Pruritus treatment: nutrition in dogs with atopic dermatitis
Pruritus: nutritional treatment to reduce medication
While diet alone is not enough to control an acute atopic episode, it is very hard to manage the disease without a specific diet in place.
It is important to remember that atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic disease that cannot be cured. Continued administration of medication in AD usually has long-term side effects which will seriously affect the animal’s quality of life and may even call for treatment interruptions.
Daily preventive and maintenance treatment is therefore essential in attempts to improve the clinical signs, while also reducing medication.
To clarify the measures for managing this disease, the following diagram summarises the two pillars of AD treatment: the specific drug treatment and the support measures.
Atopic dermatitis in dogs. Diet as therapy – how does it work?
In AD, the protective mechanisms of the skin barrier are disrupted. This, along with the intense itching suffered by the dog, creates a vicious circle of itching–scratching–inflammation.
Therefore, we can appreciate that nutritional treatment is effective because it reduces the itch threshold.
With this in mind, the special support diet for atopic dermatitis is based on three key points:
- Protecting and improving skin barrier function
- Reducing inflammation
- Restricting allergens in the diet
Dogs with atopic skin need nutrients that strengthen the epidermal barrier, reduce inflammation and control flare-ups.
Some of the most notable ingredients in diets for AD are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, aloe vera gel and collagen peptides, all of which promote healing of the dermal and intestinal epithelia and reduce atopic relapses.
Allergens can be restricted through antigen-limiting diets using new sources of protein (trout, kangaroo, etc.), which are more suitable for long-term consumption than hypoallergenic dog food.
In conclusion, for vets, diet is a nonpharmacological tool that should be included in the treatment of dogs with atopic dermatitis as it makes an effective contribution in the management of their clinical signs. Furthermore, it offers owners a simple, affordable solution that improves their pet’s well-being.
“If you don’t adhere to the long-term integral treatment, that is, the specific therapy and support measures, you just end up treating acute outbreaks all the time.”