It’s such a beautiful time of year. Fall is here, the leaves are changing colors, fall plants are blooming and fall allergies are in full swing. Since a pets histamine receptors are located in the skin and concentrated in their ears and feet you may see them shaking their head and chewing their feet or they may just scratch all over and keep you up at night with their noises. But what is your pet allergic to? This is something to sit down and discuss with your veterinarian. Here are some things your veterinarian will look for when trying to determine the cause of an allergy.
The number one rule out for allergies is making sure there are no external parasites on your pet. Fleas and mites make your pet extremely uncomfortable and some pets develop something called “Flea Allergic Dermatitis” which is an allergic reaction to the flea saliva when they bite your pet. If your pet does have fleas or mites these must be treated and then if they are still having any problems other forms of allergies are looked into.
Another allergy that is very common with pets is environmental allergies. Now this can be seasonal and happen mainly during the season changes or can be year round if they are allergic to something in the house perhaps that is always there. This can be very difficult to determine what they are allergic to. Generally an allergy happens after several years of exposure to the allergen. Some very common environmental allergens are: pollens, grasses, trees, and fabrics. To truly determine what they are allergic to you can see a veterinary dermatologist or there is a blood test to check for common environmental allergens in your living area. There are many different medications and treatments that can be used to help make your pet more comfortable and your pet may need to stay on an antihistamine during these periods where they are most uncomfortable from their allergy. Fatty acid supplements and bathing can be a great deal of help in keeping your pets skin healthy.
The final possible allergy for your pet is food allergies. This can be the hardest to determine and rule out. Many people assume itching due to food allergies requires a recent diet change of some sort when in reality a food allergy is something a pet develops over time and exposure to the same food. Most of the time a food allergy is the last rule out after fleas/mites and being treated for a seasonal allergy. If the pet clears up with treatment and it continues to come back after the treatment is finished then your veterinarian many discuss a food allergy trial for your pet. These are very difficult because to do a true food allergy trial your pet must eat ONLY the prescribed allergy food and NOTHING ELSE. Even one treat or dip into the trash can can ruin the entire allergy trial, which needs to be done for 8 weeks. Even something like a flavored chew toy or rawhide that could contain the offending allergen can cause the food trial to fail. Food trials can be done one of two ways. Using a specialized diet consisting of proteins and carbohydrates that you pet has never had is one way, however if your pet has had many different types of foods in their life with different proteins this can be difficult to do because you have to find something they have never had. Also, it is extremely difficult to do this kind of food allergy trial with over the counter foods because many foods out there do not meet their label claims (http://www.petfoodhonesty.com/test-results.php). The other way to do a food trial is to use a specially made prescription diet where during the process of making the food the protein molecule is broken down so small that the body does not recognize it as an allergen and your pet does not react to it. This is called a hydrolyzed protein. In this way, the protein does not need to be something your pet has never had before. If the food trial is successful your pet will become much more comfortable on the diet and this may be something they need to stay on long term.
Many highly allergic pets’ may have more than one type of allergy also. For example, your pet may have both environmental and food allergies. If a food trial is done and they are much more comfortable but not quite 100% and then spring comes around and they have a break out of skin problems then they have two allergies and must be treated accordingly. Unfortunately with allergies, there is not a cure. There are many things we can do to help keep your pet comfortable but your pet needs to be watched closely for signs of flare ups. Treatment does depend on underlying cause of allergies. If you have any questions on allergies and your pet, please contact the office at 410-848-3100.