It's Allergy Season. Is Your Pet Suffering?

posted: by: Tammy Chastain DVM Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

The spring and summer months are extremely common times of the year for allergy issues to flare up in our pets.  This article is intended to help identify signs that a pet might be experiencing the discomfort that allergies can bring.  Below are a few types of allergies that our pets can experience as well as common treatment strategies we utilize to help make them more comfortable.  
Atopic Dermatitis:  Otherwise known as atopy, this type of allergy is an overactive immune system response to common substances in the environment such as molds, pollens, dusts, etc.  As opposed to people who commonly have "hay fever" type symptoms to environmental allergens, our pets tend to experience skin itchiness and inflammation.  Often signs will be focused around the feet and ear flaps, but may involve the entire body.  Signs you might observe include scratching, chewing or licking of the feet and/or body, rusty discoloration of the haircoat (due to pigmentation from the saliva), redness of the skin, and hair loss.  Secondary skin and ear infections, as well as reoccurring anal sac issues, are also common.  Cats may not scratch as much as they might just "overgroom" to the point of hair loss or breakage.  A unique indicator that a pet may have atopic dermatitis is the seasonality of the symptoms.  Most pets with this type of allergy are worst during certain seasons of the year.

Flea Allergy:  One of the most allergenic substances for many pets is flea saliva.  For some, it does not take more than a couple fleas to bite in order to trigger a significant allergic response.  Itching, again, is the most common sign.  Secondary skin infections frequently occur.  With a flea allergy the itching and skin lesions are often focused most intensely around the rump or near the base of the tail.  Our warmer times of the year tend to be when fleas are more active, but we can see flea issues throughout all seasons of the year.

A word about food allergies:  There are some pets that do have an allergy to certain ingredients in their food, but it is much less common than the above allergy types.  These pets tend to have consistent allergy signs throughout the year and different seasons.  Their itchiness is often focused around their face and rear end.  They may also have gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, etc.)  The protein source in the food is the most common trigger for the allergy.  For example, some pets are allergic to chicken or beef.

Allergy Treatment:  There are many tools we can use to help provide relief from the discomfort that allergies bring to our pets.  Much of the treatment is focused on addressing skin inflammation and itching.  Medications such as steroids, Apoquel, Cytopoint or cyclosporine are often used for these purposes.  Regular bathing with an oatmeal based or medicated shampoo under veterinary direction can often help.   It is important that all pets in the household are protected from fleas and other external parasites using a good quality preventive product consistently.  Hypoallergenic diet trials are used to rule out dietary allergies.  Your veterinarian can help identify secondary ear or skin infections that often also need to be addressed.  In the case of environmental allergies, testing can sometimes be performed to identify specific substances to which your pet is allergic.  Desensitization therapy can then be implemented in an attempt to help your pet build up a tolerance to these allergens and be less reactive to them.

When it comes to allergies, each patient is unique in the type of allergy they have as well as what treatment is most effective for them.  Unfortunately, allergies are chronic disease processes that often require life-long management.  Our doctors and staff are dedicated to identifying what works best for your pet in order to make them comfortable.