We can help relieve allergies in dogs and cats. Allergy testing for animals is a safe and effective way to diagnose allergies and start an effective allergy treatmentWhat’s causing your dog to itch? It’s probably dog allergies. But is it food, dust mites … or you? There are hundreds of possibilities.
Here’s how to rule out some of them, and get down to the likeliest ones. Once you know what’s causing the itch, you can take action to provide your dog with some much-needed relief.
Let’s get down to business. Does your dog itch all year-round, or just in certain seasons?
There are only a few causes of year-round canine allergies:
Food. This is the first thing many people think of as causing canine allergies. It’s actually one of the least likely. True food allergies are uncommon in dogs.
A dog may be sensitive to a protein source in his food , or to the protein part of grains such as wheat, soy or corn. Wheat gluten is another one which frequently causes some dog itching and scratching problems. If you have an itchy dog, avoid foods with soy.
Try switching to a food with a different protein source, or with a different grain content than you’ve been feeding. Test this food for 6 weeks and see if there’s any difference. If food does seem to be the problem, rotate different foods through your dog’s diet. Canine allergies develop after exposure to an ingredient, and the more exposure, the more likely an allergy will develop.
If your dog is itching, another food-related cause may be mold . Molds grow on wheat, corn, and peanut hulls used in pet food. These produce toxic by-products called mycotoxins, which can suppress the immune system, leading to dog itching problems.
Atopy is the term used in veterinary medicine for the itchy condition caused by allergies to inhaled substances. These substances, called âallergensâ may be pollens, plant or animal fibers, house dust, or molds. Animals with atopy (called âatopicsâ) often show symptoms such as scratching, licking their paws, and rubbing their face
The only precise way of diagnosing allergies is the intra-dermal skin test. The dog or cat is clipped on one side of the chest, and very small amounts of the suspected allergens are injected into the skin. This is slightly uncomfortable but most pets tolerate the procedure quite well. (Occasionally, a tranquilizer is necessary to quiet the anxious patient). Currently 40 different antigens are used for complete skin testing. The reactivity of the various allergens is evaluated by the veterinarian within a half-hour following the injections. The entire procedure generally takes about one hour.
If a pet is diagnosed as being allergic, there are three methods of therapy.
- The first is to remove the offending allergens from the animalâs environment. This is not possible in many cases, but should be considered when wool, kapok (a furniture stuffing), or similar allergens are implicated in the skin test.
- The second means of therapy is hyposensitization, or âallergy shotsâ. These are a series of injections of diluted allergens that are given to render the pet less sensitive to its allergies. The mechanism by which the injections work is not well understood. Usually the owner can be trained to give the injections at home. Approximately 20% of all animals given the injections fail to improve; 60% are controlled with hyposensitization injections alone while 20% are not completely controlled and may need other medication. The response to hyposensitization is slow and gradual. Most pets do not respond until they have been on 3 to 6 months of treatment. For a fair trial you must continue shots for 6 months. Once they have responded, treatment must be continued at least a full year and in most cases will be needed for life. Hyposensitization has not been effective for control of flea allergic dermatitis with antigens (flea extract) presently available, therefore atopic animals with concurrent flea allergies still require consistent and ongoing flea control (environment and pets).
- The third type of therapy involves the use of anti-itch medication. Antihistamines generally are not very effective in animals. Some pets (approximately 30%) will respond, however, and thus a trial course of antihistamine may be tried. The most frequent anti-itch drug used in veterinary medicine is a cortisone-like medication. In order to minimize potential side effects, animals are usually placed on the lowest, every-other-day morning dose of oral prednisone that is still effective in controlling their symptoms.
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