Did you know that animals suffer from allergies, just like humans? And just like with us, the cases of allergies in pets appears to be increasing in recent years. Some pets, like people, will just experience sneezing, wheezing, or other breathing problems which can develop into serious respiratory difficulties. The most common primary symptom of allergies in pets is scratching and itching. There are different categories for dog allergies: flea allergy dermatitis, atopy, and food allergies. Some pets may suffer from more than one kind of allergy.
What are the symptoms of food allergies?
Your dog may be allergic to one or more ingredients in his food. The most common food allergies for dogs are beef and milk products, cereals (wheat, corn, soya), chicken, and eggs. Although the exact cause of food allergies are not known, it could be that a change in the animal’s immune system is causing certain ingredients to be perceived as “foreign” and therefore the body protects itself.
The most common symptoms of food allergies are licking, itching, and chewing on different parts of the body. Ear infections and other skin problems can also occur in conjunction with food hypersensitivity. Some pets will develop diarrhea and other digestive problems. Symptoms can appear at any age, regardless of whether it is a new food, or they have been eating it for years. Allergies can develop over time.
How do you diagnose food allergies?
The best effective way to diagnose a food allergy is to put your pet on a “hypoallergenic” or “exclusion” diet for a minimum of 8-12 weeks. This diet will include ingredients that the animal has not been exposed to before. Because it is often the source of protein that causes the allergic reaction, “exclusion” diets will contain a protein not normally found in regular pet food, such as venison, fish, or duck. You can also prepare home-cooked hypoallergenic meals for your pet. Also consult our veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet.
If your pet has a food allergy, you should notice a significant improvement on their symptoms after the 8-12 week period, unless your pet is also allergic to an ingredient in the new food. To identify all food allergens, it is best to add a single protein for 1-2 weeks at a time, and monitor the condition. You may be able to identify an allergy by how they respond to a new food. Also consult with our veterinarian to get clear instruction on the procedure to follow.
How to treat food allergies
The best way to treat this kind of allergy is to completely avoid the causes of flare ups. Usually, these allergies can be controlled by carefully monitoring his or her diet. In rare, severe cases, your vet may also prescribe an antihistamine and steroids.
What is Flea Allergy Dermatitis?
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a skin condition caused by an allergy to flea saliva. A single bite can trigger intense itching. Because of this, FAD is sometimes called “flea bite hypersensivity”. Dogs with this condition chew and bite their backs, legs, tails, and stomach, leading to hot spots and localized skin infections. You may find some fleas and flea dirt (flea feces that looks like black flakes) on your pet, but animals with FAD often have very few fleas because of their constant chewing and licking.
How is flea allergy dermatitis diagnosed?
Your vet will look for the usual signs, such as the presence of fleas, scratching, and sores. There is also an intradermal, or skin test, that can be performed. FAD symptoms can sometimes resemble that of other conditions, such as parasites, infections, and other allergies.
How is flea allergy dermatitis treated?
The best way to treat this allergy is to prevent fleas from biting your pet. The flea cycle can be difficult to break, because you need to treat not only your pet, but their environment, including your house and possibly your yard. Various insecticides and insect growth regulators are available. Your veterinarian can recommend the best product to use for your pet. Daily vacuuming and regular washing of animal bedding will also help reduce the overall flea population.
Sometimes, because of the severity of the itching, your pet may actually cause harm to itself, leading to infection. In these situations, your vet may prescribe steroids, antihistamines, and essential fatty acides to help reduce the irritation. There are also anti-itching shampoos and conditions, and warm baths may help soothe their skin.
**Please note: Some products, such as flea shampoo and some flea treatments cannot be given to young animals. If you have a puppy, kitten, or an immune
There is no cure for FAD. The only thing that can be done is maintaining a good prevention routine to keep on guard from future infestations.
What is atopy, and what are the symptoms?
Atopy, also known as environmental allergy, is an allergic reaction to airborne substances, including pollen, dust mites, moulds, etc. This allergy will depend on your both your pet’s genetic susceptibility, and how often they are exposed to the allergen. Although more common in dogs, cats have been known to suffer from Atopy. Among the most common canine breeds to suffer from this condition are Retrievers, Shar-Pei, Setters, Terriers, and Dalmatians.
The most common symptom of atopy is itching, usually around the face, feet, chest, and belly. The allergen affecting your pet may be seasonally (such as pollen) or year round (such as dander, dust mites, and mould). “Hot spots” can also develop, and frequent scratching can lead to other skin and ear infections. Hair loss is also common. Symptoms are usually first noticed between the ages of 1-3, but signs of an allergy may be seen from 4 months to 7 years of age.
How will my vet diagnose Atopy?
The diagnosis for this condition is elimination of other possible causes. Other causes of itching, such as fleas, mites, bacterial and yeast infections, and food allergies must be ruled out. Your veterinarian will request a detailed history of your pet’s itching problems. Skin or serum testing can be done to try to pinpoint the exact cause of an allergy.
How is Atopy treated?
Although atopy is a life-long condition with no known cure, There are numerous therapies for canine atopy that you can help manage the problem for your pet.
- Anti-itch therapy, including medicated shampoos and conditioners, as well as the use of drugs
- Removal of the source of the allergy from your pet’s environment, as much as possible
- Hyposensitization therapy (Allergen-specific immunotherapy) is a long term therapy that directly addresses the patient’s hypersensitivities, a series of injections that will help your pet gradually adjust to the allergen. (Effectiveness of this treatment varies, but usually provides at least some relief for around 75% of animals with atopy
- For relatively mild atopy, such as occasional itching due to a seasonal allergy to pollen, you can use an Elizabethan collar (e-collar), socks, or t-shirts to help reduce the irritation but preventing your pet from further aggravating by biting or scratching the location.
- There are non-specific, symptomatic treatments, such as antihistamines and corticosteroids