Health & Medicine

See Spot Itch

Courtesy of Douglas Deboer

And see Spot stop itching, thanks to a new method to ease dog allergies.

In dogs, allergies to dust, pollen, and mold cause itchy skin inflammation. One treatment is familiar to people suffering these allergies: daily shots to reduce the allergic reaction.

Dogs are not always fond of regular injections. It would be much nicer if somebody would show that a tasty liquid works just as well. And that’s what Douglas DeBoer, a professor of dermatology at the School of Veterinary Medicine, has done, with major assistance from two alumni of the School of Medicine and Public Health.

In tests on 217 allergic dogs in Wisconsin, DeBoer found that placing allergy drops under a dog’s tongue was just as effective as allergy injections. Sixty percent of the dogs improved significantly, about as many as would benefit from shots. Intriguingly, the drops even helped some dogs that did not benefit from shots.

Both shots and drops for treating allergies are old technology, but shots are more common in the United States. In the 1960s, David Morris MD’54, a physician in La Crosse, Wisconsin, began using drops with farmers who had severe mold allergies, but had experienced severe aching and swelling from allergy shots. In 2006, his daughter, Mary Morris MD’83, tested allergy drops on what she calls a “poor little golden retriever that was losing most of its coat, scratching uncontrollably.”

The drops were successful, and Mary Morris contacted DeBoer, a respected veterinary dermatologist. “He was extremely skeptical, and he basically told me, ‘No,’ ” she says. “But much to his surprise, it actually worked.”

And what do the dogs think? “The drops have a slightly sweet flavor,” DeBoer says. “Owners say their dogs run toward them when they hear the bottle being opened. With the needle, they learn to run away.”

Published in the Winter 2012 issue


  • Mary Jo November 21, 2012

    A friend passed this article to me. Thank you! Thank you! I have a dog that has allergies, she has to get 2 shots a week and is also on allergy meds. Immediately after I saw this, I called the Vet School and got her an appointment. Since we’re between regular vets, I’d likely not have heard of this new allergy approach if not for this article.

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