Brief from Dr. Metzger: Allergies


Itchy dogs and cats from licking, chewing, pulling hair and/or red skin or ear infections


On dogs; inflammation from licking front feet, redness in folds under rear legs or arm pits, ears red and itching, hair loss around the eyes, pulling hair on rear end and rear legs.  Secondary to the inflammation is infection (usually staphylococcus) or fungal.  Also maybe scabs, pustules or oozing areas (called hot spots).  On cats; tend to get small scabs on the belly, rear and around the neck that are very itchy

One third of people and pets have allergies in Southern California.  Most allergies are environmental and only 10-15% are food related.  The problem is controllable but not curable and it takes time to even partially control it.  There are different goals for acute and chronic management to the allergies.  Acute goals are to make the pet feel better and chronic goals include identifying the allergic triggers and improving the immune system’s response to the triggers.  It usually consists of medication during the seasons in which the pet is reactive.  It will probably be recurrent and may well flare up every summer for instance.  Ear infections usually have an allergy as the instigating factor.  Medicine tries to control the allergic response to the point of little or no pathology without ever knowing the exact triggers.


The usual onset is at 2-3 years old, but some are younger (the doc’s new puppies are both showing some signs of allergies especially Apples).


There is a new medicine that works on the brain to stop the itch.  It does not cure the problem but just gets rid of the symptom.  It cost about $10/pill to treat a 20 lb. dog per day.  Over a longer period another medication that suppresses the immune system is just as effective at half the price.  Both are non steroids.  Cortisone (steroid) is the most common treatment because the pills (prednisone) are much less expensive. They do have more side effects such as an increase in water drinking and hunger which leads to more urination and weight gain(Pet owners often find this a problem with indoor dogs.  We have had dogs that urinated on the carpet due to the medication.  This is the reason to try to use as little medication as possible). There are also drug interactions from other drugs your pet may be taking and age is a big factor also.  Other things that might help include antihistamines, omega 3 oils (fish oil), or changing after 2 years to a single unique protein plus single carb diet (for instance rabbit & rice or venison and barley) and others.


It is very difficult and expensive to do effective allergy testing and desensitization.   Your veterinarian can do the blood tests and send them out but the skin tests must be done by a veterinary dermatologist.

Also your pet may get new allergies as he gets older.

If you have any questions about Pet Allergies, feel free to contact your Burbank Veterinarian at 818-846-1166.

Photo of cat with allergy rashes


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