Pet Skin Allergies: Scratching the Surface
Pet skin allergies are one of the most common issues that pet owners and their veterinarians deal with. Allergies and skin problems can have a wide array of underlying causes, from flea allergies to environmental allergies to food allergies. The most important factor is figuring out which one (or combination) is affecting your pet.
Common Pet Skin Allergies
Flea allergies are incredibly common, especially if you live in a warmer climate. There is a plethora of flea control products on the market. There are oral medications (usually in the form of a chewable treat), topical treatments, and medicated collars. Before choosing one, consult with your veterinarian about which product is best for your pet. It’s extremely important to be very well-informed when choosing any kind of medication for your pet. Some of the over-the-counter flea control products are at best ineffective and at worst potentially toxic. It’s ironic that some of the options the pet store offers can actually make the problem worse.
Many pets’ skin allergies are caused by sensitivity to food. These sensitivities can range from fairly mild to potentially life-threatening. Fortunately, unlike a person with a severe allergy to peanuts, allergies that severe are very uncommon in pets. We’re going to focus on the subtle allergies that may cause gastrointestinal issues or skin inflammation. Switching from a processed diet to a fresh, whole food diet can drastically improve your pet’s skin allergies. I have seen more than a few animals with chronic skin conditions get dramatically better just by changing from a processed diet to a fresh diet. While this solution won’t reveal whether your pet had a particular protein sensitivity or what compound in their food that was causing them, the bottom line is they may get better.
If that doesn’t do the trick, the next step would be trying to figure out if there is a specific ingredient a pet is sensitive to. Allergy tests can be done to detect either food allergies. We typically recommend a test called Nutriscan which uses saliva to test for food sensitivities. After the lab analyzes the sample, we get back a list of foods that are allergens for your pet. Ideally, there is something that can easily be eliminated their diet.
Environmental allergies, or atopy, are the trickiest allergies to treat. Unless you move to a completely new environment (or live in a bubble) you can never completely get away from allergies in the environment. Instead, we focus on controlling the body’s response to those allergens. There are many ways to do it using natural remedies. There are natural antihistamines and natural anti-inflammatory medicines that we can try. GI drops or GI injections can desensitize the immune system over time so it doesn’t respond as dramatically when exposed to allergens. This solution is best used in severe cases.
Pet Skin Allergies from Prescription Medications
There are certainly instances where prescription medications are your best option. There are treatments available such as antihistamines or, in extreme cases, immunosuppressive medications like steroids. I always recommend waiting to use those medications as a last resort. Any medication that affects the immune system is potentially problematic when used long-term. Trying flea control, diet changes or natural remedies is always a better solution than jumping immediately to medications that can have negative side-effects down the road. The key to success is to use a methodical approach to determine the underlying cause of your pet’s skin allergies.