By Dr. Zeoli, Associate Veterinarian

photo 1It’s allergy season which means sneezing, red eyes, and runny noses for us and itchy skin (or as us veterinarians call it – pruritis) for your pet.

Pruritis can be frustrating for both you and your pets. This can happen for several different reasons. The most common are: parasites (fleas, ticks, lice, mites), food allergies, seasonal allergies, environmental allergies (atopy), or secondary skin infections.

Atopic dermatitis – or atopy – is an allergy to different substances in the environment. These substances elicit allergic reactions in the body. The most common culprits include: pollen, house dust, dander, tobacco smoke, and many others. In dogs, the main symptom is itching and scratching but can also include licking paws, rubbing their ears and face, and sometimes scooting their behinds across your clean, new rug.  Signs (scratching, red skin, hair loss) first become apparent between 6 months to 3 years of age and can initially start as a seasonal allergy and can then progress to a year long annoyance as they age. It is believed to be a heritable trait in some breeds. For cats, it can display itself in many ways. They may develop hair loss from over grooming, small crusts over their body, or red raised plagues on their lip

Atopic dermatitis is a diagnosis of exclusion and is a life-long disease. A diagnosis can be challenging because many types of skin problems cause the same clinical signs. Our veterinarians will work with you to rule out other causes of pruritus, manage symptoms, and treat secondary bacterial or yeast infections.

If your pet is diagnosed with atopy you might consider referral to a veterinary dermatologist to have allergy testing performed. Allergy tests include intradermal skin and blood testing to try and identify the specific allergens that your pet is allergic to. Once they are identified, a customized vaccine can be made for your pet to help desensitize them from those allergens. They typically will still need to use other medications during flare-ups, but flare-ups are usually significantly reduced.

There is no cure for atopy but careful monitoring is important and to have them examined at the earliest sign of pruritus to help keep your pet comfortable all season or all year long!

Give us a call today at 301-258-0333 if your pet is suffering from seasonal or other allergies, and we’ll help you get him/her on the path to relief.