Could Your Pet Have Allergies?
Signs of your pet having allergies can vary or even be hard to notice at times. Common symptoms of pet allergies are itchiness, hives, swelling on the body, sneezing, itchy ears, chronic ear infections, itchy/runny eyes, and constant licking. Common areas for itchiness, reddened skin, and licking is the lower abdomen, between the rear legs, and between the toes on the paws. Hives and swelling are common when the allergen comes in direct contact with the pet's skin. Owners could also observe diarrhea and vomiting as a symptom of allergies. However, it is uncommon.
Fun fact, here at the clinic, we commonly diagnose pet allergies on a dog with consistent reddened skin on the lower belly and nearly constant ear infections.
So We Think It Is Allergies, What Next?
If you believe your pet may be having issues with allergies, first call the clinic. The first step to diagnosing anything is talking to the trained veterinarian support staff. The staff will listen to your concerns, assess how severe the situation is, offer advice, and schedule appointments (if needed) in a timely matter to assess your pet for allergies.
During your appointment, your veterinarian will examine your pet all over its body, specifically looking for common symptoms of allergies. If the veterinarian diagnoses your pet with allergies, do not worry. Most pets with allergies can be well-managed on antihistamines, anti-inflammatory medications, or even shampoo therapies.
There are many objects and substances a pet can be allergic to. Commonly proteins and chemicals of insects, plants, and animals. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells, insect proteins (flea saliva), and even some medications. Sometimes it can be hard to determine what your pet is allergic to specifically. Often once your pet is diagnosed with allergies, the pet can be monitored for symptoms of allergies at home to determine when the pet is having reactions. Just like humans, some pets have seasonal allergies, some are year-round, and others are acute. If your pet is allergic to objects in the environment, such as plants or pollens, we can discuss seasonal allergy treatment. If seasonal allergy treatment does not appear to be effective, your pet may be allergic to objects present year-round. Common allergens could be dust mites or mold spores. Each pet is unique so the allergens and symptoms can also be unique to each pet.
What About Allergy Testing?
If you are reading into this asking why I have not mentioned testing for allergies, there are a few specific reasons why. Testing for allergies is available for pets commonly at universities. Testing is not something we jump directly to because testing can be expensive, sometimes they do not give clear results, and some allergens cannot be determined by a test. Common allergy tests available are blood tests sent to labs, intradermal testing, food trails, and elimination tests. Let's discuss these tests.
Often blood allergy testing will only detect inhalant or parasite allergies. If an animal has a contact or food allergies, the blood test will not show that. Intradermal testing is available and could show a positive to an allergen a blood test would not. Intradermal testing is the procedure in which the pet is shaved and injected with different suspected allergens at a specific location. If the location shows symptoms of allergies on-site, the pet is considered allergic to that allergen. Intradermal testing cannot detect direct-contact allergies. Food trials may be necessary sometimes to determine the specific allergen. Food allergies typically do not respond well to corticosteroids or other medical treatments commonly used for allergies. Food trials can be effective is they are completed properly. Placing a pet on a food trail is extremely hard on pets and owners because it can take months to years, and the pet can only eat one food at a time. For example, if the pet were to eat chicken when the pet is supposed to only be eating lamb, the entire trial as to be restarted. Treatment of food allergies requires identifying the offending component(s) of the diet and eliminating them. The most accurate way of testing for food allergies is with an elimination diet trial using a hypoallergenic diet. Because it takes at least eight weeks for all other food products to be eliminated from the body, the dog must eat the special diet exclusively for eight to twelve weeks. If a positive response and improvement of your pet's clinical signs occur, your veterinarian will advise you on how to proceed. Sometimes we do not get a conclusive result that we hope for with food trials. Elimination tests are also available. Elimination tests are when we remove a suspected contact allergen from the environment of the pet, waiting two weeks, and monitoring for reactions. All of these tests can be very difficult because they can be inconclusive and commonly pets have allergies to objects in environments such as grass, dust, pollen, etc. Food allergies can be possible but are considered uncommon. Most pets are allergic to something in the environment. Allergen testing can be useful, but many times it leaves us with more questions for our pets.
Pet allergies can be frustrating and annoying to pets and owners, but with a little bit of help, many allergies can be relieved with medications. If your pet starts to have an increase in scratching or reddened skin, be sure to monitor for further signs of allergies. If you have any questions, let us know at (605) 697-5252. We are happy to answer any questions you may have and set up an appointment for your animal to be seen by our veterinarians.