Atopy is a common form of allergy in dogs and cats. Atopy is caused by exposure to allergens (allergy-causing substances) in your pet's environment. Examples of common allergens implicated in atopy include dust mites, mold, grasses and plant pollens. In many cases, the exact allergen causing the allergic reaction may not be known.
Diagnosing atopy requires ruling out the other causes of itching first, such as external parasites like fleas, food allergies, Demodectic mange or sarcopic mange. Once your pet has been diagnosed with atopy, you have several treatment options.
Avoidance of the Allergen in Treating Dogs and Cats with Atopy
Where possible, avoiding the allergen which is causing the allergy is the best form of treatment. However, in most cases, this will not be possible. It may not be practical to remove the offending substance from your dog or cat's environment. Or you may not know what triggers your dog or cat's allergy.
Medications to Reduce Inflammation in Dogs and Cats with Allergies
Several medications can be used to help reduce the inflammation caused by atopy in dogs and cats. Commonly used medications include:
- antihistimines, such as chlorpheniramine, hydroxyzine, diphenhydramine and others
- corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, prednisone, prednisolone, triamcinolone and others
Each of these medications has some risk of side effects for your pet and you need to minimize their usage, if possible.
These medications are used to control the symptoms> of atopy in dogs and cats. They will not cure your pet of atopy.
You can also use various shampoos, creams, ointments and sprays to help keep your pet's skin more comfortable. As with the other medications, these products will help relieve symptoms of atopy but will not cure the disease.
Alternative Therapies for the Treatment of Canine and Feline Allergies
Other alternative therapies that may be helpful in treating atopy in dogs and cats include:
- the addition of fatty acid supplements to the food, particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)
- probiotic supplements
Allergy Testing and "Allergy Shots" in the Treatment of Atopy in Dogs and Cats
Allergy testing and "allergy shots" (also called hyposensitization) are an option for atopic dogs and cats.
- Allergy testing can be done with either a skin test or a blood test. Many veterinary dermatologists believe that skin testing is the "gold standard" for allergy testing. However, blood testing has been used successfully as well.
- The testing determines the substances to which your pet is allergic.
- Once you and your veterinarian know what your pet is allergic to, a series of "allergy shots" are prepared for your pet based on that information. The "allergy shots" train your pet's body not to react abnormally to the allergen (the substance to which your pet is allergic).
- Your pet will need "allergy shots" every few days for an indefinite length of time.
- You should only pursue allergy testing for your dog or cat if you intend to treat your pet with hyposensitization therapy (i.e. "allergy shots").
Allergy testing and the subsequent "allergy shots" can cure atopy, unlike other treatment options that simply treat its symptoms. However, this treatment course requires a long-term commitment to complete.
Photo Courtesy of jamarmstrong/Flickr.com