Allergies in Dogs and Cats
by Glenda Wall, D.V.M.
Our canine and feline friends unfortunately often experience the dreaded allergy season, just like we do. However, symptoms are usually quite different from ours. Allergies in dogs and cats cause them to become very itchy and uncomfortable with secondary skin infections, hair loss, redness of skin, and even “hot spots” of rawness, bleeding, and scabbing.
So how do you know if your pet is just “itchy,” or really has allergies? Well, your veterinarian will do an examination of the skin and get a complete history from you and will make that determination. Skin tests may be required to identify predisposing factors, and allergy testing may be performed as well.
What Can Our Pets Be Allergic To???
*Common environmental allergens
Tree, grass, and weed pollens
House dust mites, storage food mites
Flea saliva from flea bites
Rubber and plastics
If a food allergy is suspected, the only “test” to prove it is to feed your pet a hydrolyzed hypoallergenic diet for 8-12 weeks with NO other food or treat source EXCEPT a hypoallergenic variety. If symptoms of itchiness stop, then the diagnosis is confirmed. It is important to note that a simple change of food from one brand to another, or one flavor to another, will not rule out a food allergy. Pets develop an allergic reaction to different allergens (proteins, for example) over a relatively long period of time, and the same allergens are likely in many different pet foods on the market.
If a diagnosis of atopy or skin allergy is suspected, treatment is designed on an individual basis and depends on the severity of symptoms and whether complicating factors exist such as the existence of secondary bacterial or fungal skin infections. Our doctors may recommend symptomatic treatment, which includes corticosteroid or antihistamine drugs, antibiotics, flea control products, and special bathing plans, or treatment to actually stop the allergic reaction. This involves having the pet begin a desensitization protocol with oral or injectable allergy “vaccine”, based on the pet’s allergy testing results. http://www.heska.com/Products/ALLERCEPT/Allercept-Drops.aspx