You pride yourself on providing exceptional care for your pet. You asked Dr. Google about your pet’s signs, and you believe your pet has an allergy. However, you are overwhelmed and confused by the massive amount of information you found on your search. The team at Millbrae Pet Hospital wants to provide information that will help simplify the complex subject of allergies in pets.

A pet’s most common response to an allergen is excessively itchy skin. They will scratch, rub, chew, and lick incessantly. Their face, ears, and feet are the most common problematic areas, but their entire body can be affected. The constant grooming can lead to self-inflicted issues such as hair loss and skin abrasions. Secondary skin and ear infections caused by bacteria or yeast are also common. Pet hypersensitivities are caused by fleas, environmental allergens, and ingredients in their food.

Clarifying the effect of flea allergies on your pet

Flea allergies are more accurately called flea bite allergies, because your pet is actually allergic to the saliva that the flea releases into your pet’s skin when they bite. One tiny flea is enough to cause a significant allergic reaction. Dogs commonly develop crusty skin lesions at the base of their tail, lower back, and inner thighs. Cats exhibit similar lesions on their face, neck, and back. 

  • Diagnosis If you examine your pet and do not find a flea, this does not rule out a flea bite allergy. Some pets excessively groom to the point they remove all fleas from their body. You must also inspect your pet’s bedding for fleas, flea eggs, and flea droppings. If your pet is excessively itchy and you find fleas on their body or in their bedding, they are likely suffering from a flea bite allergy.
  • Treatment All fleas must be eradicated before your pet’s signs can be alleviated. 
    • You will need to eliminate the fleas from your pet’s coat using medicated shampoos and flea combs. Several bathing sessions may be required before they are all removed. 
    • You also must exterminate all fleas from your home. 
    • You will need to provide a continuous year-round flea preventive to prevent recurrence.

Elucidating how environmental allergies affect your pet

Your pet may be reacting to environmental elements such as pollen, mold, dust mites, or pet dander. The appropriate name for environmental allergies when they affect pets is atopic dermatitis. 

  • Diagnosis Allergy testing can determine the element in your pet’s environment that is causing a reaction. Blood testing is available, but tends to be unreliable. Intradermal testing is considered the best way to pinpoint the offending agent. A small dose of the suspected allergen is injected into your pet’s skin, and if the area becomes red and swollen, your pet is allergic to that agent. 
  • Treatment Atopic dermatitis has no cure, and your pet will require lifelong veterinary care to prevent recurrence. However, several methods can help alleviate your pet’s itchiness, and our team at Millbrae Pet Hospital can help you decide which products are right for your pet. The methods include:
    • Bathing your pet frequently to calm their irritated skin and remove allergens from their coat
    • Using steroids in the initial stages to calm extreme inflammation, but not long-term, because steroids can suppress your pet’s immune system and cause dangerous side effects 
    • Administering non-steroidal anti-itch medications, which are available for long-term use. 
    • Hyposensitization therapy often offers the most benefit, but can take up to six months to relieve your pet’s itchiness. The offending allergen is injected into your pet’s skin in gradually increasing doses to help desensitize them. 

Illuminating how food allergies can affect your pet

Proteins in your pet’s food cause the most allergic reactions, but carbohydrates and preservatives may also be problematic. Pet’s suffering from a food allergy may exhibit vomiting and diarrhea as well as, or instead of, itchy skin. The most common culprits are beef, dairy, chicken, and soy. Most pets are allergic to more than one ingredient.

Diagnosis and treatment are accomplished through switching to a novel diet. Your pet must undergo a strict food trial for 10 to 12 weeks, during which their diet will consist of food ingredients they have never eaten before, such as venison, duck, buffalo, or kangaroo. Another food trial option is a hydrolyzed diet, which includes proteins broken down to small fragments the body does not recognize as a threat. During the trial, your pet must not eat treats or flavored medications that contain the prohibited ingredients. Once your pet’s signs have resolved, their previous diet’s ingredients are gradually reintroduced to determine the offending substance.

You never want to see your pet suffer. Knowing the facts about pet allergies will allow you to get your pet the help they need to alleviate their signs. Do not hesitate to contact our team at Millbrae Pet Hospital to schedule an appointment for your tormented pet.