Using topical therapies to manage dermatologic cases

Downtown Charlotte, NC

When choosing a product for treating skin conditions caused by allergies, there are a variety of available options and some key considerations

Management of allergy-associated skin conditions can include topical therapy as an adjunctive treatment in a multimodal care plan. Utilizing topical therapies may decrease medication dependency, while also increasing their efficacy, according to Julia Miller, DVM, DACVD, associate professor of dermatology at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York, and dermatologist at Animal Dermatology Group in Louisville, Kentucky.1,2

Applying topical treatment to a dog's wound

Photo: Yekatseryna/Adobe Stock

In her lecture on topical therapies for veterinary dermatology at the 2024 Fetch dvm360 conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, Miller provided an overview of the variety of options for treating skin conditions in pets with allergies. However, one of the key things to consider when choosing a topical product is the client’s ability to afford the treatment and their willingness to adhere to the prescribed care plan.1,2

Miller suggested having an open and honest conversation with the client to ascertain the best topical therapy for their pet and their adherence ability before providing a recommendation or prescription.1,2 “Whenever you’re choosing a product, there’s never one perfect product. You always want to think about the animal’s needs and the client's needs,” she said.

Miller’s lecture, sponsored by Zarasyl­, presented a variety of topical formulations such as shampoos, rinses, spot-ons, mousses, sprays, wipes, creams, ointments, gels and powders. She noted that the surface area being treated, the amount of hair in that area, and the pet’s type of lesion should all be considered when deciding which topical product to use.1,2

Product ingredients should also be considered for effectiveness in treating the pet’s condition as well as potential adverse effects. These ingredients may include glucocorticoids for inflammation and lipids for epidermal barrier support in allergy cases, as well as antimicrobials for bacterial or fungal skin infections.1,2

To treat and prevent inflammation, for example, Miller noted that topical therapies may be applied daily. However, she cautioned that higher steroid potency can be a problem and encouraged attendees to seek out products that contain active ingredients at safer levels such as a sprays with 1% hydrocortisone.1

Attendees were reminded that a product that works well for one pet may not be suitable for another animal, even if both are being treated for the same condition. One example shared by Miller was about a dog whose skin became dried out when a certain topical therapy was applied. However, most other patients she has treated with the same product have showed success without experiencing excessive dry skin.1


In concluding her talk, Miller emphasized choosing products for each patient that the owner will actively use.1 “Try to get the most value for your buck if you can. So, for example, a lot of shampoos have antimicrobial AND epidermal barrier. A lot of mousses and sprays are the same way,” Miller said.“Try to make things as easy as you possibly can.”

While consulting with clients, veterinary professionals should educate pet owners about the administration routine that best works for them and their animal. “Physically show them [how a treatment is administered],” she said. Miller also encouraged attendees to treat the pet more often if lesions develop, but also provide prevention treatment to limit the need for rechecks.1

For more coverage from Fetch Charlotte, visit our dedicated conference news page at


  1. Miller J. Spray, slather, dab or dip? Topical management tips to improve your skin successes. Presented at: Fetch dvm360 Conference; Charlotte, North Carolina; March 15-17, 2024.
  2. Miller J. Guidelines for topical therapy in allergic dogs and cats. dvm360 Flex. Accessed March 15, 2024.
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