How do you know if your pet has allergies? Take a look at the images below - if your pet looks similar, there may be some allergies materializing!
If it is decided that a skin test is the best form of detection for your pet, we would then refer you to a specialist for diagnostic testing.
The blood is then sent out to be tested for approximately 55 different potential allergens by looking for a presence of allergy-type antibodies. It takes about 4-6 weeks to receive the results. Once they are back, you'll have a consultation with the doctor to go over them and make a plan of attack to keep your pet comfortable.
Once we know your pet has atopic dermatits, how do we treat it?
Itchiness due to atopy responds rapidly to cortisone-type medications such as prednisone, vetalog, azium, or depo-medrol. Higher doses are usually used at first but quickly tapered down once the condition is controlled. Problems can arise when the pet's need for itch control demands excessive use of prednisone so we often look for alternative therapy for itchy skin.
Often a doctor will recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine and/or fatty acid supplement (like fish oils) to help control itch. Topicals like shampoos, conditioners, soaks, sprays and ointments may also be a helpful addition. If you have concerns about brands, just give us a call and we will consult with the doctor that has most recently seen your pet.
For some pets, allergy shots may help with itchy skin concerns. These injections are given at home or with a technician and generally require approximately 6 to 12 months to begin working.
There are also some medications on the market (or soon to be on the market) specifically designed to treat atopic dermatitis... but we'll get into that later!
Another type of allergy that affects many of our patients is FOOD ALLERGIES. This allergy is one of the itchiest conditions known to cat and dog. Red, oozing bald patches, rashes and large expanses of hair loss are unfortunate markers of very real discomfort for which a cause should be sought and specifically dealt with.
Many people erroneously assume itching due to food allergy requires a recent diet change of some sort. In fact, the OPPOSITE is true! Food allergies take TIME to develop! Most animals have been eating the offending food for years with no trouble.
How do you know if your pet's itch is in fact a food allergy and not sarcoptic mange or atopic allergies? Much time and money can be wasted pursuing the wrong problem!
Here are a few clues that help to point us towards a food allergy as a diagnosis for your pet:
- Itching that has been treated for sarcoptic mange without any positive changes.
- Itchiness that is not and has never been a seasonal problem.
- Itching that has responded poorly or only partially to cortisone-type medication.
- A lesion distribution pattern which is common for food allergy. Classic patterns for CANINE food allergy includes facial itching, foot or limb chewing, belly itching and recurrent ear infections. FELINE food allergy usually produces scabs and other signs of itching around the face or neck.
Unfortunately, diagnosing a food allergy is not as straight forward as diagnosing and controlling inhalant allergies. In the past it was believed that a simple blood panel could determine a pet’s food allergies. Recent studies have proven these tests unreliable for food allergies; therefore, we no longer recommend their use. The only way to diagnose a pet’s food allergy is to perform a “hypoallergenic” diet trial.
The basic principle is to determine whether or not a food allergy or intolerance is causing the skin problem. A “hypoallergenic” diet is fed for a set period of time. If the pet recovers, the original diet is fed for up to two weeks to see if itching resumes. If we see recovery with the test diet and itch with the original diet, then food allergy is diagnosed and the pet is returned to either the test diet or another appropriate commercial food indefinitely.
In the past, four weeks was thought to represent a complete trial period. More recent work has shown that some food allergic animals require 8 to 10 weeks to respond. Our current recommendation calls for a recheck appointment after four weeks of diet trial and then again after eight weeks of trial. Eighty percent of food allergic dogs will have responded to diet trial at least partially by six weeks, but some animals may even require a longer period.
Once the doctor has seen your pet's reaction to the food trial, they can then recommend a long-term diet. This is a very individualized recommendation and may result in a completely new protein or hydrolyzed diet.
It is important to include your veterinarian on any food changes or selections, especially if they have not been specifically recommended. Attempting to correct a suspected food allergy with a diet change without the doctor's recommendation can result in a worse reaction for your pet and can drastically delay the diagnosis.
Flea allergic dermatitis, the other prime cause of seasonal itchiness aside from airborne allergies, tends to begin later in a pet's life (between ages 3 and 5).
Since new technology has made flea control safe and convenient, it is especially important (and no longer difficult) to see that fleas are not complicating a pet's itching problem.
Recent climate changes and concern over fleas developing resistance to commonly used flea products have led us to look at flea control in a new light.
First, we cannot always look at flea control as a seasonal issue—the start and finish dates are very unpredictable; moreover, during “warm spells” in the middle of winter fleas can awaken from hibernation.
Second, it appears that relying on a single product to act as a magic bullet and cure-all for our flea problems is not realistic. Therefore, we may need to recommend attacking a flea population from multiple angles (a “multi-modal approach”). Only 5% of an active flea population are the adult fleas—the other 95% consists of flea eggs, maggot-like larvae, and pupae (cocoons), which are embedded in the pet’s environment (home, yard, bedding, etc.).
The most effective way to stop infestations and prevent new ones from occurring is to break the flea life-cycle at the immature stages as well as attacking the adult fleas.
While we are aware that flea preventive products can be a financial burden and that there are less expensive products available, we do not recommend routinely using any of the over-the-counter products. One main concern is that although many of these products may look similar to Parastar or Frontline Plus, they may chemically be very different.
The market is being flooded by “New & Improved” flea products that upon closer inspection actually contain some of the older (and less safe) insecticides such as Amitraz, Organophosphates or the Pyrethrins/Pyrethroids. Many of these chemicals have been in use for over 20 years, and flea populations have developed resistance to them, rendering these products minimally effective. Because of this resistance we cannot consider these products reliable in the prevention of flea infestations.
Additionally, most of these cannot be used in younger puppies or kittens, and many can be toxic to cats and small dogs.
Unfortunately, we see too many cases of OTC flea product toxicity every year. Well-intentioned and uninformed owners purchase and use products in an attempt to conserve finances but end up with an unfortunate situation. Toxicity from these products affect the nervous system and can cause twitching or seizures that can lead to coma or death. Before using any products on your pet please consult a member of our health care team.
In an attempt to help lighten the cost of prevention, let's go over some products that T.A.H. recommends and how to save money while purchasing.
T.A.H. carries several products that will help prevent and control flea infestations and decrease flea allergic outbreaks. We could go on and on about these products as we have hand-selected them from MANY options but today we will briefly cover each so that you have a general idea. We are HAPPY to discuss any of these products more in-depth at any time. Just give us a call!
- Sentinel Flavor Tabs - Protect your dogs against heartworms, roundworms and hookworms, plus whipworms and fleas. Unlike other flea treatments that only control adults, Sentinel breaks the flea life cycle at the egg and larval stages to prevent flea populations from infesting.
- Trifexis Flavor Tabs - A once-monthly beef-flavored tablet that kills adult fleas, prevents heartworm disease and treats and controls adult hookworm, roundworm and whipworm infections.
***Tip: You can save money on Trifexis and Sentinel by purchasing (6) or (12) at a time at T.A.H. Not only with a price break but we'll also give you information on a $10 to $25 dollar rebate.
- Bravecto Chewable - A chewable that kills both fleas and ticks. Bravecto lasts for up to 12 weeks and begins to kill fleas within two hours.
***Tip: Bravecto rebates start at (2) doses at a time!
- Parastar Topical - A safe and effective 30-day topical treatment that kills fleas, ticks (including those that may transmit Lyme disease), chewing lice and mites that may cause sarcoptic mange.
***Tip: Save big on Parastar at T.A.H. when you purchase (3) or more at a time. Mail-in rebates start at quantities of (3).
- Revolution: Safe, easy and simple - this monthly topical medication is used to protect your cat from heartworms, fleas, and ear mites.
***Tip: Huge savings on Revolution at T.A.H. when you buy (6) or (9) doses at a time. In addition to a price break, when you purchase (6) doses at one time, you get (2) free. When you purchase (9) doses, you get (3) free. Instant savings, no mail-in rebate required.
TOO MANY CHOICES? If you're just not sure which product is best for your pet(s), swing by and speak with any of our T.A.H. team members or discuss with a doctor at your next appointment. Selecting a flea prevention is an individualized decision for your pets' age, lifestyle, preferences and needs.
See more information of products you can purchase at T.A.H. by visiting our Products page.
Now that we know more about the different types of allergies, how they present, modes of diagnosis and possible treatments, next we’ll cover a few unique medication options that with their use, many of our T.A.H. patients have seen success.
Atopica is the first medication licensed specifically for the treatment of chronic ATOPIC DERMATITS in dogs and cats. It's proven to significantly relieve pruritus and reduce skin lesions and its side effects are generally mild, transient and reversible. It's also particularly suitable as a long term therapy – many dogs remain comfortable with a tapered dose of Atopica (every other day or twice weekly).
TEMARIL-P is indicated for dogs to relieve itching regardless of the cause. Its synergistic combination of antihistamine and corticosteroid may allow for lower doses of corticosteroids. It has demonstrated relief of itching and the reduction of inflammation commonly associated with most skin disorders of dogs, such as the eczema caused by internal disorders, otitis and dermatitis (allergic, parasitic, pustular and nonspecific).
Apoquel is a NEW fast-acting and safe treatment for the control of acute and chronic itching in dogs. It provides onset of relief within 4 hours and effectively controls itch within 24 hours.
It is designed to uniquely target and stop itch with minimal negative impact on immune function and gives the opportunity to diagnose an underlying condition and improve the quality of life for the dog and its owner. Apoquel currently has LIMITED availability.
PHEW! We know that was A LOT of information! Hopefully it helped to shed light, clarify or provide new ideas for your pets' possible allergy issues. As always, we are here to help with any more information!