18th April 2018

Update on Allergies

Just like us, our pets can suffer from allergies, particularly in the summer months. This is mostly due to the immune system over-reacting to the cause of the allergy. However, unlike hayfever, our pets often show skin symptoms. This is often seen in dogs as red and inflamed skin, itching, rubbing the nose/ears/face and hair loss around the eyes. Cats may be itchy, but may also show a variety of less straight forward skin issues, such as small lumpy scab like lesions, overgrooming resulting in sharp short hairs and ulcers of the mouth, lip, feet or skin.

Controlling allergic reactions depends greatly on their cause. Short term reactions, such as insect bites, may only require a short course of treatment, such as injections or creams. However, most allergic skin disease requires lifelong control.

It is important to make sure that any cause of skin irritation or itching is removed. This lowers the chance of itching and makes your pet more comfortable. This can include regular emptying of anal glands, consistent effective parasite control (particularly fleas) and bathing using soothing shampoos or foams. There are also supplements available as liquids or tablets to help to promote a normal skin layer, which can help to control allergies.

Allergies have a variety of causes, but some examples include foods, pollens, grasses, mites (both parasitic and environmental, such as storage or dust mites) and chemicals. Removing the animal from the cause of the allergy (allergen) is the ideal treatment and for that allergy testing can be very useful. An example of this is food allergens. We may also want to perform skin testing to rule out other causes of skin disease such as ringworm or certain types of skin mite.

Where removing the allergen is not possible, there are a variety of other options available. Where the allergen has been identified by testing, immunotherapy may be used. This involves injections which, following a period of building the dose, are given monthly to try and normalise the body’s response to the particular allergens.

Another option is using medicines to change the body’s immune reaction to allergens in general, or reducing the causes of itching within the body. There are several of these medications and they can be as given as tablets, liquids to put on food or most recently, long lasting injections which target even more precisely the causes of itching.

Steroids may be used in the short term as tablets, injections or creams. We try to avoid long term steroid use due to potentially life altering side effects, however we may also choose to use them in a particular type of spray formulation which reduces the likelihood of side effects when used correctly (please note this is a specific spray formulation which must be used at the correct dosage – please ask us for more details before deciding to use steroids, this article is in no way intended as a substitute for veterinary advice and there may be reasons why this option is unsuitable for your pet).

Every pet is different, so allergy treatments need to be tailored to each pet. Every pet’s allergies involve different body areas, so treatments for eyes or ears may be necessary too. Unfortunately, there is no easy and quick solution, but given time and investigation, pets can be relieved of the unpleasant itching.

If you would like to discuss any of the options in this article, or discuss an issue with your pet, please do not hesitate to call us at the surgery.