Allergies are just as common in our pets as they are in people. The Pacific Northwest is full of allergens. Allergens may be environmental (pollen, grasses, weeds, dust), topical (detergent, fabrics, shampoos), parasitic (fleas, mites) or ingested (food, treats). Common signs of allergies in pets include itching; hair loss; red skin; licking paws; runny or red eyes; red, itchy ears and barbering in cats (excessive licking with hair loss).
Diagnosis of allergies can often be difficult. If there was a recent introduction of a specific new food or toy or bedding, it may be obvious, but more commonly the pet is displaying signs of allergies for a long time before presentation and it takes some detective work to determine the cause. In some cases, with food allergies, a food trial will be performed. This is when the pet is fed a hypoallergenic diet with no other treats or human foods. If the signs abate with the trial (usually takes at least 60 days for all signs of the allergy to abate) then a slow and careful reintroduction of other foods (usually one at a time) may be made. If signs of allergy develop again, then this food is permanently removed from the diet.
In cases of environmental allergens, it usually takes allergy testing to root out the cause. The gold standard in allergy testing is done by dermatologist with skin testing. A small amount of the allergen is injected in the skin and the size of the reaction (raised skin or wheal) to it is measured. This requires clipping the hair from the side of the pet, so the skin can be seen directly. Blood testing is also available but is not as reliable and many false positives and negatives may occur.
Treatment of allergies include removal of the allergen if possible, but in many cases this is not possible. Use of antihistamines, oral steroids, and immune modulating medications are available as treatments. Shampoos, topical and oral omega 3 fatty acids, and topical sprays with local anesthetic, steroid or antibiotics may also be used. In some cases, skin infection may occur because of the trauma to the skin and antibiotics will be necessary.
Allergies are frustrating for owners, pets and veterinarians. Consultation with veterinary dermatologists are often needed to determine and monitor the management plan.
Wilsonville Veterinary Clinic
9275 S.W. Barber St, Wilsonville, OR 97070