“AH-CHEW!” Managing Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Allergies are no fun!

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to chew at their feet, or scratch at their ears more often when Spring comes around? Some of the most common appointments I see include pets suffering from ear infections, skin issues, ocular discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive itching. What do all these symptoms have in common? They can be due to allergies!

Pets who suffer from allergic disease, often react to one or more of the following:

  1. Diet
  2. Environment
  3. Fleas/Parasites

Allergic disease is often seen in pets greater than 1 year old and can cause them to be extremely itchy and uncomfortable, damaging the skin barrier as they scratch. This can lead to secondary bacterial skin infections, such as “hotspots,” that often require veterinary attention.

Unfortunately, allergic disease is something that can only be managed, not cured. Food allergies are often associated with a specific protein that had been fed previously, such as chicken, beef, etc. If your pet is partially or primarily dealing with a food allergy, a food trial is often one of the first steps to confirm that is the issue. A food trial involves placing your pet on a diet that consists of a single protein and carbohydrate source that they have never been exposed to (past food, treats, etc.). They must be kept on this diet for at least 8 weeks and it often takes that long to see a decrease in itch and discomfort. It is imperative to avoid feeding anything else other than the prescribed food to the pet because this could negatively affect results. After the 8 week trial, it is recommended to reintroduce the pet’s old diet as a “challenge,” and if they become itchy once again, this confirms that they are allergic to something in their food. There are many veterinary prescribed diets available that are ideal for food trials, so consult with your primary veterinarian to see which would be right for your pet.

You may notice that your pet itches more in the summer when compared to the winter or tends to develop ear or skin infections in the warmer months. This may be due to environmental allergies. However, animals that are allergic to something in the environment that is present year round may always have the same level of discomfort.

Multiple medications are labeled to help manage “atopic dermatitis,” or environmental allergies in dogs and can decrease the “itchy” feeling caused by other allergies as well. These include Apoquel, which is an oral tablet, and Cytopoint, which is an injection that lasts between 4 and 8 weeks in dogs. Other options are available to help manage the itch caused by allergies in cats, including steroids. Allergy testing is also available if your pet has trouble being managed on food or medication.

It is important to keep your pet on flea and tick preventatives to avoid the possibility of flea allergy. Most animals will have some aspect of discomfort when infected with fleas, however, some develop an extreme reaction in response to the parasites’ saliva. For those animals that are on a food trial, topical preventatives are recommended since oral versions are often flavored and may interfere with results.

Please make an appointment with your primary veterinarian or contact Norwalk Animal Hospital if you think your animal is struggling with allergies.

Have you ever wondered why your dog seems to chew at their feet, or scratch at their ears more often when Spring comes around? Some of the most common appointments I see include pets suffering from ear infections, skin issues, ocular discharge, vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive itching. What do all these symptoms have in common? They can be due to allergies!

Pets who suffer from allergic disease, often react to one or more of the following:

  1. Diet
  2. Environment
  3. Fleas/Parasites

Allergic disease is often seen in pets greater than 1 year old and can cause them to be extremely itchy and uncomfortable, damaging the skin barrier as they scratch. This can lead to secondary bacterial skin infections, such as “hotspots,” that often require veterinary attention.

Unfortunately, allergic disease is something that can only be managed, not cured. Food allergies are often associated with a specific protein that had been fed previously, such as chicken, beef, etc. If your pet is partially or primarily dealing with a food allergy, a food trial is often one of the first steps to confirm that is the issue. A food trial involves placing your pet on a diet that consists of a single protein and carbohydrate source that they have never been exposed to (past food, treats, etc.). They must be kept on this diet for at least 8 weeks and it often takes that long to see a decrease in itch and discomfort. It is imperative to avoid feeding anything else other than the prescribed food to the pet because this could negatively affect results. After the 8 week trial, it is recommended to reintroduce the pet’s old diet as a “challenge,” and if they become itchy once again, this confirms that they are allergic to something in their food. There are many veterinary prescribed diets available that are ideal for food trials, so consult with your primary veterinarian to see which would be right for your pet.

You may notice that your pet itches more in the summer when compared to the winter or tends to develop ear or skin infections in the warmer months. This may be due to environmental allergies. However, animals that are allergic to something in the environment that is present year round may always have the same level of discomfort.

Multiple medications are labeled to help manage “atopic dermatitis,” or environmental allergies in dogs and can decrease the “itchy” feeling caused by other allergies as well. These include Apoquel, which is an oral tablet, and Cytopoint, which is an injection that lasts between 4 and 8 weeks in dogs. Other options are available to help manage the itch caused by allergies in cats, including steroids. Allergy testing is also available if your pet has trouble being managed on food or medication.

It is important to keep your pet on flea and tick preventatives to avoid the possibility of flea allergy. Most animals will have some aspect of discomfort when infected with fleas, however, some develop an extreme reaction in response to the parasites’ saliva. For those animals that are on a food trial, topical preventatives are recommended since oral versions are often flavored and may interfere with results.

Please make an appointment with your primary veterinarian or contact Norwalk Animal Hospital if you think your animal is struggling with allergies.