We keep busy this time of year caring for dogs and cats with allergies. Our allergy season for pets usually begins in November, runs thru April and can to a less extent last year round. Almost all seasonal/environmental allergies manifest on the skin of dogs and cats. This is different than people who largely have nasal and eye allergies to the seasonal pollens. Seasonal allergies if ignored can become complex, challenging to manage, and often times get confused with other skin conditions or allergies and lead to other skin conditions and infections. The medical term for skin allergies in dogs is Atopy. Atopy is a genetically influenced condition, meaning some dogs are more predisposed to skin allergies. Treatment considerations for Atopic Dermatitis/Skin allergies involve avoidance of allergies (Hard to do unless you move to Greenland!), and topical cleansing with the proper grooming shampoos at the proper intervals (Over shampooing can cause more problems). Fish oils with the proper dose of EPA/DHA help improve skin integrity and may control mild atopy. Other nutritional holistic plant based foods are helpful too. More severe cases of skin allergy require medications and an accurate diagnosis prior to the use of medications. Two new advancements are available for Dogs in 2016 that we are excited about here at our hospital. Changing foods is not often helpful for the seasonal allergy dog, but may reduce the overall allergy burden if a true food allergy exists. Skin testing and allergy testing can help or hinder treatment and should not be the sole interpretation to direct management of skin allergies. Coconut oil has become popular but to date no clinical evidence supports its use or benefits and we have seen other GI issues with its overuse.
If your pet keeps you up at night scratching, or has a funny smell, skin allergy is probably to blame. Put the fire out before it gets out of control.
Until next time,
Brett the Vet
Arizona Animal Hospital