UPDATE: For anyone interested!
Well, I've come to the conclusion that Roxy's atopic dermatitis is seasonal. Thanks to this thread I can look back and see what was happening and I see very clearly that Roxy's skin troubles start to show up in September and wane mid-late October. She also has a mild bout in the spring just after the snow has finished melting. Roxy is currently in a bout of "hives" and has been for the last 3 weeks or so. We seem to be over the hump now though.
3 things that have been miracle lifesavers for Roxy:
- Earth Bath Tee Tree Oil & Aloe Shampoo (weekly baths when irritated)
- Apple Cider Vinegar mixed 50/50 with water sprayed on feet, belly, genital area (daily when irritated)
- McKillip's Solution Ear Cleaner (daily when irritated)
Our (holistic) vet has suggested to not
do allergy testing. She said in her experience, dogs with atopic dermatitis have test results that essentially read "allergic to everything", and particularly outdoor allergens. She said there is no point running around trying to bubble wrap the whole world to protect Roxy from every possible allergen. Our vet did recommend a few different supplements to try to help, but so far they haven't made an obvious difference. We also tried Benedryl even though our vet said it only works for 30% of dogs, and Roxy is not in that 30% of course! She suggested the raw diet for Roxy which she's been on for two years now, keep her bedding clean, give her frequent baths with gentle shampoo, and treat the symptoms as they come up. So far this has been a good method. Since atopic dermatitis often becomes worse as the dog ages, we are holding off on medicating her until absolutely necessary. There are definitely a few weeks of the year where Roxy is really, really itchy, but I think the side effects of allergy drugs (Atopica or steroids) is not worth it at this point. Roxy is definitely on the "mild" side of the scale this disease can often take. I have my fingers crossed that Roxy is one of the dogs whose allergies do not progress as she ages - so far so good.
A layman's read: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/dogs-atop...osis-treatment
A veterinary paper: http://veterinaryrecord.bmj.com/content/172/8/201.full