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Posted on 05-10-2018

Allergies are the root of the most common problems we see in dogs and cats.

There are 3 basic categories of allergens. 
1) Insects: fleas, mosquitoes, ants, etc.

2) Food: Most dogs are allergic to beef, dairy, chicken, and/or wheat. In cats, the common food allergens are beef, fish, and chicken. NOTE: ANIMALS ARE NOT ALLERGIC TO BRAND NAMES, THEY ARE ALLERGIC TO INGREDIENTS. This becomes important in management! 

3) Environmental factors: pollens from plants and trees, grasses, dust mites, molds

It is not uncommon for a pet to have multiple allergies from multiple categories.

In dogs, the common symptoms we see are 
• Itching, scratching 
• Skin infections 
• Hair loss or barbering fur 
• Chronic and/or recurrent ear infections 
• Licking feet 
• Soft bowel movements to diarrhea 
• Bad gas 
• Wheezing and coughing

In cats, the most common symptoms we see are 
• Itching, scratching 
• Hair loss or barbering fur 
• Vomiting, especially intermittent but chronic vomiting 
• Wheezing and coughing

Diagnosing Allergies 
While certain patterns of clinical signs can be pretty obvious as to the cause- such as itching around the butt are 99.9% of the time flea allergies- other times it’s more difficult because there can be a lot of overlap, particularly with food and environmental allergies. Allergy testing can tell us exactly what in the environment the pet is allergic to. While there are tests available for food allergies, they are unreliable at best and a complete waste of money at worst. A hypoallergenic food trial is the best way to diagnose food allergies.

Managing Allergies 
Out of the major categories of allergens, we can directly reduce or eliminate exposure to two of them- insects and food. It is of the utmost importance that all dogs and cats with suspected allergies stay on year round flea control. Cats are especially adept at eating the evidence (fleas) before they are found, but just ONE flea bite is enough to send highly allergic pets into a frenzy of itching leading to skin infections and ear infections. The typical flea allergy pattern is hair loss and/or barbering at the area around the top of the tail and the back of the back legs. Flea dirt, which is the dried blood poop from the fleas, is often found in this area as well. We sell a variety of highly effective and safe flea control products for dogs and cats both in the hospital and through our online store. We’ll recommend the best products for your pet and your preferences.

The only way to truly test for food allergies is to feed a hypoallergenic diet for a period of 12 weeks and see if that makes a difference in the pet’s symptoms. During the hypoallergenic food trial, the pet can have NOTHING ELSE other than the hypoallergenic food and water. If it is not possible to completely eliminate other items from the pet’s diet, it is not even worth testing for food allergies. Often dogs and cats with GI signs show marked improvement within a few weeks of eliminating the offending ingredients from their diet. Pets with ear infections and itchiness generally take a little longer to respond. Hypoallergenic diets are more expensive than regular foods, but if they eliminate or greatly reduce the symptoms, they will save you a lot of money, and anyway, the pet has to eat SOMETHING! If the doctor recommends a food allergy trial for your pet, more information will follow.

Environmental allergies are the toughest to manage. If your pet is allergic to pine pollen for example, she’s going to have a heck of a time in the spring when our air is yellow from the stuff! And it’s not like you can keep her away from pollen, it’s everywhere. We can try to manage the symptoms with medications, or we can start hyposensitivity injections, otherwise known as allergy shots. These shots are based on your pet’s individual allergens as determined from allergy testing. While allergy testing and shots are initially expensive, you often save money in the long term by reduced secondary ear and skin infections, less medications, less vet visits!

Allergy management is just that- management. There is no one correct way to manage allergies, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what works for your individual pet. There is no cure for allergies; the treatment is life long and may have to be adjusted over time. Our goal is to get your pet’s symptoms under control as quickly and effectively as possible, reduce flare ups, and keep your pet comfortable. 

Source: VIN

Dr. Bimonte in the news: Doggie Allergies

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