Is your pet’s scratching, biting, and licking keeping you up at night? Environmental allergies can make your pet—and you—miserable, and getting to the bottom of their problem can be challenging. With the variety of environmental allergens, and each pet reacting differently, a one-size-fits-all treatment protocol does not exist. Instead, each pet requires an individualized management plan that will give them relief, and the best quality of life possible. Animal Emergency Specialty Center’s dermatology and allergy service will determine exactly what triggers your pet’s allergic response, and design a treatment plan that will keep them comfortable.
Allergies in Pets
An allergy develops when your pet’s immune system is overly sensitive to a substance in their environment (i.e., an allergen), and responds inappropriately. While most pets would not react to the substance, an allergic pet’s sensitized immune system identifies the allergen as a problem, and mounts an exaggerated response. While humans with allergies typically experience sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes, allergic pets have different signs, which may include:
- Itchy, red skin
- Chronic skin infections
- Chronic ear infections
- Hair loss
Common Pet Allergens
Pets can be allergic to a variety of environmental substances, outside and inside your home. Common pet allergens include:
- Pollen from trees, bushes, plants, and grasses
- Dust and storage mites
If your pet is allergic to pollen from local plants or trees, they will likely experience seasonal symptoms, becoming extremely itchy when pollen levels are highest, typically in the spring or summer. The rest of the year they may be symptom-free or have only mild itching. Fleas also tend to cause seasonal problems, unless they survive in your home through the winter. If your pet is allergic to allergens inside your home, such as mites or mold, they will likely have year-round problems that may worsen in the winter, when they spend more time inside. Most allergic pets are sensitive to multiple substances in their environment, which may include indoor and outdoor allergens.
Allergy Diagnosis in Pets
A tentative allergy diagnosis may be based on your pet’s clinical signs, but a full diagnosis involves identifying your pet’s specific allergens. AESC’S board-certified veterinary dermatologist, Dr. Jacquelyn Diamond, can perform intradermal allergy testing to determine your pet’s allergic triggers. Our dermatology and allergy team will shave an area underneath your pet’s chest, and inject a variety of common allergens into their skin in a grid-like pattern. The team then will monitor your pet’s reaction to each substance—if they develop an itchy, red welt where a potential allergen was injected, they are likely sensitive to that substance.
Diagnosing the exact allergens causing your pet’s sensitivity is important, because we can then create an individualized treatment plan that will address their specific allergies, instead of simply treating their symptoms.
Allergy Management in Pets
Ideally, your pet would completely avoid the substances that cause their allergies, but that is not possible in most cases. Pollen is distributed in the air we breathe, including inside, and dust mites are found in the cleanest homes. Instead, treatment is focused on immunotherapy, or desensitizing your pet’s immune system to their specific triggers. Once we identify your pet’s allergens, a solution will be made that includes these substances. We will inject the solution, often called an “allergy injection,” under your pet’s skin according to a specific schedule, or you can administer the solution sublingually, or under your pet’s tongue, at home. By exposing your pet’s immune system to the offending substances in a controlled, gradual manner, we hope to reduce its sensitivity, and your pet’s resulting response to actual environmental exposure.
Immunotherapy may not completely resolve your pet’s allergy symptoms, but most pets experience significant improvement. Some pets may have occasional flare-ups, particularly when they are exposed to high allergen levels, that require additional medications to control. Keep in mind that immunotherapy does not cure a pet’s allergies, but keeps their immune system at bay, so treatment is typically life-long.
If your pet’s itching is keeping you up, and making them miserable, ask your family veterinarian if a referral to our dermatology and allergy department is in order. We will get to the bottom of your pet’s allergies, and help you both sleep better. Contact us with any questions, or to schedule an appointment for your pet’s allergy consultation.