Allergies – both pets and people suffer from allergies. They can be seasonal or year round. They can be due to environment/contact allergies or food. Atopy is a big name for allergy and often carries a genetic predisposition. Just like some people can be allergic to poison ivy or certain foods, there are some dogs that are allergic vs others who may not be affected by allergens.
One way to “treat” allergies is to avoid them. Although, this may not always be possible. One way to avoid allergies would be to protect your pet from common allergens. We recommend keeping your pet on consistent, good quality flea control year round. Some pets will react to even one flea bite and will scratch or chew themselves raw causing secondary infections. It is not uncommon to see 2 pets come in for an exam that live in the same household and one is scratching like crazy and fur-less and the other pet is not itchy at all. This is NOT because the other pet does not have fleas, but because they are not as reactive as their housemate. However, they are a constant source of reproduction for the fleas, thus all pets in the household need to be treated. We see this commonly with cats as well that are indoor/outdoor and don’t “appear” to have fleas.
We see a fair amount of seasonal/environmental allergies. If your pet reacts to being outside, you can try “wiping-off” their paws & undercarriage to help reduce the contact load.
There is also allergy testing that can be done to form allergen injections. These injections can de-sensitize your pet to certain allergens over time.
We often see secondary infections caused by allergies. A pet is itchy due to the allergen, they scratch or chew or shake their head. This breaks the normal skin barrier, causing bacteria and yeast to overgrow. It is very important to treat the infection first before focusing only on the allergy. This is why we as veterinarians will get calls from owners saying the itch medicine is “not working” now. Once the infection is clear, controlling the itch will help prevent recurring infections.
Depending on how severe the allergy is, your pet may need prescription medication to help them. We have traditionally used steroids or antihistamines in the past for allergies. While these can help, sometimes antihistamines are not strong enough and steroids, we do not want to use long-term due to potential side effects.
Two very effective treatments we have for itching/allergies are called Apoquel and Cytopoint.
Apoquel is a pill that a pet takes daily to control itching. It can be used long-term and would be safer than staying on a steroid chronically. A pet must be at least a year old before using Apoquel.
Cytopoint is an injection that is labeled for 4-8 weeks of itch relief. This is ideal for pets who do not take pills well or for owners who do not have a consistent home schedule to medicate their pet (or are just forgetful ☺ ) Cytopoint can also be used with any other medication that your pet may be on and has no side effects. It can be used in pets of any age. It is a protein, not a chemical, and is naturally broken down and recycled by the body. It is ideal to use if your pet has other health concerns as well due to its safety factor.
If you have an itchy pet, come see us and we can decide together how best to treat your pet!
Dr. Nichola Gaither, DVM