If you are like me, the arrival of spring may have your eyes running and your nose blocked. It is allergy time. Likewise, we are seeing the usual seasonal increase in itchy dogs.
For years we have used cortisone to suppress these symptoms but there are a number of well known side effects of long term use of this group of drugs. Over the past couple of years we have had 2 very effective medications become available which have aided us in achieving much better control of itching dogs.
This diagram may look a bit complicated but bare with me!
The areas of this diagram we are interested are 3, 4 & 5.
Let’s start with 5. This is where the cortisone takes effect so it is actually working after the JAK enzyme activation (which is the itch process) has started. As said previously, effective but cortisone has some major long term side effects.
You will see at 3, cytokine release mentioned. A cytokine is like a chemical messenger. This is released by a particular activated white cell and activates the JAK enzyme system. I normally explain this like the enzyme has completed an electrical circuit. The closing of this circuit then triggers the inflammatory process leading to the itching.
With the understanding of this system, we can now “break the cycle” in 2 more places. We have a drug which binds with the receptor at 4, preventing the cytokine activating the itch cycle. This is a daily tablet.
There is also an even newer drug which eliminates the white cell that produces the cytokine, nipping the whole itch cycle in the bud so to speak. This is given as a monthly injection. As the only thing this white cell does is stimulate the itch cycle, there are no known side effects of this medication.
Obviously there are other factors to take into account like yeast and bacterial skin infections which have come about due to the skin (epidermal) damage so there is often more involved than just shutting down the itch cycle but we are currently having some great results treating itchy dogs.
If your dog has “the itches” or has a history of seasonal itching, it may be of benefit to the dogs skin and your sanity to call and make an appointment.