Allergies and your pet

Spring has sprung! With the warmer weather, trees and plants flowering and more time spent outside comes an increase in allergies in our pets.

An allergy is an exaggerated immune response to a normally harmless substance. The most common type of allergy in dogs and cats is a contact or environmental allergy. This is where the pet is coming into contact with a substance that they are sensitive to. This might be a particular species of grass, plant, tree or insect for example. We often refer to animals who are prone to allergies as having allergic dermatitis, atopic dermatitis or atopy.

Common signs of allergies in pets include:

  1. Scratching, biting or chewing at themselves – commonly their paws, the lower part of their abdomen, under the armpits and in the groin area.
  2. Dogs may drag their tummies or bottoms along the ground to relieve irritation.
  3. Cats may groom themselves excessively.
  4. Hair loss, redness of the skin or signs of a rash.
  5. Allergic conjunctivitis which causes redness and a mucky discharge from the eyes.

With the warmer weather we also see an increase in external parasites on our dogs and cats. Fleas are a common cause of scratching in dogs and over-grooming in cats, and mites can also cause itchiness and hair loss. Even just a few flea bites can cause symptoms, and fleas can live for long periods in the environment, so it is important to keep your pets up to date with their parasite control.

There are many good quality products that provide excellent protection from fleas, ticks and mites. We recommend Simparica, Nexgard or Revolution Plus to provide good quality flea control – these products kill adult fleas quickly as well as stopping fleas from reproducing – that lasts a month. Don’t hesitate to contact the clinic if you have any questions about your parasite control regime.

If you’ve noticed any signs of allergies in your pet, it is important to bring them in to have them assessed by a veterinarian quickly, as you don’t want to leave them itchy and uncomfortable or have them do any further damage to their skin. Your vet will do a thorough health check as well as have a detailed look at their skin and any problem areas. We may perform some tests on the skin to rule out parasites or infection as a contributing factor.

Some pets may require medication to control their allergies, either for the season or on an ongoing basis. We can discuss what might suit your pet best at the time of the consultation.

Cytopoint is an injectable biological treatment administered by the vet for chronic itch due to allergies that starts to relieve itch within one day and can last for 4-8 weeks. Cytopoint works like your dog’s own immune system by targeting and neutralising one of the main proteins that send itch signals to your dog’s brain.

Apoquel (oclacitinib) is a daily tablet medication that targets the specific cytokines (messengers) that cause itch and inflammation, relieving symptoms of allergic skin disease with minimal impact on the immune system. It works quickly, effectively controlling itch within 24 hours of starting the medication.

Some pets are prone to allergies due to genetics or problems with their skin barrier function, and so will require ongoing management. Some things you can do to try and keep your pets’ skin healthy are to ensure they are up to date with an effective parasite control and feed a premium quality balanced diet. Bathing dogs fortnightly to monthly with a gentle shampoo such as Aloveen, wiping their feet when they come inside or limiting their access to certain plants and grasses in the yard may help reduce their exposure to potential allergens.

If you have any questions about allergies or you would like to book a consult to get your pet checked, please give the clinic a call on 8373 0301 and let us help your pets be itch-free this spring!