Itchy Pets? Let's Talk Pet Allergies

Jan 11 2017

Itchy Pets? Let’s Talk Pet Allergies

Does your dog or cat itch? Seem to be obsessively licking paws or scratching? Your pet have numerous ear infections?

Occasional itching is a fact of life for pets, especially for dogs. Frequent or constant itching, however, may be a sign of a skin disease or allergies. If treatment is not started early, dogs and cats can have a much harder time battling this issue. Pets with allergies are prone to recurrent skin, ear and foot infections due to a change in their normal skin function. If your pet’s itching seems out of control, make an appointment to talk with us at Appalachian Animal Clinic.

Pet Allergy Diagnosis

We will need to examine your pet to make a diagnosis and treatment plan. There are 4 common allergic skin diseases of pets:

  • Flea allergy
  • Food allergy
  • Contact allergy
  • Atopic dermatitis (a chronic itchy skin disease associated with environmental allergens)


Flea bite hypersensitivity causes severe itching of pet’s skin. As few as one or two flea bites can cause pruritis, so symptoms will often persist even after flea control is used. Symptoms are often episodic, but most pets have symptoms that worsen with age. Many times the hind end is affected more than the front of the body and fleas or flea dirt may or may not be visible. We recommend year-round flea prevention and have safe, effective products available including Trifexis which also works as a heartworm prevention.


In about 10% of pet allergies, a food trial will be recommended to determine food allergies. In this trial, pets will be fed a diet with one protein and one carbohydrate for 10 weeks. No other foods or treats are allowed. If symptoms disappear, food allergies are likely to blame.


Allergic contact dermatitis is rare but occurs when a pet’s skin overreacts to certain molecules in the environment such as nickel, rubber, wool, dyes and chemicals. Irritant contact dermatitis occurs when the skin is exposed to severely irritating chemicals such as the sap in poison ivy and salt on the road.

Atopic dermatitis

A more common diagnosis among pets is atopic dermatitis, a chronic inflammatory skin disorder brought on by common environmental allergens such as grass, mold, pollen, and even cigarette smoke.

In a skin test, we will shave an area of fur on your pet and inject small amounts of the various allergens under your animal’s skin to test for reactions. In a blood test, your pet’s blood will be taken and analyzed for which allergens specific to your pet’s environment could be causing the allergic reaction.

Allergy & Itch Treatment

Once the allergens have been identified we can develop a program to eliminate the source of the allergy in your pet’s environment.

Previously, the only available treatment that would provide dogs with rapid relief from itching was steroids. But steroids come with potential side effects when used long-term. Apoquel is a new treatment for itching that can be used as a short-term treatment for flare ups and is also safe to use long-term, which makes it a good alternative to steroids.

Immunotherapy is also available to treat environmental allergies that cannot be avoided by creating a serum, based on the results on the serum allergy test, which is injected on a decreasing schedule as the pets’ immunity grows.

Cyclosporine therapy, an immunosuppressive agent used to treat diseases and disorders caused by an overactive immune system, is another option we can discuss.

Other options for itch relief include:

  • Antihistamines combined with essential fatty acids
  • Anti-itch conditioners
  • Topical steroid sprays
  • Oral steroids in low doses to treat sporadic outbreaks

We will explain your pet’s condition, how to prevent future occurrences and the proper method of home treatment for the allergies.

Call us at 479-4760 to request your appointment today.