Dermatologic conditions can be challenging for pets, owners, and veterinarians. While your primary veterinarian can treat most skin problems, severe or chronic conditions may require expertise from a specialist. Virginia Veterinary Center’s (VVC) board-certified veterinary dermatologist is available to treat difficult cases.
Skin conditions that may require a veterinary dermatologist
Conditions commonly treated by VVC’s Dermatology and Allergy Department include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Infectious skin disease
- Hormonal diseases
- Chronic ear infections
- Skin cancer
During spring and summer, pollen from flowers, trees, and grasses circulates in large amounts and causes problems for allergic pets. Atopic dermatitis, or seasonal allergies, is a common skin condition our dermatology and allergy department treats. Pets develop atopic dermatitis when pollen they inhale triggers an allergic reaction, typically manifested as itchy skin. Pets may itch over their entire body, although signs are often concentrated around the feet, ears, face, and hind end. Chronic ear infections are also often linked to allergies. A pet’s signs can range from mild itching to intense, constant itching, hair loss, and skin infections.
Diagnosis of seasonal allergies
Two methods can be used to diagnose atopic dermatitis and determine the source of a pet’s allergies:
- Intradermal allergy testing — This test involves shaving an area on the pet’s side and drawing a grid of dots on the skin. A small volume of a different potential allergen is injected into each spot and each site is observed for reaction, such as redness, swelling, and itching. The pet is allergic to the substances that cause a reaction.
- Serum allergy testing — Blood drawn from the pet is sent to a diagnostic laboratory to measure the level of immunoglobulins that correlate with sensitivity to specific allergens.
Treatment of seasonal allergies
Your family veterinarian can likely treat mild atopic dermatitis cases with anti-inflammatory medications. VVC’s Dermatology and Allergy Department can help with more challenging cases that require allergy testing and long-term management. Once testing reveals which substances trigger a pet’s allergic reactions, immunotherapy, or allergy injections, can begin. The pet is administered a formulation of a number of allergens she is sensitive to, by injection or under the tongue, according to a specific schedule. The goal of immunotherapy is to slowly desensitize an animal’s immune system to allergens. Some pets may eventually be weaned off immunotherapy, but most will require lifelong treatment.
Other types of pet allergies
In addition to pollen, pets can be allergic to other environmental substances, including:
- Dust and storage mites — Microscopic mites found in the home can trigger signs in allergic pets. Since mites are present year-round, pets with mite allergies have non-seasonal clinical signs. Mite allergies can be treated with medications and immunotherapy, as well as frequent vacuuming and laundering of bedding to limit mite accumulation in the home.
- Fleas — Flea bites are itchy, but pets with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) react more severely when bitten. Intense itching, hair loss over the back, and the presence of fleas typically make diagnosis obvious. Treatment focuses on flea control for the pet and in the environment.
- Food ingredients — Pets can develop sensitivity to an ingredient in the food they eat every day. Common allergens include popular food ingredients, such as beef, fish, dairy, wheat, and eggs. Food allergies are diagnosed with a veterinarian-directed trial that involves a diet made with unique ingredients the pet has not eaten before. The specific allergen is eliminated from the diet once identified.
Call your family veterinarian if you have questions about pet allergies, and our Dermatology and Allergy Department will be here when your veterinarian determines your pet needs advanced specialty care.