We see many numbers of dogs and cats almost every day with itchy skin. The cause of your pet being itchy can vary quite a bit. Certainly we see many cases of pets with allergies, but we also find other reasons.
The first thing we do when you bring your pet to us is take a thorough history. If your pet has been seen somewhere else before it is important for us to have these records. The more information we have the better we can find the answer and the best treatment. After taking the history we then do the exam. We may have to do some tests of the skin and some blood tests.
Allergic disease is a broad term for hypersensitivity reactions to an allergen or allergens. Most allergic conditions in dogs and cats cause itchy skin, but some will also show signs of conjunctivitis (redness of the eyes), irritated ears, breathing difficulties or intestinal problems.
Although food is blamed a lot, the most common type of allergies pets have is inhalent allergies or Atopy. Atopy is usually seasonal – lasting one or two seasons in a year. Many factors including pollen counts and how windy it is may make the symptoms worse.
Allergies in general tend to worsen as your pet gets older. Since the allergy is the immune system trying to fight off the allergen, the body usually gets stronger against the allergen as time goes on. The body thinks it is doing a btter job in the succeeding years but causes the inflammation to become stronger and worsens the symptoms.
Once we diagnose your pet with allergies we want to treat with the least amount of medication that will keep your pet comfortable. The strongest being steroids and tapering down to possible use of antihistamines, medicated shampoos and omega-3 fatty acid supplements. Air purifiers in your home may also help at times. In some cases we may have your pet on a dietary trial of a special diet if the allergic response continues and we suspect a food ingredient allergy as well. Allergy testing can also be done as well as specific allergen injections made up to help specifically treat your pet.
If your pet is itchy it is best to have him or her seen. Although your pet may have allergies before, this can always be something else. For example, if steroids are given and your pet has mange mites, it can get worse.
It can take a lot of dedication with frustration on your part to live and treat a pet with chronic allergies. Since allergies are something that cannot be dured, we try to manage each pet for a good quality of life. We must always work together to keep your pets as comfortable as possible.