Itch and allergy in your pet
So you have an itchy pet? People with seasonal environmental allergy get a stuffy nose and runny eyes. Our dogs and cats get itchy paws, belly, armpits, groin, face and recurring ear infections. These signs may also be caused by food allergy, parasites and endocrine diseases (like Cushing’s or thyroid disease) so it is important to rule-out concurrent issues.
Allergies can not be cured. Just like you take antihistamines for your seasonal “hay fever,” they may be helpful to alleviate some of your pets pruritus (itchy skin). Seasonal allergy or atopy can get better or worse at any time. Any breed of dog or cat can be affected but short-coated breeds like pit bulls and boxers tend to be more sensitive. Management of allergy is usually multi-modal and can include antihistamines, omega 3 fatty acids, immunosuppressive drugs, steroids, antibiotics and allergy testing.
This is one of the itchiest conditions known to cats and dogs. Animals eat a variety of processed food proteins, fillers, and colorings that are further processed inside their bodies. Proteins may be combined or changed into substances recognized by the immune system as foreign invaders to be attacked. The resulting inflammation may target the gastrointestinal (GI) tract or other organ systems, but in dogs and cats it is the skin that most often suffers from this immunologic activity. Many people erroneously assume itching due to food allergy requires a recent diet change of some sort. In fact, the opposite is true. Food allergy requires time to develop; most animals have been eating the offending food for years with no trouble. Before proceeding with food trials to diagnose food allergy, we need to rule out other possibilities, including flea allergy and other ectoparasites such as sarcoptic mange and lice.
Flea allergic dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease in dogs, and is very common in cats as well. Just because you don’t see any fleas, it doesn’t mean they are not there. Flea allergy is caused by the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to cause a problem. Flea allergy is so common that before proceeding with tests for itching we will recommend instituting complete flea control. For most allergic dogs, year-round flea treatment is an important part of reducing itch.