Diagnosis And Treatments For Allergic Reactions In Pets


To determine what your pet is allergic to, dermatologists use a systematic method to eliminate potential allergens. They begin by collecting detailed information from you about your pet's history, including parasite control and diet. Following this, a general physical examination is conducted, with particular attention given to the skin and specific areas of concern, such as any lesions.

Testing For Skin Parasites

To eliminate the possibility of skin parasites, dermatologists perform simple tests like coat brushings, hair plucks, and skin scrapes. These samples are examined under a microscope to check for the presence of parasites. Further testing is necessary in some cases, and samples are sent to an external lab. For example, diagnosing fox mange requires a blood sample.

The next step is to identify and treat any existing skin infections. Due to the nature of their skin, cats and dogs with allergies are particularly prone to secondary bacterial and fungal infections. These infections can cause severe itching, complicating the diagnostic process.

Testing For Food Allergies

After ensuring the skin is free of infections, a diet trial may be conducted. This process involves gradually discontinuing your pet's food and introducing a new diet recommended by the dermatologist. The selected diet will be tailored to your pet's needs, and the trial typically lasts six to eight weeks. If your pet has a food allergy, you should observe an improvement, particularly a reduction in itching, after about six weeks. If a food allergy is suspected, your pet will be reintroduced to their previous diet at the end of the trial. If itching resumes, it confirms the diagnosis of a food allergy.

Diagnosing Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis is diagnosed by excluding parasites, secondary infections, and food allergies. Identifying the exact environmental allergen affecting your pet and minimizing exposure can be challenging. However, two specific tests can aid in this process. These tests are generally performed on young to middle-aged cats and dogs and are considered when owners are interested in immunotherapy as a treatment option. The two tests are:

Allergy Blood Test

This test involves taking a routine blood sample from your dog and cat, which is then sent to an external lab to determine specific allergens. The blood is tested against various allergens, including parasites, grass pollens, and tree pollens.

Allergy Skin Test

The allergy skin test is a bit more invasive and requires your pet to stay at the hospital for a few hours. During the procedure, your dog and cat will be sedated, a small patch of hair on its side will be clipped, and tiny amounts of various allergens will be injected into the skin to assess the response.

Your dermatologist will determine the most suitable test for your pet, though often both tests are performed together. You will be informed once the results are available, and a plan will be developed to use the results effectively.

Prevention And Treatment Of Allergies

While allergies to certain substances, foods, or parasites cannot be cured, you can take many steps to lessen their impact on your pet.

The most crucial step is to prevent or minimize exposure to the allergen, which requires knowing exactly what your pet is allergic to. For food allergies, this means removing the allergen from their diet while ensuring they still receive balanced nutrition.

For flea or parasite allergies, maintaining regular parasite prevention is key. Fleas are particularly challenging due to their rapid breeding cycle, so your pet needs monthly treatments to stay flea-free. Additionally, keeping your home and yard free of fleas is essential.

Environmental allergens are more complex to avoid, especially for dogs and outdoor cats. However, you can reduce their impact by regularly vacuuming and washing your pet's bedding to decrease dust and other allergens. An air purifier can also help. If environmental allergies cause skin issues, frequent bathing can help remove allergens from your dog and cat's skin.

When allergens cannot be avoided, symptom management becomes necessary. Various medicated and natural products are available to soothe itchy skin and provide relief. Antibiotic creams can reduce itching and prevent infections.

Your vet may prescribe medications for symptom relief, particularly for environmental allergies. These can include antihistamines for sneezing and watery eyes, corticosteroids to control itching, and antibiotics to treat any secondary infections that arise.


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