Allergies In Pets

Allergies in pets are caused by an over-reaction of the pets’ immune system (hypersensitivity) to environmental allergens. These allergens can include pollens, moulds, food, mites, dander and dust. Dogs and cats can also be intensely allergic to fleas, likely the saliva from a flea bite. Atopy is a form of allergy where pets inherit a defect in their skin, making it easy for the allergens to penetrate the skin.

Unlike people, allergies in dogs and cats are more likely to cause skin problems than upper respiratory problems. Allergies can develop at any age and are usually characterized by varying types and degrees of itching (pruritus). The itch these pets experience can be severe leading to significant self-trauma by the pet as well as secondary infection.

What are the most common signs of allergy in dogs?

  • Chewing of the feet
  • Rubbing of the face
  • Hind end “scooting”
  • Ear inflammation/infection
  • Scratching anywhere on body especially under the arms and on the belly
  • Dogs with flea allergy often lose hair over the tail head and are scratching and biting at this area as well.

What are the most common signs of allergy in cats?

  • Hair pulling
  • Inflamed areas on skin called “eosinophilic plaques”
  • Dry crusts on skin and loss of hair over tail head

Much less common signs of allergy in dogs in cats:

  • Discharge from nose, eyes or possibly asthma-like signs

Diagnosis
If you suspect your pet may suffer from allergies, it is important for your pet to have a full physical examination to make sure all other causes of itchy skin are considered and ruled out. Some examples of diagnoses that can mimic allergic skin disease in your pet include the presence of skin mites, fleas, fungal or bacterial infections or even autoimmune disease. Certain tests are needed to assist in determining if your pet has an allergy. These tests could include skin scrapings to check for mites, skin and ear cytology, cultures, allergy testing or in some cases, skin biopsy. The Markham Veterinary Clinic veterinarians will also take a full history of what you are seeing in your pet as well as when you are seeing these signs as some allergies only occur at certain times of the year(ie in late summer and fall when the weeds are pollinating.)
Food allergy is caused by chronic exposure to specific proteins in the food and can only be diagnosed through a proper food elimination diet devised or prescribed by the veterinarians. We will go through a full food history because the pet must be on a totally novel protein source without any other food for 8 to 12 weeks before it can be decided that the cause of the pets’ itchy problem is due to food.

Treatment
Unfortunately, as in people, there is no “cure” for allergies in pets. However, there are many strategies for control. Avoidance of the allergen is the most important strategy but only truly possible in the case of food and fleas. Other medications will include medications to reduce itch, vigorous year round flea prevention, antibiotics for any secondary skin infection and products to enhance the health of the skin itself ie fatty acids, products to repair the skin barrier. Successful treatment is viewed as a comfortable pet. However, as allergy is a chronic problem with the tendency to have periodic flare-ups, we will need to work together with you as a partner in achieving this success.

If you are concerned that your pet may be suffering from an allergy, call the veterinarians and staff of Markham Veterinary Clinic and to make an appointment today. 905 – 294 – 0522