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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Allergies, part 2

So your veterinarian thinks your dog or cat has allergies. What next? Allergy symptoms can be seasonal or non-seasonal in nature.  Many pet owners bring their pet to the vet every year at virtually the same time of year, for the same reason: they're itchy. In cases like this, the presumption is atopy or seasonal environmental allergies.
Year-round symptoms are often more frustrating. A dog or cat that is itchy regardless of the time of year could have environmental allergies to home allergens (dust, molds, even another pet) or have food allergies.
There is no sure way to diagnose allergies when examining a pet! A thorough history and certain diagnostic tests are vital - allergy is a diagnosis of exclusion. 
Itchy pets must have other conditions ruled out first. Fleas and flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) are crucial to rule out - flea control is of utmost importance in these pets because the bite of a single flea can cause severe skin lesions in pets with FAD ! Demodectic and Sarcoptic (mange) infections must be ruled out by performing skin scrapings, and skin cytology performed to rule out concurrent bacterial and fungal/yeast infections.  Fungal culture to rule out ringworm should be considered in some cases as well.  Skin biopsies should be considered in cases that are refractory to treatment, if the veterinarian sees lesions that have a mysterious appearance, or simply to let the clinician know that he/she is on the right path. Biopsies can support allergic skin disease but, sadly, they do not tell the clinician to what the pet is allergic. 
Allergies can cause severe suffering in very itchy pets. Not treating an itchy pet is not only cruel but can lead to severe life-threatening infections in the most severe cases.  Antihistamines and steroids (such as prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone, etc) are the foundation for the treatment of allergic skin disease in veterinary patients.  Other very effective allergy medications include Atopica® and Apoquel®.
Cats and dogs with suspected food allergy should be on a strict trial of a hydrolyzed protein (or newer anallergenic) diet for 12 weeks - let your vet select this diet!
Dogs and cats with allergies are often described by their pet owners as "quiet," "depressed," and "irritable," etc.  These pets are truly suffering. They return to their normal and happy selves once their allergy symptoms are controlled!
If you have an itchy pet, don't wait. Make an appointment with your veterinarian ASAP!

Cats with pruritus (itchiness) of the face and/or ears very often have underlying allergies. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Allergies in pets, part 1

After nearly 13 years of practice, I can unequivocally state that allergies (allergic skin disease) and its consequences are the commonest problems that veterinarians encounter in practice. And I've posted many times on this before! It is important, therefore I post again.
Dogs and cats can develop allergies to the same things to which humans are allergic: "natural" or environmental allergens (grasses, trees, pollens, dust, etc) and food.  Other allergic reactions exist, such as contact allergies and anaphylactic reactions, the latter being the most serious (e.g., allergies to bee stings and peanuts).
Atopy or atopic dermatitis is an allergy to an environmental allergy (inhaled and/or absorbed through skin).
The vast majority of dogs and cats with allergic skin disease are itchy.  Dogs and cats might chew and/or lick their paws more than usual, scratch their armpits and groin regions, have peri-anal itchiness, scratch their neck and ears more frequently, and scratch their faces.  The vast majority of ear infections can be explained by a primary allergy!  If your dog or cat "always has ear (and/or skin) infections," your vet should be talking to you about primary allergies likely being at the root of the problem. 
In simple terms, an allergy means that the body is not recognizing an allergen and is trying to get rid of it.  So rubbing your eyes and sneezing because of allergies is a "natural" way for the body to get rid of allergies. The problem arises when the symptoms are excessive for the inciting allergen, meaning that the sneezing and scratching are so excessive that the symptoms are much more harmful than the allergens.  Same thing goes for pets.  Mild scratching is perfectly acceptable, but itchiness that causes a dog to scratch herself until she bleeds is evidently not acceptable. The allergy is more harmful than medication to control it.
Stay tuned for part 2 on allergic skin disease.

Imagine the suffering from being so itchy. Think: allergies!