Allergies in Pets

Pets, just like humans, can have allergies. More than 30% of all skin irritations in animals can be attributed to allergies. An allergic reaction is one in which an individual reacts to a normal substance in the environment. These substances are called allergens, and include pollens, molds, animal hair, house dust mites, fleas, foods and more. Allergens cause reactions through skin contact, inhalation, or ingestion.

The classic signs of an allergic animal begin with scratching, feet licking and chewing, ear problems, and face rubbing. As the allergies become worse, the chewing and scratching may lead to bacterial and yeast infections. Food allergies can also cause vomiting and diarrhea in addition to itching of the skin or ears.

Diagnosis of allergies involves ruling out mites, infections and other causes of itching. We have the ability to perform allergy testing by taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory for evaluation of 92 different allergens. The gold standard is an intradermal skin test, but this involves shaving a large patch of hair and administration of the test by a dermatologist.  Diagnosis and treament of food allergies- which is the number one cause of chronic or recurring ear infections- involves feeding a novel protein diet.  This means that if your pet has received chicken, beef or corn these ingredients need to be eliminated from it's diet.  Ninety percent of food allergies in pets are caused by the protein in the diet- ie chicken or beef- not a grain!!!!  Grain free diets are not novel protein diets.

Treatment for allergies involves avoiding the offending allergens. This is relatively easy to avoid once the allergen is known and is avoidable. Food allergies can be avoided by limited antigen or special prescription diets which prevent an allergic reaction. No treats or goodies can be given except those without the offending allergens.  The most common food allergens include chicken, beef, corn and dairy.  Fleas can be prevented with the use of prescription spot-ons such as Revolution or oral Simparica.

In most cases, avoidance of the allergen is not possible (trees, molds, house dust mites).  We have two great products for atopic (environmental) allergies.  Apoquel is a daily pill that blocks the dog's ability to feel the itching.  We also offer Cytopoint, and injection that works for 1-2 months that blocks the bodies response to allergens at the cell level. Steroids can be used for short term relief of symptoms, but prolonged use of steroids is not recommended due to the risks of diabetes, pancreatitis, demodectic mange, liver disease, infection, and muscle weakness.    Antihistamines, fatty acid supplements, and topical baths and sprays all help to control the underlying allergy and are safe to use on a regular basis. There are multiple antihistamines, and one may work better than any others, so please be patient until this is determined.

Ultimate treatment of allergies is allergy desensitization. Once your pet is allergy tested, allergy desensitization (injections or oral dops) can be used to build up tolerance to the offending allergens. This process takes 3-5 months to become effective, and is about 65-80% successful in decreasing allergy signs. 

Allergies in pets can be frustrating and require ongoing contact with the veterinarian. As you can see, there is no cure; we need to find which options work best for your pet. We can go over your pet's condition during a regular office visit and examination.

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