This is the time of year when I see a LOT of dogs and cats that are itching. There are many potential reasons for our pets to itch, but a very common one is allergies!
Dogs and cats can become allergic to many of the same things that people do. However, they exhibit signs of allergies much differently than people.
- People with allergies usually have sneezing, runny nose, runny eyes, etc.
- Dogs and cats with allergies do not sneeze or have a runny nose, they … Itch! So they scratch! Some pets with allergies will scratch so much that they cause severe sores.
- Sometimes the itching is mild, sometimes it is severe. For a dog or cat to have allergies is like being surrounded by lots of mosquitoes 24 / 7 – not a good quality of life!
Symptoms of allergies in people are caused by the release of histamines, thus many people treat their allergies with antihistamines. In dogs and cats, however, symptoms are caused by the release of certain proteins. Antihistamines are seldom effective in treating allergies in pets, but we have other treatment options that are very effective.
Often, the allergies get the pet started itching, and then the harder they scratch the more they itch, which makes them scratch even harder! This “itch / scratch / itch” cycle can result in the pet severely traumatizing their skin! It is important for the owner to get treatment before damage is done.
The initial treatment option for allergies in pets is usually cortisone (most commonly prednisone). Prednisone is the safest type of cortisone to use in pets, it does a good job of controlling the itching, and is inexpensive compared to other medications. It’s most noticeable side effect is that it can cause the pet to drink more water and have to urinate more frequently. We usually start with a higher dose of prednisone to break the itch / scratch / itch cycle, and rapidly drop it to giving every other day which is the safest for long term use.
The other option for treating allergies in pets is Atopica. Atopica also does a good job of controlling allergies in pets, does not have as many side effects as prednisone, and is more expensive than prednisone. We usually use this medication for pets who “pee up a storm” when receiving prednisone!
Sometimes dogs and cats become allergic to seasonal things, like pollen for example. If that is the case, it is likely that they will start to itch at about the same time every year, so starting them on the therapy right away helps to prevent the discomfort of allergies. Some pets become allergic to things that are here all year around, like house dust for example. These pets may require therapy long term.
It is important to monitor liver and kidney function with an annual blood test for pets being treated for allergies.
If your pet is itching, don’t hesitate to have us examine him or her for allergies. We want them to have the best quality of life possible, which is not possible with constant itching. We’ll help remind you when it is time to do this.