problems, particularly itchy skin problems, can be quite
frustrating to deal with, both as a caretaker trying to
help our companion, and as a veterinarian with the same
skin in our companions is a common presentation we see
in the practice of veterinary medicine. Alice has
Pepper, a 4-year-old female West Highland white terrier
that has been licking and chewing her feet for several
months. She has been treated with cortisone in the past,
which brings palliative relief, but itís only
transient. Within a few days of stopping the cortisone
tablets, Pepper begins again to assault her feet. Alice
is very frustrated as is, I suspect, Pepper. Alice is
also concerned about the use of cortisone.
is no question that these itchy skin conditions can be
both frustrating and elusive to diagnose. Logically one
might ask why not just continue to use cortisone?
Unfortunately, long-term cortisone use can cause
problems for our companions. Cortisone is a naturally
occurring substance within the body produced by the
adrenal glands. It is an extremely important compound
for proper body function, and without it, death will
occur. We have been able to give excess cortisone since
the late 1930s and have been doing so for many different
disease processes. With its initial discovery and use,
it was thought that cortisone was a miracle drug for its
ability to bring relief for many ailments. This however,
did not turn out to be the case; soon after its regular
use, problems began to occur.
animals, side effects with short-term use of cortisone
usually include increased thirst and resulting increased
urination, increased appetite, panting and sometimes
restlessness. The effects are transient and cease once
the medication is stopped. Long-term use can lead to
more serious side effects, including problems with the
immune system and the liver, as well as weakening of
muscle and bone.
Pepperís case, we need to figure out the underlying
reason that she chews her feet and hopefully, with
diagnosis in hand, we can treat the actual disease and
not just the symptoms. Some of the possibilities that
might be considered include allergies (both inhaled and
from food), mange, infection of the skin and autoimmune
of the inhaled variety in dogs can lead to itchy skin.
The key to working with these conditions is trying to
figure out whatís causing the allergy. If we find one
or two offending agents through allergy testing, it can
sometimes be possible to eliminate them from the dogís
environment. If there are many involved allergens,
hypo-sensitization should be considered. This is
accomplished by giving injections to try to desensitize
the patientís immune system to the allergens so they
do not have an intense type of allergic response
allergies are sometimes tough to figure out. But a trial
of a truly hypoallergenic diet for eight to 10 weeks
with no other foods can help to rule out a food allergy
as the cause for the skin problem. If there is a food
allergy, the skin problem should resolve over time on
the special diet.
is the name we give to a parasitic skin disease caused
by tiny "bugs" that burrow into the skin and
cause irritation. The feet can be a target area for one
type of mange called scabies. The good news about this
disease is it can be cured.
of the skin on the feet can be caused by bacteria or
yeast. Either condition is treatable, albeit with
skin disease is a condition where the bodyís own
immune system attacks itself causing sometimes severe
inflammation and irritation. These disorders are
treatable; however, curing them can be difficult.
needs a correct diagnosis for her itchy feet problem.
Then, with the proper treatment, hopefully with reduced
or eliminated use of cortisone, her comfort can be
restored, not to mention Aliceís peace of mind.