Atopy or environmental allergies are quite common in dogs and cats. Environmental irritants may include pollens, molds, house dust mites, and even human dander. Some pets may have an allergic flare-up for only short periods in the spring and fall, while others show symptoms all year long.
Typical allergic signs in pets are scratching, face rubbing, obsessive licking of the feet, ear inflammation and infections, skin rash, pigmentation change and patchy hair loss. Allergies can also allow the skin and ears to become infected with bacteria or yeast. These secondary infections will then increase the overall “itch” level of the skin. Unfortunately we cannot usually permanently “cure” allergies, but we can control and treat the symptoms. Pets with a short allergy season can be treated with low doses of steroids, fatty acids, antihistamines, frequent bathing, and wipe downs to remove pollens from the skin. This may be all that’s needed to keep your pet comfortable.
Often times an antibiotic or anti-fungal agent will be added to combat a concurrent infection. Apoquel, Cytopoint, and Atopica (cyclosporine) are all non-steroidal options that can significantly ease your pet’s discomfort. These medications have been proven to be highly effective when used along with immunotherapy.
Pets who are seasonally allergic for longer periods may need intradermal allergy testing and immunotherapy or desensitization. This is the injection of allergens underneath the skin administered at home. Desensitization stimulates the T-lymphocyte suppressor cells, blocking the immune system, which is hyperactive in an allergic patient. Immunotherapy is highly effective in seventy five percent of treated pets.
Fifty percent of these pets respond to treatment in 3 to 6 months and twenty five percent of pets respond within 12 months. Most pets will need lifelong booster injections to continue immunotherapy. To begin immunotherapy, your pet must first be allergy tested. Testing is done by injecting different allergens common in your area under the skin and evaluating the reaction. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any other questions about your pet’s allergies or the treatments we can offer.