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Pet Allergies in San Jose

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Dogs and Cats Have Allergies Too.

Atopy (Atopic Dermatitis) is an allergic disease that is very common in dogs and somewhat common in cats. Atopy is also known as HAY FEVER! It is primarily expressed as itchiness and inflammation in specific areas. The cat can show problems with itchiness and waxiness in the ears. With dog skin allergy, the areas affected include the face, the ears (sometimes only one), the chest and armpits, legs and paws, and abdomen. The dog may lick at their legs and paws or nibble at them as if chasing fleas. The ear(s) may get bright red, waxy, and/or smelly as well as itchy or even painful. They can also get a thickened or grainy appearance to them. Sometimes the ear flap will blister, forming a hematoma. The eyes can get red, puffy, and have yellow/greenish or watery discharge. Some dogs even sneeze or reverse sneeze! Atopy can cause hot spots. Atopy tends to be seasonal, and can vary daily in severity. The dog with atopic dermatitis can get hay fever to anything humans get hay fever to, including grasses, pollens, molds, trees, dust, and dander.

Control of atopy can be accomplished with allergy medicine and many different ways. Antihistamines can be used very safely for long periods of time. Their side effects include drowsiness and birth defects. You do have to give them two to three times a day to be effective. Essential fatty acid supplements help the antihistamines work and are very safe for the dog. They can cause diarrhea in some cases. This can be minimized by slowly increasing the dose over 4-10 days. Cortisones can be used instead of or in addition to antihistamines for the treatment of pet allergies.

Cortisones take away the itch and inflammation whereas antihistamines prevent the itch and inflammation from being as severe. Cortisones have various side effects. These include increased water intake and food intake, the need to eliminate more frequently, sometimes incontinence, panting, liver enzyme changes, muscle weakness, pituitary gland changes, adrenal gland changes, bone weakness, slow hair re growth, increased chance for bladder infections especially in females, kidney infections, and others. These side effects are dose dependent meaning that they are more likely to show up at higher doses given at more frequent intervals, and/or if they are given for long periods of time (longer than one month). The good news is that generally you do not have to use high doses for long periods and that you usually only have to give the pills on an every other morning basis. If your animal has to be on long term cortisone therapy, it is advisable to have its blood checked periodically, such as every six months to look for any changes. Urine samples are also advised. Atopica is low dose cyclosporin, and suppressed the immune system’s response to the allergens. It can avoid the side effects of cortisones. Apoquel and Cytopoint are newer medications for allergies with fewer side-effects and better safty! The final way to control hay fever is through specific allergen testing and desensitization. This is where the pet is either skin tested (still the best way but sometimes a hassle) or blood tested (which is very simple but not quite as accurate as skin testing) to determine exactly what the pet is allergic to. Once this is done, injections of the specific substances can be given (usually by you!) at specific days and amounts to make the pet less reactive to the allergens; i.e. less itchy! ‚Äč

Desensitization, as this is called, works slowly, over a two to six month period of time. It will eliminate the itch completely in about 50 to 60% of the dogs. It can reduce the itch, but not eliminate it in about 25% of the dogs, and about 15 to 25% of the dogs do not respond at all. There are a few side effects which include transient itchiness after the injections to the very rare anaphylactic reactions.

Costs for these treatments vary according to the size of the dog and type of treatment selected. In general, cortisones are the least expensive but have the most potential for side effects. Antihistamines and essential fatty acid supplements are more expensive because you have to give more pills more frequently but they are much safer for long term use. The most expensive treatment option initially is desensitization. There is the testing involved as well as the injections but can control the itching without the use of drugs with their side effects. Therefore, the costs long term can be as low or lower than if pills are given on a year round basis.

Sometimes there are other problems with pet allergies such as skin infections, flea bite allergies, food allergies (which can look exactly like hay fever), low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism), or other endocrine (hormonal) problems. Food allergies can present with the exact same symptoms (except seasonality) as atopy. These must be addressed as well or the treatment for the hay fever problems will only be partly successful or not successful at all.

Each patient and owner's situation are different, and therefore each program must be designed separately. A trial treatment program may be tried to see if we are on the right track with allergy medicine. If successful, it can be continued. If only partly successful, it can be modified or changed completely. If no improvement is noted, the diagnosis must be questioned and the pet reevaluated.

Atopy is usually a very treatable and manageable disease. IT IS NOT CURABLE. But generally it never gets so bad that euthanasia need be considered. Treatments can be found that will be reasonable in cost and effectiveness.

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