She has also been acting strange lately — she just sits and stares at nothing. Her eyes are always messed up with eye matter, and sometimes she acts like she doesn’t see that well. Could it be the eye matter that’s causing that?
One of the first questions I ask my clients, no matter what their reason for visiting me, is, “Do you use a flea preventive?” Unfortunately, one of the most common responses I receive is, “My pet doesn’t have fleas.” While that may be true, if you wait until you see fleas on your pet, it is too late. Once you see fleas, the fleas and flea eggs are in your house. In addition to just being irritated by flea bites, many dogs and cats are also allergic to them. A few bites can cause a significant allergic skin reaction. There are so many safe and effective options for flea prevention that there is no reason for pets to have fleas.
That being said, there are many causes of itchy skin other than fleas. If Temaril-P relieves your Shih Tzu’s itching, then her symptoms are likely due to some sort of allergy. She could be allergic to fleas, pollen, certain food ingredients or almost anything with which she comes into contact. It can be very challenging to determine just what the offender is. If something other than allergies were causing her to itch, like mites or ringworm, then any skin lesions would likely become worse after treatment with Temaril-P.
Temaril-P has been used for decades and is quite effective at managing itchy, allergic dogs. It is a combination of an antihistamine and a steroid. When your vet talks about using steroids in your pet, he or she is referring to medications like cortisone, not body-building steroids. The steroids prescribed by vets have many uses and are a great help to our pets. However, as with any drug, they must be used wisely, because they can have side effects. If your pet has been on Temaril-P for a long time, you should request some blood tests to check for side effects.
The basic treatment plan for allergies begins with avoiding the allergy-inducing substance, also called an allergen. If it turns out to be in the food, then it can be relatively easily avoided by feeding a prescription diet recommended by your vet. If she is allergic to something in the air, like pollen, then it becomes more difficult to avoid. Allergies cannot be cured, but they can be managed. The most common medications used are various steroids and antihistamines.
If you no longer want to use steroids like Temaril-P, there are options. I recommend a consult with a veterinary dermatologist. A dermatologist is best equipped to explore allergy testing, and other treatment options, such as immunosuppressive drugs, or hyposensitization. In hyposensitization, tiny amounts of the offending allergens are injected at regular intervals, like a vaccine. Allergies are an inappropriate response of the immune system. The system thinks the allergens are disease-causing invaders, like bacteria or viruses, and mounts a defense. The goal of hyposensitization therapy is to train the immune system to not react to harmless allergens.
The discharge from your dog’s eyes may be related to the allergies. It could also be due to an eye infection, or a syndrome we commonly call dry eye. You should definitely have your dog’s eyes examined by your vet, because infections and dry eye can lead to blindness if not treated. Until you can visit your vet, keep the eyes — and the area around the eyes — clean. The best way to accomplish this is with non-aerosol saline solution from the contact lens section in the drug store. Gently wash the eyes out several times a day until you can have them examined by your vet.
Your dog could already be suffering from some vision impairment, which would explain her symptoms of staring. This could also be a symptom of some senior dementia; however, I wouldn’t expect this at 8 years old. To help prevent and manage dementia, I recommend feeding antioxidant supplements like green tea. There are other supplements that may help your dog, like fatty acids from fish oils. They have been shown to help protect the skin and decrease itch. Allergies are managed by the body’s immune system, so keeping the immune system healthy with supplements such as reishi mushroom may also help alleviate some of the symptoms.
– Matt Smith, DVM
Ask a Vet is intended for informational purposes only. If your dog requires veterinary attention, you should take him to your vet or animal emergency clinic for an examination. Click here to find a veterinarian near you.
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PHOTO: Hi, I’m Sadie Shih Tzu