I have a 9 year old Pit Bull mix and he has had issues with skin problems for almost 4 years. I adopted him from the pound when he was about a year old. Shortly after adopting him we had a benign tumor removed from one of his front legs. After that, it was smooth sailing until he was about 5 or 6 years old. While he was staying with my parents, he developed a staph infection. The vet prescribed him antibiotics and prednisone.
Ever since then, I have had issues with his skin. He gets lumps on and under his skin that become callous, scabby, and dry. The spots have, at times, gotten infected. The skin on his belly between his thighs becomes "loose" and saggy, but bright red and dry. He will lick it constantly when he has a flare up. He also scratches his eyes quite frequently to the point that his left eye has a permanent, hairless scar on the inner corner. In addition, he licks and chews his paws constantly. In between his paw pads the hair and skin appears to be a really deep red color. His licking and chewing is to the point that his pads are pink. His symptoms align with Cushing's Disease, in my opinion, but the three vets that I have taken him to have never mentioned it or taken into account what I mentioned. The first vet continued to prescribe him prednisone and said that he was simply neurotic. The next vet prescribed him prednisone and gave him a cortisone shot, saying the dog was allergic to carpet and I either needed to get rid of the carpet or the dog. The last vet that I took him to was the most helpful, but still we have yet to find a fix. He did a blood test and the dog's liver count was extremely high and his thyroid extremely low. The vet said he wanted to get the dog off prednisone because he believed it was doing harm. He also prescribed the dog cyclosporin, an antibiotic for some skin infections, and an anti-fungal for a short period of time. Taking him off of the prednisone still has yet to happen.
Whenever we try, his itchiness increases. So, as of right now he is taking about 5 milligrams every other day along with 1 cyclosporin pill everyday. I am really trying to eliminate the prednisone, but it's proving to be a process. I am at a loss for what to do. I have tried to feed him different foods to try a natural approach. I have
introduced a kelp (and other nutrients) supplement that I have been adding to his food on a daily basis. This seems to help a little.
I also had him on wheatgrass which tends to also improve things. Other than that, I am not sure what to do. Even if its just something that targets one of the issues, such as licking/chewing his paws raw.
Any advice would be helpful and graciously accepted.
Vet Suggestions regarding an unanswered dog skin problem
Your dog is awfully lucky to have an owner who is as concerned and diligent as you!
I like the approach that your last veterinarian is taking. I too suspect that your dog’s high liver values have developed because of the long-term use of prednisone. The same may be true of the low thyroid level, but since hypothyroidism can cause skin problems, it might be worth running a full thyroid panel to make sure that this is not something that needs to be addressed directly.
Keep talking with this veterinarian. Let him know that you have been unable to get your dog completely off of the prednisone so that he can stay on top of the situation. It sounds like all of your vets have been thinking that your dog has allergies, which is certainly a possibility, but you need to make sure that all other potential dog skin problems have been ruled out.
All skin infections (both fungal and bacterial) need to be treated aggressively and completely eliminated since both the prednisone and cyclosporine make it harder for your dog’s body to do that.
If your dog were my patient, I’d want to run a skin scraping to look for mites, skin cytology to evaluate for infection, and a fungal culture to rule out ring worm. I would also probably put your dog on Revolution to treat for some of the parasites that can be difficult to diagnose with a skin scraping and maybe even consider skin biopsies to make sure I’m not missing anything.
If dog skin allergies are the diagnosis, I’d recommend a strict food trial (e.g., 3 months of feeding absolutely nothing but a prescription novel ingredient diet like duck and potato or a hydrolyzed diet like Purina HA or Hill’s z/d) to rule out a food allergy.
For environmental triggers like pollen, mold, and dust mites, I’d continue the cyclosporine and add weekly baths to remove allergens from your dog’s coat, a topical product like Dermoscent to improve the skin barrier, and/or nutritional supplements (e.g., omega 3 fatty acids) that reduce inflammation and itching.