Q. I was told my 9-year-old shepherd has allergies, but I don’t know to what. He bites himself until fur comes off, and now he’s biting the pad of one of his paws so much that he limps. I thought it might be seasonal so I put him on antihistamine steroids last fall, which improved his condition. But once I stopped giving him pills the symptoms back.
A. Allergies are common in German Shepherd Dogs, and if they appear to be seasonal it is probably an allergy to something in the air (such as pollen or cottonseeds).
I would recommend working with your veterinarian to try pulse therapy, where your dog gets doses of steroids and antihistamines intermittently, but the steroids are only used for three weeks at a time, every three to four months or seasonally. Steroids should not be used on a full-time basis due to their many negative side effects.
Other supplements such as fatty acid capsules and nutritional supplements can sometimes help reduce the need for steroid medication. More frequent bathing can also help reduce the amounts of these allergens, since many of them come in through the skin.