Like people, dogs can suffer from allergies.
What is atopy and what are its symptoms?
How is atopy diagnosed?
How is atopy treated?
Atopy is a lifelong condition and there is no known cure. However, there are a number of ways to manage the problem:
- Anti-itch therapy, including the use of drugs, medicated shampoos and conditioners.
- Removing the source of the allergy from the environment as much as possible.
- Hyposensitization uses a series of injections to gradually accustom your pet’s system to the allergen(s) causing the problem. Although its effectiveness varies, it provides at least some relief for around 75% of pets with atopy.
- If the atopy is relatively mild (for example, occasional itching during the pollen season), you can use “Elizabethan” collars, T-shirts and socks to reduce irritation by physically preventing your pet from scratching or biting itself.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
What is flea allergy dermatitis and what are its symptoms?
How is flea allergy dermatitis diagnosed?
Your veterinarian looks for the usual signs (scratching, skin sores, the presence of fleas and/or flea dirt). He or she may also order an intradermal or skin test as FAD symptoms can resemble those of other conditions, including external parasites (mites, lice), infections and other allergies, that cause severe itching.
How is flea allergy dermatitis treated?
The best way to treat FAD is to prevent fleas from attacking your pet. Various insecticides and insect growth regulators that eliminate flea infestations are available. Your veterinarian can recommend the right product for your pet. Daily vacuuming and frequent washing of your pet’s bedding can also reduce your home’s flea population.
To break the “itch-scratch” cycle that leads to skin infections, your veterinarian may prescribe steroids, antihistamines and essential fatty acids to relieve irritation. Warm water baths and anti-itching shampoos and conditioners also help.
What is most important to realize is that there is no cure for FAD: your pet will always be allergic to flea bites and you must be continually on your guard to prevent further problems.
What is food allergy and what are its symptoms?
Food allergy is an allergic reaction to one or more ingredients in a pet’s food. The most common allergens are beef and milk products, cereals (wheat, corn, soya), chicken and eggs. The exact cause of food allergy is not known. Perhaps a change in the pet’s immune system causes certain ingredients to be perceived as “foreign,” initiating inflammatory mechanisms to fight off the perceived “intruder.”
The most common symptoms of food allergy are itching, licking or chewing. Otitis Externa (Ear Infection) along with other skin problems are also common in conjunction with food hypersensitivity. Some pets may also have diarrhoea and other digestive problems. Symptoms can appear at any age, whether a pet has just started a new diet or has been eating the same food for several years.
How is food allergy diagnosed?
The only effective way of diagnosing a food allergy is to put your pet on a “hypoallergenic” or “exclusion” diet for a minimum of 8–12 weeks. Such a diet contains ingredients to which the animal has not been exposed in the past. Because the source of protein causes most allergic reactions, exclusion diets use proteins—often venison, fish or duck—that are normally not found in regular pet food. An exclusion diet may comprise home-prepared food or prescription commercial hypoallergenic products. Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.
If your pet has a food allergy, there should be a significant reduction in the symptoms after the recommended period on the exclusion diet provided your pet is not also allergic to the newly introduced ingredients. To identify all the food allergens, add a single protein for 1–2 weeks at a time, while watching for a recurrence, or worsening, of symptoms. If this happens, remove the offending ingredient from the diet. Consult your veterinarian for the correct procedure.
How is food allergy treated?
The best way to treat your pet’s food allergy is to carefully monitor his or her diet, in order to avoid flare-ups. In rare cases, your veterinarian may also prescribe antihistamines and steroids.
Other Insect Allergies