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Allergic Skin Diseases

Allergic skin disease is a common problem in dogs and cats. The allergens that often result in skin signs include environmental, food or parasitic allergens (such as fleas). These are often referred to as "flare factors" for allergic skin disease. It is important to note that one animal may be reactive to multiple types of flare factors (for example, having both food and environmental allergies). Some allergies will be seasonal (only occurring at specific times of the year), and others will be year-round. It is important to note that allergen avoidance is not the sole means of allergy management. The goal of managing allergies in dogs and cats is to reduce exposure and, wherever possible, reduce the reactivity of your pet—to desensitize them—to these flare factors. Veterinary dermatology offers services needed to diagnose and manage these conditions.

Common symptoms of allergic skin disease in cats and dogs include:  

  • Itching  

  • Scratching  

  • Licking and biting 

  • Skin thickening 

  • Hair loss  

  • Redness or blackness of worst affected areas 

  • Skin and ear infection 

  • Crusting and erosions 

  • Vomiting, diarrhea (more common with food allergy) 

What Veterinary Dermatology Can Do

Your veterinary dermatologist will take a thorough history of your pet’s signs to determine the most likely underlying cause of your pet’s allergies. When the flare factors are identified, your veterinary dermatologist will develop a treatment plan to reduce your animal's responsiveness to these factors. This may include but is not limited to setting up a parasite treatment plan, performing an elimination diet trial, or performing intradermal allergy testing. 

Management Options for Allergic Skin Disease

Allergy management is for life and requires a multifactorial treatment plan. The allergic cat or dog must be managed in both acute and chronic disease states, necessitating oral and topical therapy in most cases. Some animals respond well to heavier doses of immunomodulatory medications while others can be maintained on allergen-specific immunotherapy and topical therapies. No two treatment plans are alike. Over time, therapy may need to be adjusted as medication responses can change. Regardless, you should expect routine therapy to be a mainstay of your allergic pet's life. Our goal is to find the least amount of intervention that maintains your pet's good quality of life. 

When to See a Veterinary Dermatologist

If you or your veterinarian suspect your pet has an allergic skin disease, it is best to schedule an appointment with our veterinary dermatology department.