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August 3, 2020

General Medical Issues

Pet Allergies (Part 2)

by Aili V. Heintz, DVM

This is the second part of our blog discussing pet allergies. If you haven’t yet read part one, I would encourage you to go back and read about it. Allergies in Pets (Part 1) explained what pet allergies are and what kind of allergens can affect your pet. Part One also covered possible signs and symptoms of pet allergies.

Pet allergies vary in causes, treatments, and symptoms

Please remember that just like people, pets are all unique. What one pet shows as signs of allergies may not be what the next pet exhibits. I explained previously that pet allergies can be quite frustrating to manage. Many allergy symptoms (scratching, vomiting, etc.) are very broad and can be signs of multiple other health issues. So, to determine the cause of your pet’s issues, your veterinarian may need to perform multiple tests to determine whether your pet has allergies or has some other type of illness.

Allergies can also be frustrating because there is no “cure” for them. Instead, allergies in pets are managed through medications and reduced exposure to the allergens. The good news is, we have several options for testing for allergies and we have many options to help manage pet allergies. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best course of action for you and your pet.

I think that my pet may have allergies. What can I do?

To determine whether or not your pet has allergies, your vet will consider your pet’s symptoms/signs and health history. Your vet will ask when symptoms started occurring or recurring. She may also ask you about any changes in your pet’s food, lifestyle, or environment that happened around the time that you first saw symptoms.  All of the questions may lead your vet to determine whether or not your pet has allergies.

As I mentioned previously, a lot of allergy symptoms can also be signs of other health issues like thyroid disease, skin infections, fleas or mites, colds, and sinus infections. Your veterinarian may need to run some tests to rule out other common problems before testing for allergies. Once other illnesses have been ruled out, your vet may perform skin biopsies or allergy testing to confirm that the symptoms are due to allergies.

What type of allergy tests are available for pets?

There are several options for specific allergy testing for your pet. Some of these testing options may be done at your regular veterinarian’s office, while others may require a visit to a veterinary dermatologist (a vet who works only with animals’ skin and coat issues).

Intra-dermal testing

This test is similar to the type of allergy testing that some people have performed. A veterinary dermatologist will shave an area on your pet’s side and will inject multiple different test substances just into or under the skin. The dermatologist will then monitor your pet and watch for signs of reactions that occur on the skin.

Blood allergy testing

A blood test can be performed at most regular veterinary clinics. This type of test involves drawing a blood sample from your pet and sending it out for further testing to the allergy lab. This blood test looks for antibodies to specific allergens and can be used for testing for food, environmental, and contact allergens.

It is important to remember that not all blood allergy testing is the same. Not all labs test the same things, and each lab may test for a different number of allergens. Some labs may also have more sensitive testing measures than others, allowing for more accurate or reliable information. You can ask your veterinarian about the lab she uses, but you can trust that her office will use a reliable lab for your pet’s blood testing.

Bio-energetic testing

This unique allergy test is usually only performed by holistic veterinarians. At Countrycare Animal Complex, we are lucky to have one of the few veterinarians that offer this type of holistic option. With this type of testing, Dr. Karen Strickfaden assesses allergens and chemical sensitivities using electromagnetic frequencies. Dr. Strickfaden does not need to draw blood or inject anything into your pet.

Are there things that I can do to help my pet if he has allergies?

Yes! While there may not be a “cure” to allergies, there are things you can do to help your pet feel better. The option or options that will work best for your pet depends on many different things. In some cases, you can remove an allergen from your pet’s environment. For example, if your pet is allergic to chicken, you can change his food and treats to avoid giving him chicken altogether.  Your veterinarian can advise you as to the various ways you can help your pet.

What kinds of management options are there for pet allergies?

There are many treatments available for allergies, including oral medications, topical treatments, supplements, holistic treatments, and more. Your veterinarian will help you to decide the best management options based on your pet’s symptoms and lifestyle. We understand that not every pet enjoys bath time. For pets that hate water, a treatment plan that involves frequent bathing would not be a good fit for them.

In addition, since allergies are an over-reaction by their own immune systems, pets (like people) will all respond differently to allergies and treatment options. Your vet will determine the best options for your specific pet and may change the treatment plan according to your pet’s improvement.

I will briefly highlight a few options that your veterinarian may discuss with you. (As always…consult with your veterinarian BEFORE using any medication of any type. Many medications can be bad for your pet if you give the wrong type or dose.)

Antihistamines

These medications target histamines that the body makes during an allergic reaction. Antihistamines have a lower risk of side effects and are generally tolerated by most pets. However, not all pets will respond to these drugs. Antihistamines usually work best for less severe allergies or when used in conjunction with other treatment options.

Steroids

These medications can come in multiple forms including topical, oral, or injectable (a shot), and they work to stop inflammation and block the allergic reaction. Steroids can have the potential to cause significant side effects and can increase strain on the liver.

Apoquel

Apoquel is a medication that is different from both antihistamines and steroids. It works to not only block itch receptors but also to reduce inflammation and irritation at the skin level. Apoquel does not tend to have side effects or long term complications that steroids have and tends to work more consistently than antihistamines. This medication comes in a pill form and can be used long-term.

Topical treatments

Topical treatments include medicated shampoos, sprays, and creams. Often times, these products have topical antihistamines or skin-soothing components to help make your pet more comfortable. These treatments also try to repair the damage done to the coat and skin.

Skin Supplements

Sometimes, certain skin supplements such as omega fatty acids may be used to help reduce skin inflammation and help with proper coat and skin health.

Desensitization Injections

These injections are often referred to as “allergy shots.” With this treatment, the pet is given special injections at home based on results from their individual allergy testing results. These injections help reduce the reaction the body is having to specific allergens. In other words, desensitization injections try to reprogram the pet’s immune system so that it doesn’t over-react.  Over time, using these injections, the pet’s immune system becomes less reactive to allergens.

Bioresonance therapy (Bicom)

This is a holistic approach that uses electromagnetic energy to boost the immune system while clearing allergens and sensitivities in the body. This is a rare and specialized type of treatment, and we are lucky to have a holistic vet at Countrycare who can perform this type of treatment.

Allergies don’t have to drive you and your pet crazy! We can test to determine whether or not your pet has allergies, and we can provide a variety of treatment management options to help make your pet feel better. If you are worried that your pet may have allergies, give us a call! We are here to help you figure things out and make a plan to keep your pet healthy, happy, and itch-free!

 

Dr. Heintz and her dog, MimiDr. Heintz is a small and exotic animal veterinarian at Countrycare Animal Complex in Green Bay, WI. She earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Illinois – Urbana/Champaign. Her passion is helping all animals, whether furry, scaly, or feathered, lead long and healthy lives.