There are a huge number of causes for this pruritis but increasingly we are seeing more allergies.

The most frustrating is a condition called atopy which is inherited. It is frustrating because there are a huge number of allergens that cause the condition, ranging from house dust mites to pollens, and the depressing fact that the condition is permanent. Nothing annoys clients more than a condition that keeps repeating itself requiring so many vet visits.

This is why we think it is so important to diagnose it effectively and discuss from the outset the long term control. Not cure because this is impossible , but good control means the symptoms of red itchy skin and secondary skin infections are minimised and there are less repeat visits when the skin flares up.

Time spent diagnosing and discussing life-long treatment strategies at the outset is really important as this gives realistic expectations and is cheaper in the long term. From the animals point of view there is less chance of irreversible skin and ear changes occuring and a much more comfortable life. We can introduce plans so owners can quickly deal with any flare ups in the future - for that Sunday when the tree in the back yard suddenly blooms and releases clouds of pollen.

Recent research has shown that many of these dogs have leaky skin, which means tiny allergen particles can penetrate the skin and water can be lost resulting in dehydrated dry skin. Topical medications , shampoos, and conditioners are very helpful to protect skin and retain moisture but long term tablet medications have to be used as well. Until recently many of these drugs like Prednisolone and Cyclosporin were our only options because although anti-histamines help some individuals they are generally ineffective in animals.

Recent research has shown that many of these dogs have leaky skin, which means tiny allergen particles can penetrate the skin and water can be lost resulting in dehydrated dry skin. Topical medications , shampoos, and conditioners are very helpful to protect skin and retain moisture but long term tablet medications have to be used as well. Until recently many of these drugs like Prednisolone and Cyclosporin were our only options because although anti-histamines help some individuals they are generally ineffective in animals.

Some owners decide to invest in skin allergy testing which is done by specialist dermatologists who regularly visit JCU, with a view to using injectable desensitising agents. This is not completely effective in all cases though.

An exciting new development is a drug called Oclacitinib, marketed as Apoquel. This drug inhibits the action of certain cytokines in the skin. These cytokines are chemical messengers used by immune cells to communicate with each other and nerve endings. We are finding Apoquel fast-acting, effective and free of side effects and it has really transformed some dogs. Although more expensive than steroids we have introduced it as cheaply as possible and when used long term it will prevent expensive skin allegy flare ups and avoid the need for other treatments and medications.