Whilst many pets suffer from skin allergies year round, they do seem to be more prominent in the warmer months and a lot of our patients are arriving at the vet clinic at the moment with the same symptoms: red, itchy skin especially on the tummy and paws, ear infections and hotspots.
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Skin allergies fall into three main categories: Fleas, Food and Atopy (An inherited disease where the pet over-reacts and develops skin problems to a otherwise harmless substances such as dust mites, pollens and grasses).
If your pet has an allergy to fleas or food, this is usually easily controlled with flea treatment or a hypoallergenic diet. Atopy is a lot harder to treat as often it is difficult to identify and remove the cause of your pet’s itchiness.
With every itchy pet it is vitally important that they are kept up to date with their flea treatment and that a reputable product such as Advantage, Revolution or Frontline is used. Often owners make the comment that they never see any fleas on their pet but if they are allergic it only takes one bite to set off a nasty allergic reaction.
If your pet is suffering from chronic itchy skin and other causes such as mites have been ruled out we will often recommend running a food trial with a hypoallergenic diet for at least 6-8 weeks to ensure that it doesn’t have a food allergy.
As with people, pets can develop allergies to the protein source in the food or to preservatives, colouring and fillers.
Many people mistakenly believe that a food allergy can only occur if their pets diet has been changed recently but in fact the opposite is true: Food allergies require repeated exposure to the allergen over time and most pets have been eating the offending food for years with no previous trouble.
Hypoallergenic diets are special high quality veterinary prescription diets that either have a novel protein source such as turkey or kangaroo or the protein source has been specially treated so that it no longer causes an allergic reaction.
If food and flea allergies have been ruled out we are left with the tricky task of treating Atopy. Sometimes intradermal skin tests or blood tests can be performed to identify the allergen(s)) and the animal can be vaccinated against it. Initially they require frequent vaccinations that are slowly weaned down to a maintenance vaccination every few weeks.
Often people opt to just treat the symptoms of their pet’s allergies when they arise.
The most common drug used for this is Prednisone. This usually effectively controls the itchiness but the symptoms will usually recur some time in the future after the medication has been stopped.
Long term use of steroids at high does is not recommended so often we recommend short doses as needed or in some pets requiring longer term treatment we start with a high dose and wean down to a low dose every second day.
We are currently trying a new product called Cortovance a topical steroid spray. This controls the itch and inflammation at skin level without the side effects of Prednisone tablets. If you would like further information about this please contact us at the clinic.
Often antibiotics, anti-fungal medication and topical ear treatments are also required to treat the infections that develop secondary to allergies. Fatty Acid supplements such as Evening Primrose and Fish Oils are often beneficial if added to the diet and soothing medicated shampoos such as Malaseb may also help to keep your pet’s itchy skin under control.
Whilst treating skin allergies can be a frustrating experience there are a number of options out there so speak to your vet about what is best for your pet.