One of the most challenging problems to have as a pet owner is an allergic pet. The inability to cure the problem is often frustrating and costly. We at San Clemente Veterinary Hospital employ all modern methods of allergy control available.
The usual causes for allergies ranked in order from most to least likely include:
- Flea Infestation and Allergy
- Pollen Reaction known as Atopy
- Food Allergy
1) Flea Control
Flea control does not have to be expensive or complicated any longer. Frontline and Advantage are now obsolete and really never worked well in challenging households (the more pets you have, the more this is true).
A newer oral product named Comfortis and its cousin Trifexis (which contains a heartworm preventive as well) is taking over as the leading flea protection for both dogs and cats. It is a prescription product, but can be provided at a reasonable cost even for multiple pet households.
It has been on the market for 5 years now and has a proven safety and efficacy record!! We have never seen anything work better or faster. It truly eliminates fleas from your animals environment, rather than controlling the number of fleas.
Frontline and Advantage wear off in 2-3 weeks allowing fleas to replenish their numbers.
- Orally taken
- Your pet can have baths and swim without decreasing the effect
- It lasts a full 30 days or more.
2) Pollen Reaction
Pollen reaction or atopy is a tough one. This condition is selectively more prevalent in certain breeds but can affect any dog or cat. It is almost always seasonal, coming and going with warmer spring or summer weather.
Most affected animals have facial, ear, and or foot itching. This pattern often leads to secondary infections which cause not only odor, but pain and misery.
- Cortisone (best avoided but sometimes necessary to prevent self-injury)
- Apoquel (this relatively new class of pharmaceutical has been a "game changer" for many pets with chronic allergies. Usually successful with less side effects than cortisone.)
- Cytopoint (this brand new injectible [introduced in March 2017] has virtually no side effects. If effective the injection is usually repeated monthly.
- Bathing with special shampoos
- Atopica (rarely used currently but can be effective in chronic unresponsive cases)
- Allergy testing and hypo sensitization injections
These are the only therapies that can help control affected dogs. The cure can be difficult, but the above medications, fatty acid supplements, and more frequent bathing can provide reasonable relief.
3) Food Allergy
Food Allergy is truly the rarest of all causes, but is curable once diagnosed.
Blood and skin testing for food allergies in animals is rarely accurate. Most animals are diagnosed and treated by performing a food trial. The problem is that most pet owners "wing it" with the advice of a pet store clerk and end up wasting hundreds of dollars on "destined to fail" products.
A properly designed food trial must examine all foods ever fed to that pet. All foods once fed must now be avoided! It typically takes 2 to 4 weeks for a response, but that response will never come if the pet is eating something it is still allergic to.
The time of year that a food trial is initiated can also create a false positive response. If a pet is truly pollen allergic and the food trial is started in fall while a pollen allergy is active, the pet will improve as the weather changes and the pollen count falls. When the pollen comes back next spring the itching returns and the benefit attributed to the food change is lost.
The truth about the dog food industry is that very few products are made in the brands' own proprietary kitchen. Most name brand and boutique foods are made by a sub-contractor with food production facilities.
There are a lot of "grain free" dog foods made this way causing cross-contamination in the formula. Even though you bought "duck and potato" or "salmon and sweet potato", there still could be grain or other food residue from the prior batch made in the same facilities hoppers.
Here's another way to think of it...in order to have the ingredients of kibble stick together and make a crunchy nugget, there has to be a starchy binder in the formula to glue it together providing another possible cause for the allergy.
Food trial worthy products must be made in a grain free kitchen. You will find these are few and far between. I could never figure out why the "hypoallergenic " kibble I was recommending to people to feed their pet didn't work until I realized this.
The best way to food trial your pet is to cook for them yourself using only one protein and one carbohydrate ingredient that is unique to this pet's feeding history, or feed a prepared product that has strict quality control of their production.
The only food that I know of that fulfills this is called Primal. They have wholesome and safe raw and freeze dried products. The reason they are "wholesome and safe" is because they use a unique method called "high pressure pasteurization" to kill possible bad germs in the food and also do microbiologic testing on their foods for safety. They maintain their own "grain free" facilities in Northern California. We have seen outstanding and unprecedented success feeding this product to allergic animals.
WE CAN HELP.
After reading the above information, it is evident that an itching dog or cat can be complicated. We have seen pet owners waste hundreds of dollars on ineffective flea control products and foods, as well as supplements only to come to us in desperation.
Our advice is to start with one of our doctors. The odds are high that your pet will get better faster and you will save money in the long run.