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Does Your Pet Have Allergies? Stop the Itch!

Author: Dr. Jacquelin Koenig

Does freshly cut grass or blooming spring flowers make your dog chew their feet and itch?  Is your pet suddenly digging at their ears and waking you up at night scratching while they are in your bed?  If so, then your pet could be trying to tell you something.  Your pet could be suffering from allergies and needs your help to find relief fast.


Anyone with an immune system has the potential to develop allergies, including our four legged friends.  Allergies develop when the immune system, which typically protects the body against harmful invaders, overreacts to innocent environmental proteins over time.  These proteins come from common triggers such as pollens, molds, flea saliva, dietary proteins or parasites including dust mites.


Animals typically suffer from allergic skin disease, which manifests as itching, ear infections, red skin, hair loss or chewing at feet or skin.  Allergies are unfortunately very common in our pets and can be frustrating to control if not managed properly.  The first important step in managing allergies is to identify the underlying cause.


There are 3 main causes of allergic skin disease in our pets

1. Flea allergies

2. Food allergies

3. Environmental allergies


Flea allergies are the most common cause of insect bite allergies and pets can develop severe reactions from just one flea bite.  Pets, especially cats, are skillful groomers and can quickly remove fleas from their skin.  Just because you do not see evidence of fleas on your pet does not mean that they are not present or living in the environment.  This is why it is important to use year round flea preventives even during colder months.


Food allergies are typically non-seasonal allergies, meaning that they can occur all year long and can develop in pets as early as 6 months of age.  Pets typically become allergic to the most common proteins found within food such as chicken, beef and soy but they can also become allergic to any diet that they have eaten extensively.  In order to diagnose food allergies, a strict food trial must be performed with a dietary protein that your pet has not eaten before or ideally a hydrolyzed diet.  The food trial lasts for 8-12 weeks and is performed using reliable prescription diets with the help of your veterinarian.


Environmental allergies can occur seasonally but can also occur year round depending on  the type of allergy.  Once flea and food allergies have been tested and ruled out, it is time to look for environmental causes.   A blood sample can be submitted to the lab which screens for over 100 different grasses,  pollens, molds, and mites.  Pets can also undergo a skin test, similar to people, where the allergens are injected under the skin and the skin is evaluated for a response.  Once the specific allergies are determined, then  allergy injections or oral liquid allergy drops can be formulated and administered to your pet to help decrease the unwanted overreaction to the proteins to which they are allergic.


Since allergies cause itchy skin in pets which is followed by persistent chewing and scratching, it will often lead to painful secondary skin and ear infections.  It is important to identify these early and treat them appropriately while working to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s condition.  This may require a combination of both topical treatments such as medicated shampoos and oral medications such as anti-inflammatory or antibiotics.  It may also be necessary to perform several other diagnostic tests to evaluate for skin mites or skin fungus such as ringworm.   Your pet can get fast relief with some of the new anti-itch medications that can be given orally or an injection that lasts for 4-8 weeks without the harmful side effects of traditional steroids.  No one wants to see their pet suffering from allergies so be sure to take action.


If your pet has been battling recurrent skin and ear infections your pet may have allergies. Please schedule an appointment with one of the knowledgeable veterinarians at Calvert Veterinary Center to have your pet evaluated and to discuss the best way to get your pet relief from allergies.  Our doctors have over 28 years of combined experience treating pets for all ailments, especially pets with allergies.  Call today for an appointment 410-360-PAWS (7297) or schedule online from our website .  Calvert Veterinary Center is conveniently located at 4100 Mountain Road and has been proudly serving the Pasadena community for over 14 years.

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