Does your pet have allergies? Whether your pet has a food allergy or an environmental allergy, here’s what every pet owner should know about allergies:
- The first signs may be to chew, bite, scratch or lick. Red skin and hair loss are common. Blackened and thickened skin that looks like elephant skin are symptoms that your pet has had uncontrolled allergies for a long time.
- In dogs, only about 5-15% of dogs with allergies are allergic to food. However, a food allergy since just changing the diet may dramatically improve your dog’s condition. Food allergies are more common in puppies and older dogs, but they can occur at any age. The most common allergens in a diet are from the protein source (chicken, beef, soy, eggs). You can’t tell for sure that your dog has a food allergy unless you put your dog on a strict 2-3 month food trial. During that time period, only a prescription commercial diet or prescribed home cooked diet would be fed.
- Grain allergies are extremely uncommon; less than 1% of food allergic animals are allergic to grain.
- Of dogs with allergies, 85% have environmental allergies which are caused by dust, dust mites, dander, grasses, molds, weeds, and/or trees. There is no known cure for environmental allergies and treatment will be for life.
- Allergy skin testing allows us to determine the exact cause for your pet’s itching and infections.
- Allergy testing results are used to formulate allergy shots or oral drops for your pet. The shots or drops are the only specific therapy for environmental allergies. They are extremely safe and do not reduce the immune system. However, they can take time to become effective.
- Today, we have many options for managing symptoms of allergies. These include Apoquel, Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapeutic (CADI), antihistamines, bathing, Atopica, and prednisone.
- The newest option for environmental allergies is Canine Atopic Dermatitis Immunotherapeutic (CADI). This is a safe injection that controls itching for 3-8 weeks in most dogs. This is a safe option with no expected side effects and is not a steroid.
- Infections from bacteria and yeast are common with allergies as the immune system is not responding properly to fight the organisms normally found on the skin. In addition, dogs that chew, bite, scratch, and lick disturb the top layer of skin that protects against infection. Licking and chewing can also lead to a warm moist environment, which bacteria and yeast thrive in. Signs of a bacterial infection include red and yellow bumps, scabs, scaling, hair loss and/or increased itching. Signs of a yeast infection include darkened, red, moist, oily, and/or increased itching.
- Allergic dogs also frequently develop ear infections. It is likely that the infections will recur unless the underlying allergy is addressed.
If you suspect your pet has allergies, contact your veterinarian right away for treatment options. If your veterinarian does not offer advanced dermatology services like allergy testing or food trials, ask for a referral to Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s board-certified dermatologist.