How to recognise if your pet has skin allergies
Now that spring is here and the weather is getting warmer the season for hay fever and skin allergies has started. Did you know your pet can suffer from skin allergies?
Allergies in cats and dogs will usually present as itchy skin but may also include sneezing, itchy ears and weepy eyes. The allergens are usually airborne such as pollens, dust or mould spores. This can be very difficult to avoid, especially in that dog that loves to roll in the grass or dig. The allergen gets into the skin, nose or eyes and triggers a response from the immune system which leads to inflammation and itchiness.
Other reasons that a pet may itch, these include:
- Parasites such as fleas and mites
- Food allergies (usually to meat-based proteins)
- Secondary infection
- Contact with an irritating substance such as some plant saps
This is why it is important to ensure parasite prevention is up to date and to give a full history when discussing skin issues with your vet.
Skin Allergies are common in the following breeds of dog:
Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Staffordshire bull terriers (Staffys), West Highland Whites, Shar Peis, Boxers and Pugs to name a few.
Here are a few criteria which are present in 85% of dogs diagnosed with skin allergies:
- Age of onset: between 6 months and 3 years of age
- Mostly indoor lifestyle: airborne allergens are concentrated indoors
- Good response to anti-itch medication: when dogs are given corticosteroid medications the itch may significantly improve
- Chronic or recurring yeast infections in the ears or skin: the allergy response damages the skin barrier which allows the normal yeast to proliferate and cause dermatitis.
- Distribution of lesions/affected areas: The main areas affected in dogs are the feet/legs, ears, belly, eyes, mouth, armpits and anus. In cats the distribution doesn’t follow a particular pattern.
Food allergies present with a very similar distribution of lesions but tend to be less responsive to anti-itch medications and occur in dogs under 3 years or over 6 years.
Flea allergy tends to occur along the middle of the back and around the tail base.
There are a number of different treatment options for skin allergies. The most important thing to understand is that it generally isn’t a curable disease. It will likely flare up at least once a year, sometimes more. The main aim of treatment is to manage the disease so that the quality of life for the pet is as good as possible, this will include treating secondary infections when they appear and using medication to help with the itching. There are pros and cons to each treatment option, it is best to talk to your vet to form a personalised plan for the pet, especially as they may have multiple allergy types at once.
If you’re worried about your pets skin please contact our friendly team on (08) 8340 0388 or book an appointment online by clicking here.