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Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids, Essential Oils, & Atopic Dermatitis

Clinician's Brief (Capsule)


April 2014

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Canine atopic dermatitis (CAD)—associated with skin lesions and pruritus—is caused by a hypersensitivity response to food or environmental allergens (eg, pollens, molds, dust mites, insect antigens). Epidermal barrier defects are likely important in the pathogenesis of the disease. Oral polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) have recently been shown to affect the epidermal barrier, likely through changing epidermal lipid composition. PUFAs are also reported to have antiinflammatory and immunomodulating effects. The goal of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of a spot-on formulation of PUFAs and essential oils on patients with signs of CAD.

This trial included 48 client-owned dogs diagnosed with CAD; a spot-on of either placebo or PUFAs and essential oils was applied on the dorsal neck once weekly for 8 weeks. Before and after the study, pruritus scores were reported by owners and a validated lesion score (ie, CAD extent and severity index-03 [CADESI-03]) was determined by veterinarians.

Individual improvements in CADESI-03 and pruritus scores were significantly higher in the treatment group than in the placebo group, and more treated dogs showed ≥50% improvement in pruritus scores. Significantly more placebo-treated dogs deteriorated. No adverse effects were observed. Although PUFAs are typically less efficacious than glucocorticoids and cyclosporine for CAD, they offered a safe long-term alternative and appeared useful as an adjunctive therapy.


Evidence suggests that epidermal barrier defects may be associated with the pathogenesis of CAD. Despite this, there are few randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies investigating the efficacy of products that claim to improve barrier function. This study is the first to demonstrate clinical improvement in atopic dogs with a topical spot-on product. Although improvement was observed, complete remission was not. Thus, this product is likely to be an adjunct to other antiinflammatory or immunomodulatory treatments, such as allergen-specific immunotherapy.—William Oldenhoff, DVM


The effect of a spot-on formulation containing polyunsaturated fatty acids and essential oils on dogs with atopic dermatitis. Blaskovic M, Rosenkrantz W, Neuber A, et al. VET J 199:39-43, 2014.

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