Allergic Skin Disease:
Shar-Pei seem to have a predisposition to allergic skin disease. This can be allergic inhalant dermatitis (“hay fever”), food allergies, contact allergies, flea bite hypersensitivity or any combination of these. An important distinction here is whether the itching, chewing and scratching is seasonal in nature. This usually coincides with the hay fever season in people. Diagnostics may include skin testing, RAST testing, elimination diets, and skin biopsies. Treatment for “hay fever” can include hyposensitization injections, use of fatty acid supplementation in conjunction with various antihistamines, and use of corticosteroids. Treatment for food allergies is elimination of the offending substance from the dog’s diet I currently use Hill’s Z/D Ultra™ as my hypoallergenic diet of choice with an initial 6-8 week trial period.
Many clients are concerned about the use of steroids for control of allergies in the dog. Certainly this is a major concern although the duration of steroid use in allergic dogs is usually several months only during the allergy season. The risk can also be reduced by using alternate day therapy. I’ve seen few dogs with long term consequences of steroid therapy. The most serious problem I’ve seen (rarely) is iatrogenic Cushing’s disease with muscle weakness, increased water consumption/urination, pot-bellied appearance, thin skin and comedomes (black heads). These are usually Shar-Pei on long-term steroids due to continual allergic disease or dogs on daily steroids to control their itching. I have also seen anterior cruciate ligament rupture in dogs on steroids – coincidental or due to steroid effect on the ligament? The most important thing has to be the quality of life of your dog during the time he is with you. Whatever works best and makes the pet comfortable is the main concern.
I often will advise a prednisolone trial in dogs with suspected allergic disease which has not responded to other therapies such as antibiotics, antihistamines, fatty acids, etc. This involves giving an initial prednisolone acetate injection followed up with a decreasing schedule of prednisolone tablets for 1-2 weeks. If this trial results in a dramatic decrease in scratching, chewing and licking then prednisolone should be continued on an alternate schedule. Certainly this trial is done under veterinary supervision and advice.