Allergy Medications

Allergy medications are used to decrease the pet's itching to a level of comfort, and not likely to make them totally itch-free. In order for them to be effective, it is important that the allergic pet is free of flea or mite exposure, has no secondary yeast or bacterial skin infections, and has been properly assessed for food allergies, all of which will prevent them from working. This is a brief summary of the different non steroidal allergy medications from which we have to choose:

1) Antihistamines

  • safe, usually inexpensive, and many are over-the-counter.
  • only effective for a small percentage (<50%) of mildly itching patients.
  • there is no one "best" antihistamine so different types of antihistamines from differing classes must be tried on a trial and error basis.
  • not very effective in cats and are difficult to regularly administer to them.

 

2) Fish Oil:

  • very safe, inexpensive, and over-the-counter (it is a supplement and not a drug).
  • only effective for a small percentage (<60%) of mildly itching patients and often only when combined with other allergy treatments.
  • use high potency formulations made from tiny fish to avoid mercury and PCB toxins.
  • not very effective in cats and are difficult to regularly administer to them.

 

3) Pentoxifylline (Trental):

  • well tolerated, safe, and inexpensive prescription medication.
  • only effective for a small percentage (<60%) of mildly itching patients and often combined with other allergy treatments.
  • is in the same family as caffeine and theobromine (the stimulant in chocolate) but neither toxic to dogs like chocolate nor is it a stimulant like caffeine.
  • has not been studied in cats.

 

4) Atopica (modified cyclosporine):

  • available in a liquid or capsule form and 80% effective for both allergic dogs and cats.
  • generally used for the more moderate to severely itching patient.
  • FDA approved for long term use
  • given initially once a day and sometimes ultimately tapered to every 2-3 days.
  • can take 2-6 weeks to see if it is effective and can be combined with steroids, if need be.
  • most common side effect is stomach upset, more often seen in dogs.
  • capsules are given frozen and initially with food and a drug that settles the stomach.
  • rare side effects:gum thickening, excessive hair growth, and benign wart-like skin growths which are all reversible when the drug is discontinued and more likely in dogs.
  • label says may increase susceptibility to infections and development of cancer but that has NOT been proven in 20 years of field studies

Click on this LINK to read more about Atopica.

 

5) Apoquel:

  • one of the newer allergy drugs in a tablet form that is given once or twice a day.
  • It is only approved for use in dogs, where about 70-80% will respond favorably.
  • generally used for the more moderate to severely itching patient.
  • FDA approved for long term use and can be expensive.
  • generally works within a few days and has a low incidence of side effects (loose stool).
  • label says may increase susceptibility to infections and exacerbate preexisting cancer but that has not been proven in 4 years of field studies
  • although not approved, it can be given to cats twice a day but is much less effective.

Click on this LINK to read more about Apoquel.

 

6) Cytopoint (canine IL-31 antibody)

  • a new injection for use in dogs that reduces itching in about 80% of dogs.
  • works quickly (within 1-5 days) and lasts 3-8 weeks, on average.
  • it is a naturally occurring antibody treatment thus has no reported side effects.
  • it cannot be used in cats and is expensive.

Click on this LINK to read more about canine IL-31 antibody.

 

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