How to tell if your pet has skin allergies

There are many types of allergies that pets may have. In fact, probably one of the most common visits for veterinary exams, other than for wellness checkups, is for some type of skin allergy condition. Some of the most common type of allergies include flea bite allergies, inhalant/contact allergies, and/or food allergies.

Skin allergy symptoms
Symptoms of skin allergies often include feet-licking, face-rubbing, itching/scratching of  ears with discharge and/or shaking of the head, as well as itching/scratching of the lower back, groin or front armpit regions.  Many times, there can be secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections of these areas leading to varying amounts of papules, pustules, crusting, scabbing and odor. If problems are worse at certain times of year and/or after coming in from the outside, inhalant/contact allergies known as atopic skin disease, are most likely. Flea bite allergy tends to be more focused on the lower half of the body, particularly in the areas near the tail and lower abdominal regions, while food allergies can manifest as skin lesions anywhere on the body, and typically occur year round, rather than seasonally.

Diagnosing and treating pet skin allergies
Through a careful history and physical exam, one can get hints about what type of allergies may be present and contributing to the symptoms. By doing a thorough flea combing of your pet with a special comb, flea bite allergy can be diagnosed. The diagnosis of atopic skin disease is made by seasonal distribution of skin lesions, as well as with the use of either blood and/or skin allergy testing done at the veterinary office. While many labs offer blood tests for food allergies, the gold standard of diagnosis of food allergies is made by feeding a pet a restricted novel protein diet and/or what is called a prescription hydrolyzed protein diet from the veterinary office for a period of 6-12 weeks. Once your pet is diagnosed, most cases of allergies can usually be controlled, but rarely cured.