Pet Talk: Allergies in Dogs and Cats | Characteristics

Allergic reactions tend to occur in pets due to parasites, foods, and atopic dermatitis. The most common type of skin disease in dogs is due to fleas. You may not see them, but fleas can be there, lurking on your pet’s skin and causing it to itch badly. Fleas are not common in the Wood River Valley; however, if you’re traveling with your pet to hot destinations, they can easily pick up flea passengers along the way. Flea control is essential for the treatment of an infestation and usually helps to improve the itching.

Food allergies are much less common. They are caused by an allergic reaction to proteins in the diet. Dogs and cats can have food allergies. There is currently no blood test to diagnose food allergies. Food trials are the best way to diagnose food allergies. Food trials are periods of time (usually four weeks) where your pet is on a strict diet with either a prescription food or a homemade hypoallergenic diet. If the allergy improves during the food trial, perform a food challenge introducing the previous diet to see if the itching returns.

Atopic dermatitis is a type of allergy. Common benign substances in the environment such as plant pollens, dust mites, and other environmental allergens are usually the cause of atopic dermatitis. The response to allergy medications usually helps the veterinarian diagnose the disease. However, for those who wish to know the specific allergen, there is a skin test performed by veterinary dermatologists available for pets. Skin or blood allergy testing helps us draw up a list of allergens for a “vaccine” (specific allergen immunotherapy) to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies and they are usually a lifelong problem. We seek to control allergies and improve the quality of life for you and your pet. We will formulate the best management program that suits everyone involved in your pet’s care.

Dr. Allani Delis is a veterinarian at St. Francis Pet Clinic in Ketchum.

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