Dr. Zingsheim-Nadeau
Brookside Veterinary Hospital

Hi, I am Dr. Zingsheim. I am an owner and veterinarian here at Brookside Veterinary Hospital, and I'm going to talk to you today about allergies in both dogs and cats. Allergies are a common reason that we'll see animals come in for itching and ear infections, and most people commonly see them at the same time of the year that we get our own allergies, which is true, but we can also see them year-round. Allergies are one of the more common reasons that we'll see cat dogs and cats come in for itching.

There are a lot of different reasons that they have those symptoms. Dogs and cats can be allergic to food. The primary component of food that they're allergic to is the protein source. Chicken, beef, and lamb tend to be the biggest culprits. They can also be allergic to things in the environment, and that doesn't mean just outside. That can be inside dust, mold, and things like that. You can have the cleanest house on the market and still potentially have allergens your animals are exposed to. The third thing is a fancy term called atopic dermatitis, which is basically just the catchall for everyone that doesn't fall into those two categories. So they may just be overly itchy and have overly sensitive skin, but they don't necessarily come back positive for any specific product that they're allergic to. What to do when you have an allergic dog? There are a lot of different options. The first is trying to investigate why and where it's coming from. There are a couple of ways that we'll do that. One is keeping your pet on a flea and tick product year long. Even if we do not see fleas, dogs and cats can be bitten by a flea, and they'll hop right back off and still cause that sort of allergic reaction.

Dermatologists will tell you that one of the first things they'll recommend is getting started on a flea and tick medication because that helps them rule that out as a potential causative factor. The second is blood work. We look for any underlying hormonal disorders in the body that might be contributing to skin issues. Thyroid disease is a really big one. Those are the first places we start. If all that comes back looking pretty good and we've tried those things, it's digging into what we are truly allergic to, and there are two ways to do that. One is a true allergy test, which is just for environmental allergens. Unfortunately, there's really no good test for food allergies, blood or otherwise.

When it comes to outdoor allergens, or indoor for that matter, there are two tests you can do. One is a blood test that we offer here at Brookside, and it'll come back with a long list of all the different things that your animal's positive for, from molds to weeds, to fungus to trees. I had a dog that was allergic to cats. Then they can formulate an allergy injection or oral medication that helps to desensitize your pet to those allergens. The other way to do it is to see a dermatologist and actually do a skin test. It's similar to what they do in people. They give you a micro amount of the allergen, prick the skin, and look for a reaction on the skin. Some would argue that that's a little bit more sensitive than the blood tests, but I've also had many patients do the blood test, and the medication works well for them. That's how you would look at investigating any sort of environmental allergen.

For food allergens, it's a little bit harder. The best way to do that is to do what we call a diet trial, which involves putting the patient on a prescription hypoallergenic diet, meaning the protein source is either not there or so small that the body doesn't recognize it. We do that for about six to eight weeks. Just like with a peanut allergy, they cannot have anything outside of that diet because that might skew the results slightly. We see how they respond to that, and if they respond well, then that's something we can maintain them on long-term. Some dogs do have a combination of both food and environmental allergies, so you have to keep in mind that some patients need allergy medication on top of prescription food.

What should you do if those aren't options for you because they can be costly, especially long-term? The alternative to that is just maintaining and controlling symptoms with different medications. There are two products on the market that are widely used by veterinarians because of their safety. You'll often hear about steroid use, but steroid use isn't ideal to use long-term because it can have some pretty significant side effects on the body. The one we try to go with is Apoquel, a once to twice-daily pill that you'll give, and it basically blocks the itch cascade in the body and helps control the itch. Of course, it's not addressing the underlying true allergy, but it controls the symptoms, which is what matters.

The other is an injection called Cytopoint. Cytopoint is an injection that can be given every four to eight weeks and helps to control symptoms pretty much the same way that Apoquel does, but it is easier to administer. There's another medication we don't have out here that's called Cyclosporine, which works similarly to these ones. We tend to move towards that if these ones don't work or if we've got a more resistant case. It tends to have more side effects than these options do, so we usually move with these ones first. If you think that your pet is suffering from allergies or you have any further questions about allergies, feel free to contact us, and we can point you in the right direction.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (253) 857-7302, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram