It has been a life-long battle; the itching, the scratching, the discomfort, the washes, diet trials, medications, side effects, sleepless nights… sounding familiar? This was the all-too-common story of atopic (allergic) dermatitis for poor Isaac and his mum.
Up until very recently, there has been very little in the way of effective treatments for atopic dermatitis, where a stringent combination approach of topical washes, dietary management and usually medication are often the key to keeping puppers mostly itch-free. Allergy testing & vaccine creation against triggers has typically been the best option when weighing up specificity of treatment, antibiotic resistance and side effects of medication. However, it requires a trip to the specialist with unfortunately a hefty price tag, and can a long wait to see some relief. Isaac’s journey in fact took him to the dermatology specialist years ago for assessment but isolated allergy vaccine therapy was not pursued. For cats and other pets, this remains the best option.
What is an allergy?
Allergies are (in a very simplified way) an over-reaction of the immune system to non-self triggers, such as food, plants, or pollen. Most of the time, our bodies clear or process the non-self molecules in an ordinary way. With allergies, the body’s response is too intense and creates an illness or a reaction.
In Isaac’s case, his body would detect pollens, flea saliva and other natural causes and the immune system would release too many white cells with a lot of histamine, creating the sensation of itching. Poor Isaac would itch like crazy until he was missing fur, getting skin infections and driving everyone crazy!
The degree or intensity of over-reaction depends on the individual, how many times they have been exposed and whether other factors may be contributing such as nutritional support or medication. Allergy vaccines would provide the molecules to help block over-reaction to known allergens, but it is highly specific.
Sounds like Isaac was awfully uncomfortable; what changed?
In our wonderful world of modern medicine, we come to understand biological processes in greater detail by the minute. Instead of targeting the incredibly complex immune system with a specialised vaccine or use an immune-suppressing steroid medication that can make your pet sick, there is now a new therapy for dogs called Cytopoint that targets the sensation of itch. It is a protein injection given every 4-8 weeks; being a protein and not a drug, Cytopoint carries far less risk of side effects, doesn’t suppress the immune system and won’t interact with other drugs!
By stopping the chain reaction of histamine triggering nerves that alert the brain to an itch, Cytopoint has the benefits of allergy vaccines without having to be so specific. Allergy vaccines are as unique as a lock and key; in comparison, Cytopoint has walked around the side of the house and found the patio door open.
That means many different dogs, with many different triggers, can benefit from one therapy.
Within days of his first injection, Isaac’s itchiness dropped so much he no longer needed his medication and his mum is overjoyed with the results. Isaac is not ‘cured’, and we will still need to figure out what supportive adjuncts he may still need (such as nutritional support or antibacterial shampoos), but Isaac is now free of his immune suppressing drugs and gets to visit his fear-free mates at Manningham Vet every month.
** Please note each individual pet is different, and what works for some pets, may not work for others. There are many treatable conditions that can cause itching, so it is important not to presume allergies right away. Your veterinary team are still your best assets to investigating your pet’s unique condition and help tailor your pet’s treatment to achieve the best results possible.