Atopy is the term used to describe allergic skin and ear disease to normally harmless substances in the environment. These substances are called allergens and include pollens (trees, weeds and grasses), molds, house dust mites, danders and dusts. Atopy is like “hayfever of the skin”. Patients with atopy are typically itchy (scratching, biting, chewing, licking, rubbing, etc), exhibit hair loss, and are prone to developing secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections of the skin and/or ears. Signs may be seasonal or non-seasonal. To help patients with atopy, symptomatic therapies with antihistamines, fatty acids, etc. may be used. In addition, allergy testing and immunotherapy (allergy shots) are often helpful in relieving your pet’s allergy signs; this therapy is also quite safe. Two types of allergy testing are currently available; they are intradermal allergy testing (skin testing) and serum (blood) allergy testing. Most dermatologists feel that intradermal allergy testing is the most reliable allergy test available.

Food Allergy

Food allergy is an allergy to one or more ingredients within your pet’s diet. Food allergy typically causes non seasonal itchiness (scratching, biting, chewing, licking, rubbing, etc.). Your pet may also exhibit hair loss and may be prone to developing secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections of the skin. Chronic ear infections and anal gland infections may also be seen. Some pets may also show gastrointestinal signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, burping, flatulence (gas) and/or have a sensitive stomach. Blood and skin tests are available for food allergy diagnosis, however these tests are considered very inaccurate and are not recommended by most veterinary dermatologists/allergists. A strict food elimination diet trial is the best “test” for food allergy diagnosis.

Flea Allergy

Flea allergy can affect both dogs and cats. Flea allergy results from an allergic reaction to the flea’s saliva. Fleas and/or flea dirt may or may not be seen on your pet or in your home. Dogs will typically bite or chew at the rump, belly, tail area and/or hind legs. This often results in hair loss. Papules (red bumps) and crusts (scabs) may be seen. Cats may also display signs of chewing or licking at the rump area, however they may also have tiny crusts scattered throughout their body, lick their hair out or have ulcers. Flea allergy is best treated with flea control. Today, many safe and very effective flea control products are available by prescription. For the most part, the over-the-counter flea control products are not as effective or safe as those available by prescription.