Dr. Jeanne Budgin, Veterinary dermatologistJuly 12, 2007
Thank you to everyone who participated in the moderated discussion on allergies with veterinary dermatologist Dr. Jeanne Budgin. Please enjoy this transcript of the discussion, in which Dr. Budgin covers questions on fleas, itchy skin, swollen paws, appropriate treatments and more. Read on to get some great advice on how to keep your little one comfortable this allergy season, and all year round.
I never had a dog with flea allergies while living in Georgia. But my dog developed flea allergies when we moved to California. I notice that I myself react much more to insect bites here in CA than in GA. Is this my imagination or could there be something, such as pollution, etc., that can account for these differences?
Flea allergies may develop at different times during a pet's life, so it is possible that your dog recently developed a flea allergy. However, the flea burden is probably much higher in Georgia than in California! Different environmental conditions, such as climate, pollution, as well as stress (in humans) may also exacerbate allergies. Exposure to fleas is an important factor, as the bite of one flea may trigger intense itching (usually near the tail base and inner rear legs) for 2-3 weeks. So even though there may be fewer fleas in California, your dog may have had more opportunity for exposure. The best treatment is preventionmonthly spot-on products available through your veterinarian to keep your pup flea-free!
My three-year-old Lab always becomes itchy this time of year. Last year, the vet recommended giving her Benadryl, and that really helped. But this year, it isn't helping as much. She's 60 pounds and we're giving her one Benadryl after her morning walk, and another one in the evening before bed. She's a lot better within 20 minutes of taking it, but it seems to wear off faster than it did last summer. She doesn't need it at all the rest of the year, and she gets Advantage for fleas monthly, so I don't think it's fleas. Any other suggestions? She also gets a Derm Cap ES every day and has a beautiful shiny coat, so her skin doesn't seem to be dry. She does swim every dayshould we cut that out? Thanks.
Benadryl may be given three times a day, and you should check with your veterinarian to be sure that you are giving the correct dose. As a rule, antihistamines are not very effective in dogs (about 20% may benefit), but often one type of antihistamine will work better than another, and there are others that you may try (either by prescription or over-the-counter). It sounds like your girl may suffer from atopy, or seasonal airborne allergies. Currently, grass pollens are very prevalent. The Derm Caps have both omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. A product containing only omega 3 fatty acids (such as 3V HP caps, available by prescription) may be more effective for itchy skin. Regular bathing (one or two times a week) may also help with the itching and remove pollens from the skin, where they may be directly absorbed (in addition to being inhaled). Finally, if she continues to be itchy, she should see a veterinarian to be sure that she does not have a skin or ear infection, which are very common in dogs with allergies and contribute significantly to itch. I think the swimming is great for her!
My nine-month-old shih tzu puppy just started going crazy. She is constantly rolling on the floor, trying to itch her back. She can't sit still. She also licks herself frequently. Is this all due to allergies?
Your puppy may have an allergy. Parasites (such as fleas or skin mites) may also cause intense itching. Dogs will frequently lick themselves when they are itchy. I would recommend that you have your pup examined by a veterinarian to evaluate for a skin infection, parasites or possibly an allergy. Food allergies are more common in very young dogs, but airborne or flea allergies may also be involved. Good luck!
My pugs are always itching and scratching. The vet just said it was allergieswhat can I do? Is there any medicine or shampoo you can recommend, or brand of dog food?
Allergies are very common in pugs! If more than one of your dogs is affected, they should be examined for fleas or contagious, itchy skin mites (scabies). If the concern is with allergies, then there are many shampoos that may be of benefit in preventing skin infection (which occurs commonly in allergic patients) and relieving itch. Food trials with prescription novel protein diets are performed to evaluate for food allergies, and skin testing (for airborne allergies) is also available. You should talk to your veterinarian about this or consider seeing a veterinary dermatologist. Good luck!
My 1 1/2-year-old poodle/schnauzer mix is constantly getting ear infections. I was told by his vet that it was due to allergies and to give him Benadryl once a day when he gets them, but it always seems a temporary fix. I put cotton balls in his ears when bathing him and clean his ears out daily, as well as trim the fur around and inside the ears, but he gets ear infections almost weekly. Is there anything more I can do to prevent them? I also have a prescription medication for when they occur (drops), but I think it's stopped working at this point.
I'm sorry to hear about your dog's frequent ear infections. Poodles and schnauzers tend to develop ear infections due to increased fur in the ear canals. But, as you know, this may also be related to allergies. It sounds like you are doing a good job keeping the fur to a minimum. Routine ear cleaning (one or two times a week) is helpful in preventing ear infections. Also, cytology (examination of the ear contents with a microscope) should be performed to determine what is causing the infection (yeast vs. bacteria) and to appropriately treat. Disease deep in the ear (middle ear) may also cause recurrent ear infections. I would suggest that you consider seeing a veterinary dermatologist and have further diagnostics performed for a food and/or airborne allergy. Good luck!
Hi! My cat sneezes sometimes. How do I know if that's related to allergies. Do kitties get colds? Thanks so much!
Sneezing may be associated with allergies in cats, but there are many other reasons cats may sneeze. Occasional, non-productive (no discharge from the nose) sneezing is normal. Viral or bacterial infections, similar to human colds and more common in young cats, may also cause sneezing. You should see your veterinarian if the sneezing continues or if your cat has other signs of nasal discharge, congestion (stuffy nose) or decreased appetite. Sneezing without concurrent itchy skin is an uncommon cause of allergies in cats.
I have a seven-year-old Bichon (20 pounds) who was adopted from the ASPCA shelter four years ago. He seems to suffer from seasonal allergies. I say "seasonal," but I really mean that they change with the seasons, not that they're limited to only one season. Currently, he is chewing madly on his feetboth the tops and the pads. Sometimes he chews on the base of his tail. He appears to be in great physical discomfort. I don't want to put anything topical on his feet because he'll just lick it and ingest it. He also gets recurring yeast infections in his ears that I treat with Otomaxeven prophylactically. His anal glands are a problem year-round, for us and for him, and need to be expressed every four to six weeks. I give him 12 mg of Diphenhydramine hydrochloride once a day during the spring and summer when his licking and ear problems are the worst, and sometimes twice if it seems particularly bad. However, it doesn't seem to help at all. I use Relief cream rinse after his bath and he gets fish oil in every meal. He has been on the same dog food (Wysong) for over a year and switching (from Iams) didn't seem to have any effect on his apparent allergies. Can you suggest any other strategies for giving him relief and keeping him from chewing himself up? (When he was rescued by ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement, he had practically no skin on his rump because he had chewed it off!) Are there any steps we can take to deal with the anal gland issue. We do give him a small amount of high fiber cereal with his food and his stool is usually firm. Thanks.
I’m so pleased that you adopted a dog from the A! Now for the allergiesI would strongly recommend that you have a further work-up for airbone allergies performed. The test of choice is a skin test, similar to what is performed in humans. The best management of airborne allergies is via allergy injections, which modify the immune response and treat the allergy itself, vs. just masking the itch. Your Bichon should also be examined by a veterinarian to be sure that he does not have an infection on his feet, as this is common in allergic patients, and contributes significantly to itch. Food and flea allergies (especially with what you describe) may also be involved, and changing his diet alone will not allow for determination of a food allergy. Anal sac problems are common in allergic dogs also. Regular expression and sometimes surgical removal are beneficial. Diagnosing and controlling the allergy may also improve this condition. Good luck!
My dog constantly backs himself against our furniture to scratch his back, and the result leaves a nearly bare red spot near the tail area. I am trying to figure out what in the world my dog could be allergic to. His vet, to be honest, was not much help. Thank you in advance.
It is difficult to say for sure if allergies are involved in your dog's condition. However, the most common allergy causing an itchy back or tail base is flea allergy. Flea allergy only requires the bite of a single flea to trigger intense itchiness for 2-3 weeks. So you may not see evidence of fleas! Food allergies, as well as airborne allergies, may, less commonly, cause what you describe. Hot spots are often infected by bacteria and may require antibiotics and drying, soothing products applied to the skin. I would recommend that you speak to your veterinarian about flea preventative products. There are several products that are applied monthly to the skin and are very effective. Good luck!
I have an eight-year-old whippet who goes through periods where he chews his paws. It seems as though they itch and he is scratching them by rubbing against his teeth. He does this to the point that his paws become red and appear almost hairless. He doesn't do this all the time; it seems to happen for a whilehe stops, and then he starts again. We have consulted his vet about this over time; she has suggested giving him Benadryl periodically. We aren't sure whether we should subject him to skin allergy testing or not. At times, we have thought grass was responsible, then we thought it might be his food. I completely changed his diet, eliminated all beef, in fact all meats except poultry and lamb. I also chose foods with absolutely no fillers or by-products. Right now he is eating Merrick canned (only poultry- or lamb-based varieties) mixed with no-salt canned vegetables and Merrick senior medley (also poultry-based) dry. The only snacks he eats are Happy Hips chicken breast strips, duck strips or lamb and rice strips. He doesn't seem to be doing it as often, but he still does go through phases where he does it. Do you have any suggestions how we can either prevent this reaction or at least make the symptoms more bearable for him? We would prefer not to give him Benadryl.
Paw chewing may be associated with allergies. Food allergies usually occur all year round (not intermittently). The only way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed a prescription novel or hydrolyzed protein diet (and nothing else) for 12 weeks, so that your whippet is not exposed to any possible proteins that could trigger a food allergy (including, commonly, poultry and lamb). You may want to consider adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as 3V HP capsules available by prescription) to the diet, and Benadryl is generally pretty safe. There are also sprays containing oatmeal, aloe, and other natural products that may be of benefit. You could walk or feed him to distract him so that he does not lick the medication (which would not be harmful, but just less effective). Good luck!
My dog, Henry, scratches at his ears all year long. The vet said his ears were clear and had no infection. Could he be allergic to food, maybe? I hate to give him BenadrylI don't want him to sleep all the time. Someone said to put vinegar in his ear. I feel so sorry for him please help him.
Yes, your dog could certainly have a food allergy or airborne allergy that just causing the ears to be itchy, without infection. You may want to consider speaking with your veterinarian about a food trial, which would require feeding a prescription diet for 12 weeks and no other flavored medications, treats, etc. Many pets do not become sleepy on Benadryl, and keep in mind that other antihistamines are available. Your vet may also recommend a medication that may be applied to the ear to relieve itchiness. Take care!
Dr. Budgin, my cat has what I think is a food allergy. He has CRF and went on wet Waltham's food and dry K/D, and it was fine for six to eight months. Then he started scratching patches of fur off his head in January (which I don't think is a seasonal allergy time of year), and then started to get diarrhea. The vet ruled out mites and a viral issue. I think it's one of the two foods, but it's hard to figure out which one. I tried canned CRF foods, which didn't set well at allbad diarrhea three hours later. Dry food only is much better but still not perfect. I don't really know what to do. I'd love for him to get wet and dry food. Does this sound like a food allergy? Do you have any suggestions? Thank you.
Your kitty may have a food allergy. Cats will commonly scratch at the head and neck, as well as have gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea) with food allergy. Food allergies may also manifest in older cats. A fungal culture should also be performed. If food allergies are a concern, it would be best to find a prescription novel protein (never eaten before) or hydrolyzed protein diet and feed this diet only for 12 weeks. Many cats will require home-cooked diets for the diagnosis of food allergy. Your veterinarian can speak to the food representatives or a nutritionist to find a diet low in protein and phosphorus and suitable for a patient with kidney disease. Take care!
I'm pretty sure my dog is allergic to chicken. We have been battling allergies for some time and have it relatively under control. I heard that if a dog food has no chicken in it, but does have poultry fat, that the dog will not have a reaction to it. Is this true?
Great question! Chicken fat should not trigger a reaction and one company has done testing to determine that there is no protein in added chicken fat, which is often used as a flavor enhancer. My recommendation, however, would be to avoid any diets containing chicken protein or fat if there is a concern with a food allergy to chicken. Good luck!
Hello, Dr. Budgin. My dog is a cocker spaniel and has allergies. He has chronic ear infections (he may need the ear canal ablation surgery), his eyes are runny at times and he bites his feet quite a bit. I put him on a strict diet of duck and potato food and treats, to rule out a food allergy. But I think he may be allergic to pollen. My vet told me that testing him for allergies can be expensive and sometimes doesn’t really narrow down the allergy he may have. As I think he may be allergic to pollen, what do you recommend I do to help him through the summer? And are there any supplements I can give him?
Pollen allergies are very common. Intradermal skin testing, similar to the test performed in humans, is the test of choice for airborne allergies and usually performed by a veterinary dermatologist. The most effective management for airborne allergies is allergy shots based on the results of skin testing. Blood allergy testing is not considered as reliable. Frequent bathing may help remove pollens from the skin, where they may be directly absorbed (as well as inhaled). If your dog is on a food trial, he should not receive any treats (even duck-based) or fish oil supplements, which may help with itch. You should speak to your veterinarian about antihistamines, which may benefit a small percentage of dogs with allergies.
Good morning, Dr. Budgin. I have a 13-month-old American pit bull terrier. She is extremely sweet and loves to play. I bought her from a supposed "excellent breeder." My brother knew the people that bred her parents. Even though she had all vaccinations, somehow she managed to still get Parvo in May. She was at the vet's for two days on an IV. She made it through and is still getting stronger. She has always had skin problems ever since she was a few months old, but not nearly as badly as she has the past few months. She itches constantly. Ever since the Parvo, she has been getting these little red bumps all over her back, side and head. She breaks out in a red, bumpy rash on her chest and neck. We don't know what is causing it. I have been told it could be her environment, food allergies, some type of bacteria possibly or just plain poor breeding. She has been on several antibiotics, which clear the bumps and itching up for a certain time. She is on prescription allergy food at this time to see if maybe that is a cause. I am also bathing her in a prescription shampoo twice a week in cold water. Is there any advice you can give me on what this could be and how I can clear it up? It breaks my heart to see her so miserable.
It sounds like you are doing an excellent job with your dog's care. I frequently see pit bulls with allergies and agree that an allergy may be involved. Itchy skin mites (scabies) may also mimic allergies. Secondary skin infections, causing the bumps that you describe, are very common in allergic dogs. Be sure not to feed her anything but the prescription diet (no flavored heartworm preventative, medications, treats, toothpaste, etc.) and continue the trial for 12 weeks. Some dogs will require home-cooked novel protein diets to diagnose a food allergy. You may want to consider having a further work-up for airborne allergies performed. The test of choice is an intradermal skin test, as blood tests are not considered as reliable. I would also recommend that when she is treated for a bacterial infection, that she receives antibiotics for at least 30 days. Good luck!
My cat apparently has allergies, but I've had no luck with the vet. She is an indoors-only cat. Her paws often swell and get big red scabs (different paws at different times). The scabs, I believe, are from where she chews on her pads. Her bottom lip swells to two and three times its size. I've tried everything I can think of, but the allergy always comes back later. I've tried eliminating (one by one) for the last two years: detergent, soap, plastics, litter, Febreze, carpet fresheners, cleaning products, toys, each brand of food, each flavor of food, treats, etc. Please help! I can't bear to see her itching and chewing her feet all the time, and I know the swollen mouth has got to be irritating!
I would recommend that you consider seeing a veterinary dermatologist. While it is difficult to know if what you are describing is a sign of an allergy, cats may develop a condition called Eosinophilic Granuloma Complex as a result of allergies (and sometimes for unknown causes). A further work-up including excellent flea prevention (even though your cat is indoors, the bite of one flea may trigger a reaction), and a food elimination trial to evaluate for a food allergy, may be indicated. This involves feeding a novel protein (never eaten before) diet or hydrolyzed diet for 12 weeks. Some true food allergic cats will only improve on a home-cooked diet, but this has to be with a special protein and balanced. Talk to your veterinarian about further allergy testing or about a veterinary dermatology consultation. Best of luck!
Are allergies the same in animals as they are in humans?
Allergies in dogs and cats are similar to humans, but frequently cause more skin conditions (red, itchy skin) and ear infections in animals than the sneezing or nasal congestion that is commonly seen in people. Many of the same things trigger allergies in both animals and humans including house dust mites, pollens and molds.