The owners of itchy West Highland White Terriers with atopic dermatitis or other skin allergies are sometimes desperate to find help. These dogs are expensive to treat. Traditional veterinary therapy has involved corticosteroids and antibiotics. Side effects to the long term use of corticosteroids are very common in dogs.
Atopic Dermatitis is a genetically predisposed pruritic allergic skin disease. It is associated most commonly with IgE antibodies to environmental allergens such as pollen and dust mite and moulds and spores. It used to be thought was that the environmental allergens were inhaled. Recent breakthroughs in understanding the cause of atopy in West Highland White Terriers include the transdermal entry of environmental allergens……across the skin It is now recognised that allergens are ingested when licking, inhaled and that the allergens also cross the skin barrier which is sphingosine deficient due to barrier defects in the ceramide layer.
This important concept of skin barrier function has opened windows for natural treatment to be of huge benefit. Many of the soap based shampoos that are prescribed for this itchy skin condition are in fact detrimental because they wash away lipids. Natural or soap free shampoo is important because it prevents damage to the ceramide of the outer most skin barrier. There are some natural treatments that can help repair the faulty skin barrier as well.
Natural treatment also involves avoiding skin flare factors…..prevention of exposure. It is possible to minimise exposure to dust mites and pollen and moulds. It is possible to remove pollen from the skin using natural treatments. This helps alleviate the itch- scratch cycle. It is important to use the correct therapy or pyoderma of the skin will result. So many natural treatments dry and irritate the skin. Tea tree oil is a classic example.
Itchy West Highland Terriers that get long term corticosteroids may suffer from cushings disease, diabetes, liver disease, osteoporosis, immunosuppression or become infected with long bodied Demodex which causes a greasy back and discolouration as well as dermatitis.
A yeast called Malassezia is a common problem in the itchy west highland terrier with allergic skin disease. The Malassezia can be very itchy and if your westy does not respond to treatment prescribed by your vet Malassezia must be considered. This yeast infection is frequently not tested for and is overlooked.
Food allergy must also be considered if there has been a very poor response to therapy. Food allergies will respond poorly to treatment until the offending food is removed from the diet.
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