Reaching the diagnosis of skin allergy can sometimes be a long and complicated journey. You may feel that you have now finally reached the end destination. In some ways you have, in that you know what the root cause of the symptoms is. You’ve ruled out other causes of itching and irritation such as; bacterial, yeast and fungal infections, food allergies, fleas, mites and other wee beasties. A small pat on the back for getting this far is definitely allowed. However, in this blog we’re going to discuss how the diagnosis is also just the beginning of the next chapter and why you, as the eyes and ears on the ground 24/7, have the starring role in achieving long-term successful management of the condition for your pet.
Why prevention is better than cure
After the diagnosis of an allergy, it can seem like there is a lot of information to take in and that a great deal of commitment is required from you to support your pet. The truth is that allergy is a life-long condition and even when you do everything right, flare-ups are likely to still occur. However, there is a lot you can do to help minimise the occurrence of flare-ups and their severity, keeping your pet happier and healthier as a result. To better understand why this is such a good idea, one analogy is to think of your pet’s skin flare-ups as like a car when it breaks down.
There are critical things that must happen day to day to allow a car to stay moving, for example filling it up with fuel. Without fuel it wouldn’t be long before you were stuck on the side of the road. For a while though, keeping the fuel topped up is enough for all to seem well. The same may be true if you just use a single treatment in isolation to control the primary skin disease your pet has.
You then have a bit of choice.
Option A = You can get regular services done on the car by the garage and also proactively do routine maintenance checks yourself on things such as oil and tyre treads. This is akin to attending veterinary consultations with your pet when advised to do so and also using the treatments prescribed and adhering to the advice given.
Option B = You could wait for something major to go wrong and only then go to the garage, perhaps even ignoring the odd minor rattle or clunk along the way. Although the first option does cost money, potentially the bill from option B will actually end up being larger overall. This is because it can be a much bigger job to get the car back running smoothly again after it’s broken down. In the same way, waiting for the skin to become really bad again before seeking help is not the best option.
The multimodal approach
Multimodal in this context, simply means using a combination of solutions to tackle the problem. This can include; prescription medications, immunotherapy (to desensitise to the allergens), supplements, dietary modification, topical therapies and changes to your pet’s environment. The diagram below shows the range of options you would ideally all incorporate into a plan to help prevent skin flare-ups:
This table gives a little more detail about each of the options:
What else can I do to help?
It’s as easy as A, B, C:
ADVICE- Lots of people will have experiences, opinions and ideas based on what they have read (often on the internet) or what helped their own pet. While this may be great advice, it may not. Your vet is the person best equipped to put all the pieces of the jigsaw together for your animal, based on current evidence from credible sources and years of clinical experience treating many animals with the same condition.
BE YOUR VETS EYES AND EARS (AND HANDS!) – You can learn how detect the early tell-tale signs of a flare-up before it escalates and becomes much harder to settle the skin down again. By implementing the relevant parts of a multi-modal plan to manage the condition, you are helping reduce the risk of flare-ups.
COMMUNICATION – Be honest with your vet, for example; how much time do you have every week to bathe your pet, are they a nightmare even when you do have the time, do you struggle giving them oral medications and is cost going to make it hard to continue on a particular type of treatment long-term? Once given all the relevant information, your vet can then construct a plan with you that’s going to be achievable and therefore successful in the long-term.
Written by Johanna Forsyth– Senior Veterinary Technical Manager
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