Topical therapy is an important—and in many cases essential—component of successfully managing allergic dermatitis in dogs.
When used as an adjunctive treatment for generalized disease, topical therapy often minimizes dependence on systemic medications
that may be deleterious to the patient's health. In addition, topical therapy may be more effective in treating localized
or regionalized pruritus.
The development of new products with improved active ingredients and delivery systems has made topical therapy even more effective.
The same active ingredients are often used in different delivery systems, such as shampoos, rinses, powders, lotions, sprays,
creams, emulsions, ointments, and gels. The advantages and disadvantages of these formulations vary, as do their cost, ease
of application, and efficacy.
Shampoos and leave-on products
Shampoo therapy is the cornerstone of the successful topical management of an allergic patient. Frequent bathing with the
correct product helps control pruritus by removing offending allergens and desensitizing and moisturizing the skin. Critical
factors affecting the efficacy of shampoo therapy include client compliance, contact time, frequency of use, and active ingredients.
Client compliance is the most important component of successful shampoo therapy. Practitioners should train themselves and
their technicians to educate clients about contact time and frequency of use to increase the success rate for allergic patients.
Practitioners must stress that effective shampoo therapy requires a minimum of 10 contact minutes before rinsing to allow
sufficient product interaction with the skin. Remember that the longest 10 minutes of a dog owner's life are the 10 minutes
spent lathering his dog in a bathtub!
It's also important to discuss frequency of shampoo therapy with owners. Although frequency generally depends on the specific
condition, shampooing once or twice weekly is usually necessary to successfully manage a pruritic patient. When practitioners
educate clients about why frequency of use and contact time are essential, compliance increases.
Table 1. Topical Antipruritic Ingredients and Products
In addition to shampoos, products that are left on the skin, such as lotions, creams, and sprays, may provide added advantages.
These products can often be used in conjunction with appropriate shampoo therapy. Most of the active ingredients in shampoos
are also available in these leave-on formulations. The main disadvantage of using these products is that they require direct
skin contact. Therefore, they are more beneficial in short-coated dogs or in areas where the hair can be clipped or parted
easily, such as the paws, axillae, inguina, and ventral abdomen.
Practitioners should familiarize themselves with several important ingredients of antipruritic products (see Table 1 for products containing these ingredients):
Colloidal oatmeal, fatty acids, urea, glycerin, and other moisturizers
help alleviate skin dryness through humectant properties. This subsequently allows for an increase in the pruritic threshold
of the skin.
Menthol, camphor, and thymol
act by substituting other sensations for the pruritus. A cooling sensation helps decrease pruritus and may also help increase
the pruritic threshold.
, a local anesthetic for skin nerve endings, may also have antipruritic properties that have not yet been completely determined.1 Studies have shown that pramoxine is safer than other topical anesthetics.1
is another local anesthetic that affects peripheral nerves and can be used safely in topical products.
, an antihistamine, can have mild antipruritic effects when administered topically. It has been shown to cross the epidermal
barrier to exert its antihistaminic effects.1