Does your dog wake you up at night licking their feet or scratching? Does your cat have daily sneezing episodes or intermittent vomiting? Well, these are just a few of the symptoms your pet may have as an allergy sufferer. Pet allergies are common but frustrating for pets and for pet owners. Unfortunately, no quick fix exist and making a diagnosis can take several vet visits and tests to get to the final diagnosis. It is up to veterinarians to have good communication with pet parents and it is important for the pet parent to be mindful that often allergies are not cured, but managed.
Pet allergies cover a wide range of symptoms. Dogs often are foot lickers, head shakers, belly scratchers, bottom scooters and/or face rubbers. Cats can have small scabs around their necks and head, bald bellies, vomiting, coughing, and/or chronically sneezing. The underlying cause of the symptoms can be hard to uncover and require careful investigation. Veterinarians can help uncover the cause of your pets allergies thus leading to a happier pet and pet parents.
The top three causes of pet allergies includes parasites, food allergies, and atopic dermatitis.
The most common cause of itchy skin is still the flea. If your pet has a lot of fleas, you’ll find them. However, many pets that have a flea allergy dermatitis have no evidence of fleas on them at all. Pets can be so sensitive to flea saliva that only 1-2 fleas have to bite to ignite the skin to be itchy, leaving you totally confused and frustrated. Once the scratching starts, secondary skin infections can occur and cause the pet to remain itchy. One surprise to indoor cat owners is that fleas are often the cause of their cats itchiness. Indoor cats occasional escape even for a couple minutes and can pick up a flea, indoor cats often have a dog companion that a flea may hitch a ride indoors on, or fleas can get through some screened-in porches or windows. So the first thing an owner with an itchy pet should be doing is ensuring that the pet has been treated with a safe and effective flea control and repeating it as directed, often every 30 days. All the pets in the household should be treated with effective flea control to avoid infestation.
After flea allergy dermatitis has been ruled out, veterinarians usually move onto food allergy or environmental allergy. Food allergy patients are typically younger and some will have intermittent stomach upset or softer stools. Food allergies often are associated with recurrent ear infections starting early in life. Cats with food allergies will intermittently vomit. Remember pets are not allergic to specific diets but rather ingredients in the diet. If you ask around, everyone seems to be an expert on diets for pets. An over-the-counter hypoallergenic diet recommended by a well intentioned, local pet store employee is not typically going to improve the problem. Recent studies have shown that over-the-counter diets claiming to have specific or limited ingredients, when tested, actually had several other unlisted proteins and carbohydrates. This can lead to a worse response to the food and pet owners believing their pet may not have a food allergy when they still may. A pet owner that is concerned that their pet may have a food allergy needs to work with their veterinarian to select the correct diet and go through a monitored food trial to determine if this is the cause of your pets allergy symptoms.
Grass pollen and molds
Atopic Dermatitis is an itchy skin disease associated with environmental allergens, such as pollens and molds. Atopic dermatitis is commonly diagnosed based on a thorough history and elimination of parasites. As more studies are conducted, vets are finding a higher percentage of atopic patients also have food allergies. So some itchy pets may need a hypoallergenic diet as well as atopic dermatitis management.
Management of atopic dermatitis often includes therapeutic shampoos and adding fish oils to the diet that contain a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids and EPA. Antihistamines may help some mild allergy sufferers but these meds can sometimes be too weak. New medications (some new in the past 2 years) have revolutionized control of allergies. They include Atopica, oral allergy serums, and Apoquel. In many cases, these medications have worked wonders for pets.
Don’t let your pet suffer from long term allergies. Please contact your veterinarian, or schedule a consultation at Blue Oasis Pet Hospital if you are frustrated with her pet’s allergies and need better control. You’re not alone in this, and your pet can live a healthier and happier life.