Itching is a very common ailment in both dogs and cats. Many owners will either notice their pet scratching or licking frequently, or they will notice hair loss or scabbing on certain areas. There are multiple causes of itching in our pets- one of the most common being allergies.
Our pets can be allergic to a variety of things, ranging from food to environmental allergens. Food allergens often include proteins such as chicken or beef or fillers such as wheat. Common offending environmental allergies include pollens, molds, grasses, dusts or insects (such as fleas). Allergies usually cause itching dermatitis, which can lead to recurring secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections. They are also a big contributor to recurring ear infections and anal sac disease.
In order to successfully treat and reduce the frequency of allergic dermatitis related to allergies it is important to identify what allergens are causing the problem. If a food allergy is suspected a food trial is recommended. Food trials consist of feeding your pet a single limited ingredient or hypoallergenic food and nothing else for at least 3 months. If environmental allergies are suspected allergy testing can pinpoint which specific allergens are affecting your pet. Allergy testing consists of a blood test that is sent out to the lab.
The effective treatment of allergies depends largely upon which allergens your pet is allergic to. Food allergies are treated with a hypoallergenic or limited ingredient diet while environmental allergies can sometimes be treated with allergy injections. In cases where allergy injections are not an option or are not effective, certain oral medications given on a regular basis can greatly reduce the body’s reaction to the offending allergens. Treating the allergy symptoms is also very important. This can consist of oral antihistamines or steroids in more severe cases. Supplementation with essential fatty acids and bathing more acutely affected areas with medicated shampoos can help to relieve discomfort. Wiping your pet’s feet or abdomen with medicated wipes after they are exposed to the allergens can also help to minimize itching. Treating rashes and infected areas with antifungals or antibiotics is often necessary until the underlying cause is resolved. Associated ear infections are often treated with a twice daily topical medication and routine cleaning of the ears. Associated anal gland problems can often be controlled with routine expression of the anal sacs. The treatment and control of allergies is extremely difficult and varies widely from pet to pet. Repeat trips to the veterinarian may be necessary to fine-tune your pet’s treatment protocol.
If you suspect that your pet is suffering from allergies or you have any questions about your pet’s itching please contact River Road Veterinary Clinic at (802)649-3877.