How Has Management of Canine Atopic Dermatitis Changed Over the Years?

November 25, 2016
American Veterinarian Editorial Staff

Valerie Fadok, DVM, PhD, DACVD, dermatologist in the Veterinary Specialty Team at Zoetis, discusses how the management of canine atopic dermatitis has changed over the years.

Valerie Fadok, DVM, PhD, DACVD, dermatologist in the Veterinary Specialty Team at Zoetis, discusses how the management of canine atopic dermatitis has changed over the years.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“Our changes in management of atopic dermatitis are a direct result of our understanding of how this disease is developing in the dog. We know the immune system is abnormal and we also know that the skin barrier is not intact. The skin of a dog with atopic dermatitis is more porous; it allows water to leak out and it allows allergens and infections to get in. As a result, most atopic dogs have kind of a dry, scaly skin and they may have infections. Now, when we’re treating this disease, we take what we call a multimodal approach; we try to change and control as many features as we can.

The first thing we do is we avoid any allergens we can avoid and practically speaking, that’s fleas and food triggers. We use allergy immunotherapy, an allergy vaccine we call them, to try to change the immune system. We find [that] when we get these dogs young, we can have a significant impact on the severity of the disease because the allergy vaccine prevents the disease from regressing. The third thing we do is we control infections, and we do that primarily by frequent bathing. One of the changes, I think, [from] when I was younger, we were told ‘Oh, don’t bathe your dog too often because it will ruin their skin,’ but the reality is, if they’re an allergic dog they need a lot of baths. Now, we have shampoos [that] are very gentle and they have lipids in them, things that help make that skin barrier better. We can fix the skin barrier by applying lipids to the skin, in the form of enriched shampoos or sprays or mousses or even spot ons and proper nutrition.

We’ve known for a long time that proper fatty acid balance is important. The fifth, and probably the most important thing, is to control the itch and inflammation, because if we don’t do that, then our clients get frustrated and they don’t have the patience to wait through the time it takes for an allergy vaccine to work.

I think we’re taking a much more comprehensive approach to treating this disease than we ever did before.”