Allergy PAWblems

Jackson’s Testimony “Oh no, not again. I just can’t stop licking, scratching, chewing and shaking my head. I can’t sleep at night nor am I comfortable, and my owner is looking at me crazy and concerned. Sometimes I feel like this when the seasons change. While pacing back and forth along the fence yesterday, my friend Rufus told me it didn’t matter the season, he always itches. He said he was fed up with it because when he goes to the park he has this stench, and he’s pretty sure its the reason he can’t get any action from the ladies.”


Is this your pet? Sounds like a bad case of allergies to me. We all dread them but they are real and it’s something we as veterinarians manage everyday. The important thing is trying to identify what kind of allergy and finding the best treatment for it. We like to consider these the three pet associated allergies:

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Flea Allergy Dermatitis is a common skin disease in pets that are sensitive to the proteins in flea saliva. This can cause an adverse reaction in the skin. Symptoms are usually seasonal and are typically within the warm weather months and in the fall…but in Austin fleas like to kick it year round. That’s right! The fleas just don’t die…they MULTIPLY!

In dogs, skin lesions are usually seen along the neck, abdomen, flank, inguinal region, and tail. Cats usually have lesions on the face, neck, back, abdomen, and tail. After the flea bites, your pet experiences pruritus pronounced prur-i-tis (an intense itch) and redness. Once they scratch pets start to show symptoms of alopecia, crusting, and secondary infections i.e. Pyoderma (Pie-Oh-Derm-Ah).


Atopy (Ahh-Toe-Pee) or environmental allergies are common in dogs from 6 months to 6 years of age. The symptoms commonly first appear between 1 and 3 years of age. Atopy is a hypersensitivity reaction to inhaled or cutaneously absorbed (absorbed through the skin pores) environmental allergens.

Food Allergies

Canine food hypersensitivity is an adverse reaction to a food or food additive. It can occur at any age, from recently weaned puppies to the AARP eligible dogs that have been eating the same food for years. Most dogs diagnosed with food allergies are younger than 1 year of age. This hypersensitivity is characterized by non- seasonal pruritus that affects multiple areas of the body. We commonly label it the old “ears, rears, and paws” syndrome with a little bit of “boot scoot and boogie” action (aka impacted anal glands).


Affected skin is often red with a noticeable rash present. Self-trauma induced lesions include alopecia, scales, increased pigmentation of the skin, and secondary skin infections with bacteria or yeast. Ear infections are also common. Occasionally hives may occur and you may see some gastrointestinal signs such as frequent bowel movements, vomiting, diarrhea, and flatulence.


As you can see, these different conditions all have similar clinical symptoms. So I’ll break it down into how we diagnose and treat each patient.



    1. Is your dog or cat on monthly flea and tick prevention?
      • Every pet has a different lifestyle so we try to tailor our prevention towards your pets’ indoor/outdoor needs.
      • Inconsistency in administering prevention can cause frequent recurrence of flea allergies
      • Don’t only treat your pet but also the environment (and other pets in home)



    1. What kind of food is your pet eating? Have you recently switched diets?
      • Any change in diet should be a slow transition over time vs. changing acutely.
      • Determining food allergies is difficult because it is a process of elimination.
      • Possibility of food recall


    1. Does your pet tend to itch year round or during a certain season?
      • Year round allergies are commonly food related, but can also be due to ever present allergens in the environment (like dust mites), or current medications your pet is taking (antibiotics, heartworm and flea prevention).
      • Seasonal allergies are more likely due to the blooming flowers and other greenery.



      • Cytology
      • Woods Lamp Testing
      • Skin Scrape
      • Skin Biopsy
      • Hypoallergenic Food Trials
      • Serum Blood Testing
      • Intradermal Skin Testing



      • Flea/Tick Prevention
      • Hypoallergenic Food Trials
      • Allergy shots and drops
      • Apoquel, Atopica, Cytopoint
      • Antihistamines
      • Shampoo & Conditioners
      • Antibiotics and Antifungal pills
      • Omega 3 Fatty Acid Supplements (Fish oils)


See your veterinarian for more information about the best way to treat your pet for allergies!



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