Pet Skin and Ear Allergies
The Circle of Life Animal Hospital team enjoys being able to help pets that suffer from chronic skin and ear allergies/infections. It is so rewarding to be able to help a pet with seasonal or year-long allergies receive relief from its itching, chewing, scratching, and infections. And remember, chronic pet allergies can also show up as chronic ear infections (ones that keep returning!) If these symptoms describe your pet, we can help make them feel better!
Treating Pet Allergies
It is very frustrating for pet owners to treat their pet’s allergies only to have them return again once their pet is finished with the medication! Understanding that there is first a “treatment phase” and then a “maintenance phase” is crucial in keeping your pet’s allergies under control. That’s right….control! Because no matter what is causing the pet allergies, there will be some sort of “maintenance” that needs to continue for the length of your pet’s life in order to keep the allergies under control so they show no signs of itching, chewing, and scratching. That maintenance can be as easy as changing to a hypoallergenic diet if your pet has a food allergy. But, again, you would need to feed that food for life as maintenance or your pet’s allergy signs would return! Environmental pet allergies are a little more involved since we cannot put our pets into a “bubble” when they go outside…..they are constantly coming into contact with their environmental allergen every time they go outside (when that allergen is blooming).
So how do we go about deciding the treatment and maintenance phases for your pet’s allergies? First, and probably most important, we discuss with you the history of your pet’s clinical signs of itching, chewing and scratching.
- Where are they itching and when do they do it?
- On a scale from 1-10, how itchy are they?
- Where do they spend most of their time?
- Are there both dogs and cats in the household?
- What type of flea control are you using and how often?
- How often do they have ear infections and are there certain times of the year they occur?
It is amazing how much vital information we can get from the pet owner even before we do our exam. Listening to YOU helps us see the small differences between your pet’s allergies and another pet’s allergies. After the initial “nose to tail” exam, we will discuss the results of that exam and what skin or ear diagnostics are necessary to decide on the treatment phase.
Pet Allergy Treatment Phase
In this phase, the following issues are addressed:
- Secondary bacterial and yeast skin infections that occur from chronic chewing and scratching (these infections create the odor or “smell” many owners complain about with their allergic pets. (oral antibiotics and anti-yeast medications)
- Itching, chewing, and scratching that are the hallmark of dog and cat allergies (oral and/or topical anti-itch medications)
- Removing the allergens on the skin on a regular basis (bathing in the proper type of shampoo)
- The need for nutritional skin supplements to help the skin heal and have a healthy immune barrier to prevent future infections
- Ear infections – including ear flushes to remove the debris in the ears and infusing gels into the canals that have antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-yeast medications in them (these gels attach to the ear canals for 2 weeks to continuously treat the infections so you do not have to touch the ears during the treatment phase!)
- Possible food/diet changes if necessary
After you are in treatment phase for 4 weeks, it is very important that we recheck your pet to decide if this treatment plan is working well and if we need to continue longer in this phase or if we can now go to a maintenance phase. Depending on the severity of the allergy, some pets are in treatment phases longer than others. It is of utmost important that the bacterial and skin yeast skin infections are completely resolved, the skin completely healed, and the scratching stopped before we can attempt maintenance phase. Stopping, skipping, or going off medications are a big no-no in treatment phase!
Allergy Maintenance Phase
Once it is determined that your pet’s skin/ear issues and itching are completely resolved, then maintenance phase starts. This phase is a gradual reduction of the medications to determine what you as the pet owner must do on a regular basis to keep your pet’s allergies and clinical signs under control (so we stop that vicious cycle of using medications; then finishing, then the itching and infection returns!)
Maintenance phase consists of:
- Regular bathing in the proper shampoo to consistently remove allergens, bacteria, and yeast from your pet’s skin (the dog breeds with a double haircoat do not dry well in our hot and humid Florida weather and cats do not like to be bathed, so we have other options for them!)
- A maintenance dosage of anti-itch medication, if necessary (for instance, every other day or 3 times weekly)
- Sometimes, a maintenance dosage of anti-yeast medication (for instance, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays)
- Monthly flea control is key to preventing a secondary flea allergy from occurring. Remember, it only takes 1 or 2 flea bites to set off a pet’s allergy signs again!
- Continued skin supplements, if needed, to keep the skin barrier healthy in order to prevent recurrent skin infections
- Maintenance ear cleanings with ointment afterwards so you do not have recurrent ear infections (for those with chronic ear infections). We teach you how to properly clean your pet’s ears and put ointment in afterwards to prevent infection from returning. This is easy to do on a pet that has healthy and clean ears after the treatment phase!
- Some pets only need to stay on a hypoallergenic diet and nothing else; some pets need bathing only; some need bathing and maintenance anti-itch medication, etc. So the maintenance regimen really needs to be tailored to YOUR pets specific allergy needs. And remember, many pets only need to be on the maintenance plan during THEIR allergy season. This could be 3 months to 12 months out of the year, depending on your pet’s allergy season.
Finding the Best Plan for Your Pet’s Allergies
I think you can see that these this treatment and maintenance phases are highly individualized and how important it is to work together as a team to help decide these regimens for your pet. Together we can find the best maintenance plan for YOUR pet. Our goal is a happy, healthy pet with no skin lesions, no scratching or itching, and no smell! This also makes for a very happy owner!
If your pet suffers from scratching, itching or chewing, make your pet allergy consultation today and let’s control those clinical signs for good.