Sugar Land veterinarian, Dr. Brode recently attended a continuing education conference in San Antonio at the Southwestern Veterinary Symposium. It is a large meeting that provides a variety of educational topics to help practicing veterinarians learn about the latest research and products in veterinary medicine. One of the most exciting new medications that will be available soon is a new treatment option for allergies. Dogs can have several different types of allergies, including flea, food, and environmental. Flea allergies can usually be controlled with diligent use of flea control products and food allergies can be maintained with the appropriate diet. Environmental allergies have proven more difficult to control. Dogs that have an environmental allergy or atopy are frequently itchy and suffer from a variety of dermatologic issues. Mild cases of atopic dermatitis might be controlled with antihistamines and therapeutic baths. More severe cases often require the use of steroids during an allergy flare up. Steroids work very well to control itchiness but can have significant negative side effects with longer term use. Cyclosporine (Atopica) is another immunosuppressive drug that is helpful for some dogs with atopy. Immunotherapy (“allergy shot”) is an attempt to modify the patient’s immunologic response to environmental allergens. The hyposensitization process exposes a dog to diluted allergens over a period of time so that the patient will be less sensitive to the allergens when they are encountered again. Even with all these treatments for allergies, atopic dogs usually suffer from itchiness and have occasional allergy flare ups that require additional medications.
Atopy has traditionally been attributed to inhaled environmental allergens but the latest research indicates that dogs are exposed to allergens through the skin. The skin or epidermis has immune cells that trigger a response to a particular allergen. In dogs with atopy, the immune response tends to be exaggerated. Apoquel is a new drug that has received FDA approval for the control of atopic dermatitis in dogs. Apoquel works by selectively inhibiting the cytokines, which are protein messages, between cells. If specific messages that are involved in the epidermal inflammatory response are inhibited, then the excessive immune response to an allergen is reduced. The cytokines that are involved in itch and inflammation are specifically targeted by Apoquel. Laboratory and field studies have shown excellent safety and effectiveness in controlling itchiness associated with atopy. Apoquel is an exciting option for addressing allergies and we look forward to its arrival in early 2014.