Anyone ever use a dog dermatologist for their pet?
October 13, 2004 1:22 PM   Subscribe

Anyone ever taken their dog to a dermatologist? My dog's allergic to stuff and has been for 5 years (he's on steroids). The vet says there's now a dermatologist in the city that takes blood/scrapings and then creates a vaccine. Apparently, it also costs a small fortune. Anyone ever tried this? What were the results?
posted by dobbs to Pets & Animals (6 answers total)
Well dobbs, you lucky lucky man, I've been dealing with this for the past couple of years...

I have a VERY allergic bulldog. I knew he was allergic after spending one night with him as a puppy. To give the breeder credit, she offered to take him back, but I am apparently too much of a sucker...

It has been really rough. Steroids alleviate the problem, but they also lower the animals immune system, which can lead to a skin infection that is impossible to get rid of, and I'm sure you are aware of that smell that comes from a dog with a skin infection. Also, over time steroids will stop being effective.

I had the blood test done on him, and it's basically a complete waste of money. The results are not accurate, and it is not a cheap test (around $300).

A couple of things you can do:
1. Get him on Canine z/d® ULTRA Allergen Free food. It's prescription only, and it's ridiculously expensive, but it is (apparently) the best food you can give a dog with allergies. Even if the animal is not allergic to any foods.
2. Antihistamines. You're going to go through every single brand, but eventually you will hit on the one that works. And when that happens, you will be ecstatic! These are relatively cheap, and you can get the dog off of the 'roids.
3. Malaseb. It's a wonderful shampoo for skin problems. Use it every other day. Seriously.
4. A skin test. The real one. I just had this done last week. It is NOT cheap, in fact, the bill was almost 1k when all was said and done. The point of the skin test is to find out exactly what the dog is allergic to, and to make up shots to give to him at home. So far, so good on this one. The awful part about the skin test is that you have to have the dog off of all medicine for a month beforehand. I'm sure you know what a dog with allergies looks like after a month with no medicine. Note that if they can manage to give the dog the test without knocking him out, you will save a couple hundred dollars.

I notice that you're in Toronto. Realize that these are all NYC prices, so they might be a little higher than what you will expect.

Good luck, and feel free to email me with any questions.
posted by hummus at 1:42 PM on October 13, 2004

My vet suggested it for my springer spaniel who was allergic to pretty much everything. I signed on for two separate but similar blood tests (ELISA), one for food allergens and one for environmental ones. From the results, the dermatologist made a serum for twice-weekly injections, which I gave faithfully for over a year. It didn't help much -- or at least not enough. It was expensive, but it just simply does cost a small fortune to keep an allergic-to-life-on-this-planet dog comfortable.

I do know people who have used the test results to change their dog's diet or environment, and the changes worked. It's not a completely worthless test, but it may give results you can't do much about (e.g. the species of grass your neighbors grow). I would do some serious research before I embarked on the allergy shots routine again, though.

Poor Kipper. Rest in peace, sweetguy. 1992-2002
posted by Alylex at 7:44 PM on October 13, 2004

What you'll probably want to do first is a RAST or ELISA test as Alylex suggests. Before you go to the (quite large) expense of skin testing, changing food around and everything else, I would discuss getting this with your vet/dematologist. They're blood tests, not perfect, but very useful, and can point the vet in the right direction for further diagnosis and treatment. Since it seems likely that your vet is not comfortable with allergies (some are, some aren't), you'd be better to investigate the costs of seeing the dermatologist or looking for another general practice vet who's "into" allergies (which might be much less expensive, but which might also take longer and cost more over the long term if the vet's not particularly good at it).

If your dog has a food allergy, there are many different diets on the market which can help, including ones you can make at home (some dogs with allergies respond very well to raw diets). I would strongly suggest you leave things as is with regard to diet until you've discussed things with a dematologist, this can become a "trying to hit a moving target" situation if you start changing things around before you've established what the problem is. If the problem is environmental, allergy shots are substantially preferable to long-term steroids if your dog's allergies are amenable to them, but some dogs need both.
posted by biscotti at 8:17 PM on October 13, 2004

some dogs with allergies respond very well to raw diets

"Dog food" is usually some really nasty stuff.

I had a dog with pretty bad skin problems (smelled bad, itchy / scratching enought to cause bare spots), a few weeks after I changed his diet to "real food" he stopped scratching holes in his fur and he smelled WAY better. I've fed all my dogs a home made diet since then (1997), and they haven't had any skin problems / allergies (and they don't smell "doggy" at all). Their main staple has been Doggie Oats from Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs & Cats .
posted by Sirius at 7:50 AM on October 14, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks all. Some more details:

My dog was on a BARF diet for the first 2 years of his life and was very healthy. He did get a seasonal rash which Vets said was like a person's hayfever. We never did anything for it--just waited it out each season.

Then, one day, he collapsed while walking down the street. He was rushed to the vet and xrays were performed to see if he had eaten something bad that had lodged itself inside. Nope. He was also dehydrated. They put him on IV overnight and the next day he was back to his old self... except he couldn't eat anything anymore.

No matter what food we tried, he would break out--smell really bad, get all red, scratch like hell, weight would rise and fall, etc.

One of my web clients was an organic dog food company and we worked with them to try and create a diet just for him. Over the next year, we tried everything, includng sweet potato, whitefish, venison, beef, chicken, rice, emu, rabbit... nothing lasted longer than a few months and then he'd break out again.

I took him to a holistic woman who is not a vet but a breeder. He was left there for a month where she detoxed him, got him on a different (home made) BARF diet that also included a powder that is, essentially, the enzymes a pancreas would create. She claimed he ate some sort of poison that killed his pancreas. That worked for about 11 months and then the evil skin problem came back worse. Since then, he's been on Z/D brand kibble (which I HATE giving him) and steroids.

I've read all the usual books (Pitcairn, Food Pets Die For, Nature of Animal Healing, etc.) and have tried every food imaginable.

To me, he's not allergic, but unable to process the food he eats. Yet each of the vets (he's been to seven in his life) all say "allergy" but none can say to what or why it happened after that day he passed out. (There is a dog park near my house and I believe he ate something--poison or drank from a puddle with antifreeze or oil or something in it.) It's really a shame as he's a great dog and outside of the one health thing, he's very happy.

Anyway, I'll mull over the tests and make a decision. Thanks for all your suggestions and shared experience.
posted by dobbs at 11:03 AM on October 14, 2004

Well, not to get into a "raw vs. kibble" debate here (since I've had that debate too many times), but there are pros and cons to both, raw is not a panacea and definitely does not suit all dogs or owners, and all commercial diets are not created equal (the difference between a Canidae or an Innova, with all human grade ingredients and high meat content, and a Purina or Iams, with by-products and tons of grain, is simply enormous - they are not comparable at all). The best food is the one your dog does best on. I also have some serious issues with the way raw feeding is presented by many of its proponents ("real food" being one of them), since they tend to ignore actual science and actual facts in favour of pushing their agenda. I have no issues with raw, and in fact my own dog gets raw occasionally, but I have a big problem with some of the reasons people give to support it, and some of the outright lies and/or wilful misunderstandings about facts many raw proponents espouse.

dobbs, this additional information is very interesting. The "killing the pancreas" nonsense is, well, nonsense, but dogs can and do suffer from pancreatic insufficiencies, and digestion issues, and raw often actually isn't the best choice for them (a home cooked diet often is). You might want to see an endocrinologist or internal medicine specialist. Since you're in Toronto, why not just call up Guelph and talk to them about this?
posted by biscotti at 11:13 AM on October 14, 2004

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