Canine and Feline Allergy
The Hudson valley is one of the worst areas of the north east for allergy problems. I’m sure that most you are familiar with the allergic symptoms commonly seen in people…nasal congestion, itchy eyes, sinus headaches, chronic fatigue and sometimes dry and itchy skin.
Our pets may also suffer from allergies. They may have similar symptoms as humans, but more commonly suffer from skin, ear and eye problems.
The three major types of allergies seen in our pets are caused by food, environment and parasites (fleas). These may occur individually or in combination.
Food Allergy: food allergy is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to protein contained in the diet. Proteins generally include meat, chicken fish and possibly soy and corn. Pets may present with chronic intestinal, skin, ear or eye problems. Food allergy occurs mainly in young dogs and cats, but can be seen at any age.
Environmental allergy: environmental allergy is caused by a hypersentivity reaction to something outside of the body. It is the most common type of allergy and may come from pollen, grass, weeds, trees, dust mites, and mold. These allergies may be seasonal, multi seasonal or non-seasonal (continuous). Skin, ear and eye problems are very common with environmental allergy.
Parasite allergy: parasite allergy is caused by a hypersensitivity reaction to an insect bite. Fleas are the number one cause in this category. As few as one or two flea bites may cause a severe skin reaction in allergic dogs and cats.
Types of Allergic Reactions in Dogs and Cats
Acute Moist Dermatitis: Better known as a “hot spot”, these are localized areas of severe inflammation. They may be large or small, and located anywhere on the pet. They are sometimes covered by long hair and become infected and have a foul odor. These lesions are very painful and itchy. The surrounding fur must be shaved, the affected area cleaned and cortisone and antibiotic creams or sprays applied.
Atopic Dermatitis: This is a generalized skin reaction that affects multiple areas of the body. The pattern may be symmetrical and include arm pits, rear legs, trunk, abdomen, ears and eyes. Affected areas are very itchy and may be scabby, peeling and infected.
Folliculitis: This condition is an inflammation and or infection of hair follicles any where on the body. Seen more commonly in dogs, there may be few to many circular lesions (collaret’s) where hair falls out and skin is red and irritated. These lesions may resemble ringworm lesions but are not contagious. There may also be generalized areas of patchiness. This condition is caused by allergy and is frequently infected with bacteria as well.
Miliary Dermatitis: This skin condition is seen exclusively in cats. The lesions may be localized or generalized and look like tiny scabs located very close together. The skin becomes severely inflamed and itchy. Flea bite allergy is the most common cause of this reaction.
Treatment of Allergies
Treatment of allergic disease in dogs and cats depends on the severity of symptoms and whether the problem is seasonal or non-seasonal.
Seasonal Allergy: The allergic symptoms tend to be present during one season of the year, or maybe two. Spring, summer and fall are the most common months for seasonal allergies. The pet has no symptoms during the other seasons. This is caused by an environmental allergy, or flea bite allergy. Mild symptoms may be treated with antihistamines. Frontline for dogs and Revolution for cats will help to minimize flea bite allergy. The use of omega 3 fatty acids may also decrease skin inflammation. Animals with severe symptoms may require oral or injectable corticosteroids to alleviate their symptoms. Antibiotics may also be required if the skin becomes infected.
Non-seasonal Allergy: This is the worst form of allergic disease. Symptoms are present all year around and require constant medical attention. It is important to determine the cause of non-seasonal allergies in order to treat properly. Scabies, or sarcoptic mange, is a skin mite which dogs may contract in outdoor areas habitated by fox, raccoons and coyotes. Symptoms may be identical to skin allergy. This disease is ruled out by treating with revolution. The next consideration is diet. Cats and dogs may become highly allergic to the food they eat. A hypoallergenic food trial will determine if the pet has a food allergy. Finally, environmental allergy testing is performed by blood tests or by skin testing. If the pet tests positive, an allergy serum can be made and a series of allergy injections can be given to help control the symptoms.
It is important to remember that are no cures for allergic disease. The treatments mentioned above are useful to minimize the symptoms and make our pets live more comfortable lives. Many times a combination of therapies are necessary, and treatment may need to be continued long term. Frequent rechecks may be necessary in some cases in order to re-evaluate and adjust treatment.
Information about on line purchase of Heart Guard, Frontline, and Revolution:
The companies that produce these products will not guarantee their quality if not purchased directly from a veterinary hospital. The medications contained in these products are temperature sensitive and if not shipped and stored properly may be rendered ineffective. Counterfeit products have also been found. If your pet contracts heart worm disease, intestinal parasites or severe flea problems the manufacturers will pay for medical treatment only if the products have been purchased directly from a veterinary hospital and the pet has been using them as prescribed. Our prices for these products are very similar to on line pharmacies and rebates are offered in addition for Heart Guard. Frontline offers a free dose when six doses are purchased through veterinary hospitals. Revolution does the same and offers free preventic collars as well.
We have recently acquired a digital dental x-ray machine. This piece of equipment has greatly enhanced our ability to diagnose dental disease below the gum level, and enables us to treat problems before they become painful for our pets.