Skin Disease Could Be Allergy
Our dog "Buddy" is losing all his hair and is scratching all the time. What is it and what can we do?
Dermatology, or the study of skin-related problems, is one of the most common conditions that we, as veterinarians, treat. Many of these itching problems are allergy-related. Whether it is flea allergy dermatitis, atopy, or food allergies, one or more of these are likely to be the culprit to the "itching problem".
Flea allergy dermatitis is just what it sounds like, an allergy to fleas. Ironically enough, it is usually not the dog with the most fleas, but the dog that is most sensitive to a few fleas. In fact, it is the flea saliva that is the problem. So when the flea bites your pet, a reaction that causes intense itching and irritation can occur. To treat this problem, first and foremost, we must eliminate the flea from your dog and from his environment. There are several different types of flea products available. Some are what we call an adulticide, which kills the adult fleas that are on your pet. The other class of products has what is called an IGR. This stands for an insect growth regulator such as oral preparations. Generally speaking, if you are having a flea infestation problem, you will actually need a combination of both classes of products to get rid of the adult and juvenile fleas. You have to treat Buddy, of course, but also any other pet you have as they can also harbor fleas but not show signs of allergy. You must also treat the environment, such as pets’ bedding and your house. Talk to your veterinarian about the best course of attack and treatment.
Atopy is another type of allergic condition that can be quite bothersome to your pet. This type of allergy is a result of molds, pollens, dust and other particles that are inhaled and result in an itchy pet. Signs of this may be your pet chewing at its feet and face, or the inside of its legs. Often dogs with chronic ear problems that recur despite treatment may have atopic disease. Many times, we see very red, irritated skin with scabs and open sores. Some cases of atopy are truly seasonal and if mild, can be controlled with antihistamines and medicated shampoos and sprays. However, if your pet itches for several months in a year, we may recommend allergy testing and allergy shots to control the problem.
Last, but certainly not least, are allergies to food. Chicken, wheat, and beef are unfortunately some of the most common problem substances. The culprit is the source of protein. These animals will build up allergens to the protein source and then develop an allergic reaction. Food allergies can strike at any time or age. Diagnosing a food allergy can be very time consuming, but extremely rewarding when your pet finally stops itching.
Please take Buddy to your veterinarian. Although allergies may be a reason for Buddy’s scratching, your veterinarian will need to rule out other problems before initiating treatment.