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I have a golden retriever that will be four years old this coming September.  For the past year he has been constantly itching & biting at himself & its not fleas.  In addition, he chews at his paws & they are extremely red.  He has this smell to him that's not bad however it doesn't seem normal.  I have taken him to several vets & the most I have gotten out of this is him being put on steroids for some time & then he is weened off.  Although this does stop the itching & he eats like crazy when on the steroids, I feel like this is only band aiding the problem because as soon as he gets off the steroids he's right back to itching.  I took him to a pet allergy & dermatologist yesterday & they want to do an allergy test on him to see what is causing it.  According to the allergy & dermatologist doctor he is allergic to something in the environment & it's not a food issue.  They estimated it would be around $1000 to do this.  Unfortunately, I do not have the money right now to spend on that testing because I just had to have the transmission rebuilt in my van.  Obviously I love my dog & I do not want him to be unhappy & with his constant itching I know that is not comfortable.  I did find another doctor in my area that will draw blood & do an allergy test that way for $300 & from that I am told they can find out what he is allergic to.  I was just wondering if you can give me any insight on this with the golden retriever breed as I have heard this is quite common in this type of dog to develop allergies to the environment about the age of three or four years old.  Thanks in advance for your advice!

Answer
In Goldens, this is most likely atopic dermatitis, which is a hypersensitivity reaction to something in the environment.  Chewing on the feet is the most common sign of this condition. Testing is the only way to know what the allergen might be.  It could be several.  THen allergy shots or steroids are the treatment.  There is an ew way of treating allergies if your vet can get the drug called APOQUEL.  It is hard to get right now but it does not have the side effects of steroids and int is reasonable priced.

Another possibility is not to test, but to use something called RESPIT (REgionalized SPecific Immuno Therapy) which is an allergy desensitization oral spray that is made specifically for the most common allergens found in the area in which you live.  It is a very reasonably priced treatment that you do at home every day. Recent studies have shown good results with oral allergy therapy in both animals and in humans.   http://www.vetrespit.com/

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Dr. Louis N. Gotthelf

Expertise

Dermatology and ear diseases of dogs and cats

Experience

I am the author of "Small Animal Ear Diseases; An Illustrated Guide" published by W.B. Saunders. I have over 25 years of clinical experience with a special interest in dermatologic conditions and ear diseases.

Organizations
American Academy of Veterinary Dermatology

Publications
Veterinary Forum
Veterinary Medicine
Waltham Focus

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