Continuation of Itchy Scratchy Blog. Because Allergies are so common and can present in a number of ways due to a number of causes we have a whole blog devoted to this topic. Hope everyone enjoys, and if you have any questions please give us a shout!
Allergies, allergies, allergies – Unfortunately allergies are quite common in pets, especially dogs. Rather than getting hay fever signs like people, their skin gets inflamed and itchy from allergens that are inhaled, ingested or contacted directly.
Food allergies – Symptoms can appear at any time in your pet’s life, even if she or he has been on the same diet for years. However, allergies to food often appear in young dogs, even those less than one year of age. The symptoms may wax and wane but are likely to be present year round. Itchy, inflamed skin is often in and around the ears, on the face, between the toes, in the armpits, and the groin region.
Secondary bacterial and/or yeast infections are common alongside the allergy symptoms and can worsen the itch factor significantly. Testing is available, either by intradermal needle tests or by a blood sample. A skin biopsy (small pieces of the skin removed, a stitch or two closes the small wound and the sample is sent to a lab to be examined under a microscope by a trained pathologist) can be done and can help rule out other causes of pruritis and give a general indication of allergic skin disease.
Beef and dairy are the most common food allergens in dogs, followed by chicken, eggs, soy, corn and wheat.
There are numerous other ingredients that can be the culprit causing your pet’s discomfort. The best method of testing for food allergies is by your pet’s response to a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet.
Commercially prepared diets are available as well as recipes for homemade hypoallergenic diets. We at Chinook Country Veterinary Clinic can provide you with commercial diets or recipes for nutritionally balanced homemade hypoallergenic diets. It is critical to the success of the food trial to ensure your pet does not get any treats, flavored medications, nutritional supplements not issued by your veterinarian, etc. during the trial period. Symptoms should significantly improve within 10-12 weeks on the hypoallergenic diet if it is to be effective. Additional food items can then be introduced one at a time to trial the response and if allergy symptoms are to result, they would most likely be seen within the next 7-10 days.
Allergies can be frustrating to treat. Obviously avoiding the offending food ingredients is essential but this can be more difficult than first expected with multiple family members (some that eat their meals in high chairs and love to toss tidbits to Fido!), visitors, caregivers, etc. involved in a pet’s life. There are many medicated shampoos, ear cleaners, nutritional supplements, anti-histamines, anti-inflammatory medications, antimicrobial medications and alternative medicine therapies that can be used alone or in combinations to help treat food allergy symptoms. It is recommended that you, as an owner, keep detailed records of what therapies help alleviate the symptoms so we can ultimately tailor a treatment plan most appropriate for your individual pet.
Inhaled allergens: Symptoms of allergies from inhaled substances, such as pollens, dust mites, weeds, grasses, mold, insects, dander, etc. etc. often appear in dogs between 1 and 3 years of age.It is uncommon in cats. In both species, it is felt that there is a genetic predisposition to this ailment.
Depending on what is causing the itch, symptoms are often seasonal. House dust mites may cause year round symptoms. The areas that are most often itchy are the feet, flanks, groin, axillae (armpits), face and ears. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections are also common and add to the itch factor. Testing is available through intradermal injections or blood tests. These tests may be recommended in more severe, stubborn cases to help give more pieces to the puzzle when trying to determine the cause of a pet’s itch. Skin biopsies can be helpful also for the same reasons as with food hypersensitivity.
Multiple therapies similar to food allergies are available and often a combination of them is used to control symptoms and minimize a pet’s discomfort. The fewer medications given orally to a pet the better so attempts at control are aimed at topical and nutritional treatments as much as possible. Rarely can the offending allergen be completely avoided. Hyposensitization shots (immunotherapy) can be tried in more severe cases. Allergy testing is first done to attempt to identify the allergens after which an injectable solution is made up. Injections are given to your allergic pet over the following months to a year before assessing if a positive response is noted.
In studies done, 60-75% of dogs getting immunotherapy show a good to excellent response. This is not a cure and relapses and itchy spells will occur throughout your pet’s life.
Contact allergens: These allergies are quite uncommon in dogs and cats. The skin may have a local allergic reaction to prolonged contact with such things as plants (eg. Grasses), carpet deodorizers, detergents, topical medications, natural fabrics, synthetic fabrics, concrete, plastic dishes, rubber chew toys, leather, rawhide, etc. etc. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections can accompany any allergic skin. Testing is often non-diagnostic but can be tried. Removal from the environment, even as drastic as being housed in a stainless steel kennel for 3-5 days and observing for significant improvement in the symptoms can be the most helpful diagnostic step.
Treatments are similar to other allergies and removal of the offending agent can result in a significant reduction in symptoms. Providing a barrier for the skin in the form of socks or a T-shirt can help. Bathing can also help minimize signs.
Conclusion: If you think that your pet may have an allergy, contact one of our vets here at the clinic and we can work with you to provide relief and a solution to your fur kid’s reactions!
Photos credits: http://thebullybreeds.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/What-do-you-need-to-know-about-allergy-free-dog-foods-500x413.jpg