What can be done for my pet’s discomfort while waiting for shots to work?
Symptomatic management refers to controlling secondary infections and reducing inflammation. This may include both oral and topical therapy. There are numerous combinations and what works for one patient might not work for the next. The veterinary dermatologist is trained in fine tuning symptomatic therapy.
- Bathe your pet often. Topical therapy may be as simple as an oatmeal based shampoo or an anti-itch spray. Some topical products contain additives that help control infection and/or reduce inflammation. Frequent shampooing, contrary to popular belief, temporarily helps most skin conditions. As a general rule, human shampoos should not be used on pets and even some medicated pet shampoos may be irritating. Frequent cool water baths with a recommended shampoo may reduce itching for 3 days. It is important to allow the shampoo to contact the skin for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. Bath oil rinses may be applied to help prevent the drying effect of frequent bathing.
- It is essential that all fleas be kept off an allergic pet since even one flea bite can induce skin inflammation and aggravate itching for up to 2 weeks. Effective flea control requires the use of products that disrupt the flea life cycle. Topical and oral products are available. Safety and efficacy of these products in recent years has improved drastically. It is important that all dogs and cats in the household have a comprehensive flea control program.
- Antimicrobials for yeast and/or bacterial infections are necessary at various points in time for 60% of patients receiving allergen specific immunotherapy. These infections typically aggravate itching. If skin infections persist or recur your pet should be re-examined at the dermatology office. These secondary infections do not seem to be contagious to other pets or human beings.
- Non-steroidal therapy would include antihistamines (without decongestants) and high doses of omega fatty acids used together. Although they are not as effective as cortisone they have fewer potential side effects. Do not get discouraged if one antihistamine does not work. Keep trying others until your pet is comfortable. Antihistamines should be given on a regular basis as prescribed for 2 weeks before trying another. Antihistamine dosage varies according to patient weight and side effects are minimal. You should consult a veterinarian regarding dosages and recommended products prior to giving your pet an antihistamine.
- Steroids can be extremely beneficial for the allergic patient, if used for short periods of time in healthy patients; side effects are usually mild and transient. Long term administration should be reserved for only the most severe cases when other treatments fail. Interestingly, this medication, can with time, become an enemy of the skin; therefore, use of steroids must be judicious. Steroid injections should be avoided, if the severe itch persists, you pet should be re-examined.
- Non-steroidal immunomodulatory therapy is an option for patients who have become too dependent on steroid administration or who suffer from severe steroid side effects. Immune response modifiers such as modified cyclosporine and tacrolimus may be used to symptomatically reduce allergic itch for short to intermediate periods of time in some severely affected atopic patients.