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Common Conditions - Articles of Interest - Allergic Dermatitis in Pets

Allergic Dermatitis in Pets

Does your pet suffer from the ‘Summer Itch’?

What is Allergic Dermatitis?

Allergic Dermatitis in dogs and cats is a very common, yet often a misunderstood disease.  It has been well recognised for a long time and is sometimes referred to as ‘summer itch’, ‘summer eczema’, ‘hot spots’, or ‘red itch’.
As the name implies, it is a skin condition resulting from an allergy. However, most of the damage seen on the skin is often NOT associated with the original cause but with the damage your pet does to itself through biting or scratching.  It is very important then that both the cause and the irritation are relieved.  It is true, most dogs that are susceptible to skin allergies will have repeated problems over a period of years, but only if the original cause is left untreated.
The disease tends to be more prevalent in the warmer months, although some allergies can persist into winter.

How is Allergic Dermatitis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing the cause of the allergy can sometimes be straightforward, while on other occasions it can be time consuming and may be only achieved through a process of elimination.  Several skin tests are available now through specialist Veterinarians, and if your Vet thinks this is necessary he will suggest this to you.  In determining the allergy that is the source of the problem, your local vet will rely on both experience and your observations/ history of the problem.  

What is the Process of Elimination?

You may be asked by your vet care team about your pet’s flea control, diet, where they pet sleeps, what is your pet washed in, or any recent changes in your pet’s routine.  Previous treatment is usually discussed as this often yields information also.  There may be more than one cause of the skin problem, so it is important to be as thorough as possible and take note of any changes in your pet’s environment. 
Some of the more common reasons for allergic dermatitis are fleas, types of food, washing products, bedding materials, household floor coverings, pollens and other airborne particles, or even the type of grass your pet rolls on!
Once the source of the irritation has been determined, an appropriate and personalised treatment plan will be outlined.  It may be fairly easy, or it can be a slow process requiring careful management from everybody in your household.  

How is Allergic Dermatitis Treated?

The treatment of Allergic Dermatitis often consists of providing immediate short-term relief through injections and/or tablets to allow the skin to return to normal while the cause of the allergy is being brought under control.
Hopefully, once this control has been achieved and maintained, the medication can be withdrawn.  The medications commonly used are steroids and antihistamines and it is in the best interests of your pet if these are used strictly as directed by your Veterinarian.  All too often owners find it easier to just give these tablets, rather than try to prevent the problem at its source.  In some instances it is not possible to physically separate the pet from the source of the problem and in such cases it may be necessary to undergo desensitisation procedures.
Wherever possible, an attempt should be made to diagnose the cause of the allergy before resorting to continued use of medications.
It is vitally important that skin disease is treated as early as possible.  Long-term skin damage usually produces permanent changes, which will render treatment difficult.  While some home remedies do help, correct and proper diagnosis and veterinary advice will go a lot further in giving your pet healthy skin.
If your pet suffers from Allergic Dermatitis, contact us today. We can help to alleviate and prevent that dreaded ‘Summer Itch’.

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