Has your pet been diagnosed with an underlying allergy as the cause of their recurrent ear or skin irritation?
Whilst this can be disappointing news to receive, you and your pet can take comfort in the fact that we are very familiar with the management of allergies!
Types of allergies
There are four main types of allergies that can cause recurrent skin or ear disease in pets. These are:
- Atopy (food +/or air born) – allergies to airborne materials such as pollens or dust mites
- Food allergies – allergies to food components, usually particular proteins, such as beef or dairy
- Contact allergies – when your pet reacts to direct contact with particular plants or chemicals
- Flea allergies – allergies to the saliva in flea bites
If we suspect underlying allergies as the trigger for your pet’s skin or ear disease, we will perform some treatment trials to help determine the cause. This will include a thorough flea control program, a hypoallergenic dietary trial and a check of your pet’s environment for any common irritating plants.
These steps will help to test for flea allergies, food allergies or contact allergies as the trigger for your pet’s irritation. If your pet is deemed to not be affected by any of these allergies, their problem is likely to be atopy. Atopy can be a frustrating problem to deal with, as there’s nothing you can directly control in your pet’s environment to fix the problem!
There are, however, many effective management options that we can recommend to help your pet, depending on their particular symptoms and temperament, and your budget.
Allergy testing and immunotherapy
The gold standard option for atopy treatment is a referral to a specialist dermatologist for special skin testing. This testing can determine exactly which environmental materials your pet is allergic to, so they can be started on an allergen-specific immunotherapy program. This involves regular injections, which over six months to one year can reduce or cure your pet’s allergies. This option however is not financially possible for all owners, and doesn’t work for every pet.
Medical management of atopy
For many pets, a great option for control of their allergy symptoms is the use of regular anti-inflammatory medications.
Traditionally, steroids such as prednisolone have been used (as tablets or injections). Whilst effective and relatively inexpensive, steroids can unfortunately have significant side effects on some pets, such as immune suppression or gut irritation.
If your pet’s symptoms are localised to small areas of their body (e.g. their paws or ears), topical steroid sprays, creams or ear drops can provide effective control of inflammation, whilst minimising any potential side effects.
More recently, anti-allergy medications, such as Apoquel tablets and Cytopoint injections, have provided an effective way of managing allergy symptoms, with reportedly low long-term risks.
Additionally, we can recommend supportive aids, such as essential fatty acid supplements, prescription diets and soothing shampoos that can provide safe “background” support for your pet’s skin health and comfort.
So, if your pet has been diagnosed with a skin allergy, rest assured – our veterinary team can provide valuable assistance in order to bring relief to both you and your pet!