The Safe “Allergy Shot”
Author: Dr. Mike Andress
Cytopoint® is an injectable medication that can be given to dogs every four to eight weeks for allergy control. One of the most common reasons that people seek veterinary care is to help alleviate their dog’s suffering from skin allergies. These dogs are incredibly itchy. They will lick their paws, scratch their ears and sides; leading to hair loss, red and inflamed skin, and painful sores. These patients can be very uncomfortable. Allergies are caused by the immune system’s overreaction to substances that would have limited effects on a normal dog. These substances include food, flea bites, pollens, and molds. To simplify things, allergies in dogs can be divided into three general categories: food allergies, flea bite allergies and atopy or environmental allergies. It is important to partner with your veterinarian to help determine which of these conditions are affecting your dog.
If atopic dermatitis (environmental allergies) is diagnosed, the skin is itchy and inflamed due to exposure to small environmental particles, called allergens. These allergens include plant pollens, molds and even house dust mites. Allergens trigger an inappropriate immune response in some dogs starting a cascade of events that result in compounds being released that cause intense itchiness at the skin level. Atopic dermatitis is a major cause of skin allergies in dogs. It can be seasonal or year round. We are generally unable to remove all these allergens from our pet’s environment.
The treatment of atopic dermatitis centers on controlling the body’s immune system. Prednisone (cortisone) has been the mainstay of treatment for decades. This can be acceptable for a short term allergy flare up. Unfortunately, this medication does have side effects which can be life altering if it is used for long periods of time. Apoquel® is similar to prednisone in that it blocks part of the immune system’s inflammatory pathway. Apoquel® is considered safer than long term prednisone use for treatment of allergies. Skin allergy testing is also available for dogs. After the results are obtained, a vaccine is formulated which is usually administered by mouth. It may take months to see a response, but the vaccine makes the body less reactive to these allergens. This can be an effective tool in managing allergies.
Cytopoint® is an injectable antibody that targets one of the itch producing compounds in dogs. It is able to bind this itch compound, making it inactive so that the itch cycle is stopped. Recent data suggests that most dogs will respond favorably with limited side effects. Since this medication targets only a very specific part of the “itch” pathway, there is minimal impact on normal immune function. Cytopoint® is unique in that there is no longer a need to give daily pills by mouth. This is an injection administered in your veterinarian’s office. Veterinarians are impressed by the product’s low chance of side effects. Long term studies of Cytopoint® are ongoing, but currently its future appears bright. Skin allergies are extremely common in dogs and these symptoms are uncomfortable. It is important to team up with your veterinarian to determine the best treatment for your dog. It is exciting that this product has provided so many dogs relief from skin allergies without troublesome side effects.