Just like us, dogs can suffer from allergies. While we show symptoms of sneezing, wheezing, runny nose and watery eyes when we have allergies, dog allergy symptoms are quite different. The most common sign is ITCHINESS – with persistent scratching, licking, chewing and rubbing of areas. The inflammation and trauma that results breaks the protective barrier making your pet susceptible to skin, ear and eye infections. Some of the signs you may see are redness, ear and/or eye discharge, sores, hair loss as well as wounds from self trauma.
This makes for a very unhappy and very uncomfortable pet.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are the result of the immune system reacting abnormally to a harmless substance. This substance is known as an allergen. Inhaling, ingesting or physical contact with this offending allergen causes the body’s immune system to overreact resulting in a state of ‘hypersensitivity’ = Allergic Reaction
Types of Common Canine Allergies
Parasite Allergy e.g. Fleas, Sand Flies, Mosquitoes
Flea Allergy Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common form of canine allergy. Flea allergic dogs develop a sensitivity to the flea’s saliva. Just ONE bite from a flea can cause an FAD dog to be itchy for up to 3 weeks. The constant licking and scratching can remove adults fleas from the coat and make them hard to find. Other insects such as mossies and sand flies may also cause this type of reaction.
A contact allergy results from direct contact with any substance or plant that causes the animals skin to react. Because hair often forms a protective layer over the skin, a contact allergy is often seen in areas where the hair is thin or not hair covered such as the underbelly, the armpits and the underside of feet. Speak to your vet or visit www.dermcare.com.au under ‘allergy information’, for a detailed list of the common contact allergy plants in your area.
The clinical signs of food allergies are usually skin related but may include vomiting and diarrhoea. The allergen they become hypersensitive to is a component of their diet, it may be a major protein or carbohydrate ingredient e.g. beef, pork, chicken, wheat or soy. Or it may be a minor ingredient such as a dye or a preservative. Symptoms can develop at any age whether it be a change in food or a diet they have always eaten. A FOOD TRIAL – is initiated to determine if food is the source or contributing to the allergy. This involves your pet being fed a hypoallergenic diet for 8-12 weeks, no other food, including treats and table scraps are fed during this food trial. After this time your pet may be ‘challenged’ by the reintroduction of a single protein or carbohydrate on a weekly basis. If the skin flares or vomiting/diarrhoea occur then it is determined that food is causing/involved in the allergy.
This is the name used to describe allergies associated with inhalation of allergens. Allergens such as pollens, mould spores, dust mites and other common air-borne substances can be inhaled and play a role in atopy. These types of allergies almost always manifest in itching and scratching, especially around the feet, face and underbelly. Atopy is confirmed by the process of elimination of the above allergy types. Skin testing with a Dermatologist, may then be performed to help pinpoint the exact cause.
- Some animals may have many types of allergies
- There may be a seasonal influence on your pet’s allergy – parasites/plants. If year round – food/atopy
- Bacterial and fungal skin and ear infections can develop secondarily to underlying allergies and can increase the level of itching and self trauma.
Treatment & Management
It is ESSENTIAL that you are using good flea prevention for your pet. Oral prevention is best for those that swim and prevention is to be given strictly e.g. once a month for Comfortis
Shampoos & Conditioners:
There are a range of medicated shampoos and conditioners available for use on areas of redness, scabs/rashes, odorous skin. They are useful for ongoing management and mild skin irritations.
Pet Designed Insect Repellents:
For biting flies, mosquitoes and sand-flies. Repellents should be applied morning and night.
Avoidance or removal if possible of those common allergens e.g. common allergy plants, long grasses, dusty areas – vacuum regularly. Keep pets inside during times of the day when insects are most abundant (morning and night).
There are skin support diets available with fatty acid supplements to improve the skin barrier. As well as hypoallergenic diets used for food trials to determine Food Allergy. If Food Allergy is determined your pet is to be continued on the hypoallergenic food for prevention of allergic reactions.
May be useful as part of a treatment plan.
An anti inflammatory that is commonly prescribed by Veterinarians for the rapid relief of redness and itching. Suitable for short term management, but not ideal for long term use due to the drug’s side effects.
Side effects include:
- Increased thirst, hunger, urination.
- Vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach ulceration
Long Term use:
- Diabetes, decreased resistance to infections, increased susceptibility to seizures, drug induced hormone imbalance
For those secondary infections when indicated.
(Atopica) an immunosuppressant medication used specifically in the management of Atopy. Highly effective in the control of clinical signs without the long term side effects of prednisolone.
Dermatologist – Desensitisation Injections:
Working with a skin specialist to perform intradermal skin testing to identify the offending allergen/s. This then enables the development of desensitising injections specifically for your pet.
Apoquel (oclacitinib maleate):
A recent addition to our pharmacy of medications for skin. Very effective in its use again itchiness due to allergies WITHOUT some of the side effects faced when using prednisolone (steroids).
Your Veterinarian will work with you and guide you in determining what is suitable for the management of your pet’s skin condition.
There is no cure for allergies.
We seek to manage and control the allergy and improve your pet’s quality of life.