Out of the top 5 most common pet illnesses that frustrate pet owners nationwide, the top two are ear infections, followed by itchy skin/skin Infections. Further down the list is vomiting and diarrhea but not much further down the list. These three conditions are potentially related and Highland Veterinary Clinic has experience in providing a multimodal approach to allergy diagnosis, management, and dermatological conditions.
Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience for a pet owner and can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond. Persistent scratching and chewing by a dog can also result in open wounds to the skin and pain to your pet. The most common underlying causes of itching and allergies in dogs and cats are external parasites and allergies.
Allergies are a common cause of skin and ear conditions in dogs and cats. People with allergies usually have respiratory problems. However, dogs with allergies rarely have respiratory signs from their allergies and instead usually have red and itchy skin, hair loss, or recurring skin or ear infections. Why do allergies cause skin infections in pets? The chronic inflammation caused by allergies disrupts the normal make components of the skin and ears. Skin is made up of glands, and fluid which are all part of the normal makeup and function of the skin. In addition, a natural balance of yeast and bacteria can be found in the ear as well. When the balance is disrupted (for example, by inflammation due to allergies), the skin becomes infected with an opportunistic pathogen such as yeast or staph. To determine the source of allergies and dermatological conditions in pets, we ask that pet owners not bathe nor flush the ears of pets coming in for evaluation, and that they partner with us to complete their pets history thoroughly so that we can review all the information during their pet's dermatological consult.
Virtual Check-In (Patient History) Allergy or Dermatological Consult
Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs and cats. For the flea-allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential for remaining symptom-free. Often repellent properties are helpful and home treatment because the pet is actually allergic to flea saliva and can react to just one bite.
In warm climates or in our homes, fleas may survive in low numbers year-round. Because flea allergy is so common, most all veterinarians recommend instituting complete flea control before proceeding with more tests for itching.
While many human children are born with food allergies, some pets actually develop hypersensitivities to foods after the age of 3 years rather than in infancy. Various food proteins, carbohydrates, or even preservatives or dyes can all be potential food allergens. We have found that some food allergies change and develop over time. The easiest method of diagnosing a food allergy is by placing your dog on a carefully selected prescription or homemade hypoallergenic diet for several weeks, which is called a food trial. The diet only contains ingredients your dog has never eaten before. If the allergy signs resolve, a food challenge is performed by feeding the former diet and watching for a return of the itching. If this occurs, a diagnosis of food allergy is confirmed. For pet owners who want or need faster potential answers, and who are challenged with finding a direction when a pet seems to suffer from complex allergies, Highland Veterinary Clinic now offers the VDI Lab allergy panels for dogs and cats.
Atopic dermatitis is a type of allergy. Skin or ear inflammation occurs in response to a variety of normally harmless substances, such as plant pollens, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens. Allergy tests of the skin or blood help us compile a list of allergens for a “vaccine” (allergen-specific immunotherapy) to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergy, and it is usually a life-long problem. We seek to control allergies and improve the quality of life for both you and your dog. Our first step is a thorough history and evaluation of your pet and its environment and response to the world around them. Our experienced veterinarian then provides an examination of your pet’s skin condition and documentation. We will then partner with you to formulate the best program of management that suits all involved with your dog’s care using all the tools in our arsenal to provide external and internal treatment or management.
There are many anti-allergy medications to reduce itching. These medications do not cure allergies but can help decrease the symptoms. However, without addressing the underlying cause of the allergy, the itching will return when the medication is stopped. Long-term use of some anti-allergy medications, such as steroids, can result in many health problems. We now have many immune-modulating medications and therapies that can reduce itching, and awareness of your pet’s allergic diagnosis can truly mean “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”
About VDI Labs Allergy Testing
The primary difference between an allergy, a sensitivity, and an intolerance is that an allergy results in an immune system reaction to a substance, while a sensitivity or intolerance involves no immune response. While the latter may result in occasional discomfort for your pet, they are typically not the significant kind of immune response that may occur with allergies. VDI’s Allergy Panels test for 125 true allergies and is a convenient affordable option.
Although the word “Allergy” is colloquially used to describe any reaction to a foreign substance, it’s not wholly accurate. A true allergy describes a reaction produced when the body meets a normally harmless substance, which has been “remembered” from a previous exposure and subsequently produces the “IgE” antibody.
In order for an allergy to develop, a pet must be exposed to the substance at least once before the allergy will manifest. The immune system learns to attack this particular substance for an unknown reason, at which point the immune response will go into hyperdrive to attack it – resulting in elevated IgE levels.
Sensitivity is a delayed immune reaction resulting in the production of an “IgG” antibody to a foreign substance, typically food. Though they may cause some clinical signs this type of reaction is not an allergic reaction and does not carry the same seriousness as a true allergy.
We take a small sample of your pet's blood under normal circumstances. The serum derived from these samples are sent to VDI labs once weekly. We receive results usually within 7-10 business days.