Dog & Cat Skin Allergies
Itchy skin, skin infections ("hot spots"), and ear infections are some of the most common complaints seen at Oasis Animal Hospital.
Allergic skin disease, also known as atopic (atopy) dermatitis, is a common medical conditions in dogs. (Cats are rarely affected.) Unlike people, dogs normally manifest allergies through their skin and not nasal symptoms.
What are the common symptoms of allergies in dogs?
Dogs may also experience gastrointestinal signs. Signs of allergic skin disease in dogs may include:
Poor hair coat (hair loss, dander, dull coat)
Biting or licking skin
Rubbing on carpet or furniture
Scooting rear end
Skin bumps, scabs, or pustules (white heads)
Ear infection (otitis externa)
Gastrointestinal pain and discomfort
Why do dogs develops allergies?
Canine allergic skin disease in an inherited predisposition to develop an allergic reaction to a substance known as an "allergen." An allergen is normally a harmless substance for most dogs. However, allergic dogs develop an inappropriate immune reaction after repeated exposure. Dogs typically show symptoms of allergies between 1 to 3 years of age. Certain breeds are more likely to develop allergies such as Golden and Labrador retrievers, Pit Bull terriers, German shepherd dogs, English bulldogs, boxers, pugs, Irish setters, Dalmatians, West Highland white terriers, Scottish terriers, wirehair fox terriers, Welsh terriers, Boston terriers, cairn terriers, Lhasa apsos, shih tzus, and miniature schnauzers. However, allergies can affect any breed of dog.
What are dogs allergic to?
The three most common allergens for dogs include environmental (aka inhalant and contact), fleas, and food.
Environmental Allergies (Inhalant and Contact)
The most common source of allergies in our canine patients are inhalant and contact substances found in the environment. These include dust mites, molds and pollens of grasses, trees, and weeds. Similar to people with environmental allergies, the timing of the reaction may be seasonal. However, many dogs with environmental allergies suffer year round.
Many dogs suffer from severe allergic reactions to flea bites. Pet owners may not notice the flea infestation, because it only takes one flea bite to cause a severe reaction. In the Phoenix metro area, thankfully we do see many fleas due to the dry desert climate. However, fleas still survive in parts of Arizona and are abundant in other states.
Food Allergies (Adverse Food Reactions)
Some dogs develop allergies or intolerances to certain food ingredients. Common ingredients causing adverse food reactions include protein sources, dairy, corn, and occasionally grains. Dogs with adverse food reactions often suffer from both allergic skin disease and gastrointestinal disease (i.e. diarrhea, increased frequent defecation, vomiting, and weight loss). Importantly, dogs may develop adverse food reactions as adults despite being fed only one food throughout their life.
What treatments can help a dog with allergies?
Diagnosing and treating allergic skin disease can be a long and difficult process. Often we never get to the bottom of the precise source of the allergies. Additionally, many pets are sensitive to multiple allergens such as environmental and food. Allergy treatment primarily involves regular anti-inflammatory/anti-itch medications and treating any concurrent skin infections.
Pets with allergies often have concurrent skin and ear infections. Your veterinarian might recommend tests to identify infections and treat them topical, injectable, or oral medications. If infections go untreated, your pet will continue to suffer from worsening skin and ear problems.
In addition to treating the infection, your veterinarian may recommend an anti-inflammatory medication such as a steroid (i.e. prednisone), Cytopoint, Apoquel, Atopica, or antihistamine medication. Each of these medications targets a part of your pet's immune system to become less hypersensitive to allergens.
Treating allergies is often a lifelong process. Our team at Oasis Animal Hospital can help your itchy pet find relief. If you think your pet might be suffering from allergies, please call to schedule an appointment.