Your pet is a valued family member, and you love them dearly, but lately they have been disturbing the household’s peace and quiet. The racket they cause with their constant scratching and chewing is driving your family bonkers. The team at Homestead Animal Hospital wants you to have some valuable information on pet allergies to help you determine why your pet is scratching.

A pet responds to an allergen with extreme itchiness that can affect their entire body. They will incessantly scratch, lick, rub, and chew the affected areas. This excessive grooming may cause hair loss, and they may develop crusty skin lesions in the bare spots. Pets suffering from allergies are also prone to secondary skin and ear infections that can be caused by bacteria or yeast. Pet allergies are put in three categories—fleas, environmental factors, and food.

#1: Flea allergies in pets

A flea allergy, which is the most common allergy in pets, is most prevalent in the warmer months, but can be problematic year-round. When a flea bites your pet, they inject their saliva into your pet’s skin, and the saliva substances trigger an allergic reaction. If your pet has been excessively scratching, and you find fleas on your pet, they are likely suffering from a flea allergy. Some pets will react to a single flea bite.

  • In some cases, no fleas are seen because your pet has been excessively grooming in an attempt to minimize their discomfort. Your pet’s bedding should be checked for fleas and flea droppings.
  • The fleas must be completely removed from your pet and their environment before their signs are alleviated.

Flea combs and medicated shampoos can help remove the fleas from your pet. Once the fleas on your pet are eliminated, you must maintain year-round control and also eradicate the fleas in your home.

#2: Environmental allergies in pets

Environmental allergies (i.e., atopic dermatitis) are a reaction to numerous environmental triggers, such as pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander. 

  • Allergy testing is most effective for pinpointing the factors in your pet’s environment that are causing distress.
  • Serologic testing is available but is usually inaccurate.
  • Intradermal testing is more reliable. The test involves an injection of a small allergen dose into your pet’s skin. If your pet reacts with a red bump, they are considered allergic to that allergen. That substance should be avoided, if possible.
  • Frequent bathing with a medicated shampoo can help by calming the inflamed skin and removing allergens from the skin and coat.
  • Steroids can calm the initial inflammation, but should not be used long-term.
  • Hyposensitization therapy involves administering gradually increasing doses of the problematic allergen to your pet to desensitize them.
  • Our team at Homestead Animal Hospital also offers Cytopoint and Apoquel. 
    • Cytopoint is a biological therapy that relieves your pet’s itchiness. Given as an injection by our trained veterinarians, Cytopoint takes effect in a few days and usually lasts four to eight weeks.
    • Apoquel is an oral medication that, when administered twice daily, usually decreases your pet’s itchiness in 24 hours and can be used for long-term maintenance. 

Atopic dermatitis is not curable, and your pet will need lifetime veterinary care. Our veterinary team can devise an appropriate, individual treatment protocol.

#3: Food allergies in pets

Certain foods can cause an allergic response in your pet. True food allergies in pets are rare, with proteins the most common culprit, although carbohydrates or preservatives may also be to blame. Pets are typically not allergic to grain, despite pet-food marketing. In addition to itchiness, your food-allergic pet may exhibit vomiting or diarrhea.

  • A food trial is the only method for diagnosing and treating a food allergy.
    • For at least 10 to 12 weeks, your pet will be fed a strict novel diet that does not contain any previous dietary ingredients. Common novel diets include venison and sweet potatoes, buffalo and spinach, and salmon and rice. While on the food trial, pets cannot be fed any treats or flavored medications that contain prohibited ingredients.
    • A food trial may also involve a hydrolyzed diet where protein is broken down into such a small level that the body does not recognize the substance as a threat.
    • Once your pet’s signs are resolved, the previous diet’s ingredients are gradually reintroduced until a food causes a hypersensitivity reaction. This substance should then always be excluded from your pet’s diet.

If your pet is suffering from an allergy, our team at Homestead Animal Hospital is here to help stop their torment. Do not hesitate to contact us to set up an appointment so we can get to the bottom of your pet’s itchiness.