Content Reviewed by an Essentials PetCare Veterinarian

Allergies are a very common and very frustrating problem in pets. Unlike humans, who typically manifest allergies with “hay fever” signs, pets manifest their allergies as itchy skin. Once they start scratching, they often create secondary infections with either bacteria or yeast which just make the itching worse. This, in turn, makes the scratching more severe, worsening this vicious cycle. 

What Causes Allergy in Pets

One of the hardest parts about dealing with allergies in pets is finding the root cause of the itching. This is difficult because there are several categories of allergies that are commonly seen, including flea allergies, food allergies, and environmental allergies. In addition, a parasitic condition called “scabies” needs to be considered in severely itchy dogs. For this reason, diagnosis of allergies in pets is best accomplished in a stepwise fashion of ruling out each cause, one at a time. Most cases will not have a “quick fix” and will require strict following of your veterinarian’s instructions and several exams to monitor the progress of treatment. 

Treating Allergies in Dogs & Cats

In addition to treating the itchy skin, your veterinarian will also need to treat any secondary infections present. This is accomplished by topical therapy with a medicated shampoo, oral therapy with antibiotics or antifungals, or combinations of these. To determine the underlying cause of the itching, trial therapies are typically recommended based on the physical exam findings and seasonality of itching. After ruling out certain causes of itching, environmental allergies can be diagnosed as a “diagnosis of exclusion.” This means there is no test to specifically diagnose environmental allergies; they can only be diagnosed after determining the other causes are not present. 

Allergies are typically a lifelong issue and require strict adherence to your veterinarian’s instructions to keep them managed as best as possible. It is important to note that while allergy testing isn’t used for the diagnosis of allergies, it can be used to determine what your pet is allergic to, once the diagnosis of environmental allergies has been made. This allows development of hypoimmunization therapy, or “allergy shots”, just like what is used in humans.  

An oral form of hypoimmunization has been developed for those owners who do not want to administer injections. The sole purpose for performing allergy testing is to determine what therapy is needed for hypoimmunizations as avoidance of the inciting allergens will be impossible. This is recommended in pets that have constant and disruptive symptoms as opposed to two or three “flare-ups” during the allergy season. Your veterinarian may recommend referral to a full-service hospital or veterinary dermatologist for this type of testing. 

Essential Tip: Is your pet itchy? Make plans to visit Essentials PetCare as soon as possible. Our Skin Package, only $65, includes a doctor’s exam, relevant diagnostics, treatment recommendations, and a portable prescription for medication if necessary. Check in to visit today!


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