Most Common Skin Problem in Pets: Allergies

Allergies are one of the most common causes for skin and coat problems in dogs and cats One of the more common reasons for veterinary exams (outside of wellness visits) involves some sort of skin or coat complaint. Many pets can develop excessive shedding, dull, dry, or greasy coats, as well as hair loss. Often times these complaints are accompanied by a history of excessive itching and secondary bacterial or yeast overgrowth on the skin.

Allergies are the most common causes of these varied symptoms, which can usually can be broken down into inhalant or contact allergies, food allergies, and/or flea bite allergies. All pets with skin disease should be on a good monthly flea control program such as with topical Advantage II or Frontline Plus.  For other pets, animal guardians can try antihistamines such as Diphenhydramine or Chlorpheniramine to see if itching can be eased. I also stress the importance of a healthy diet and recommend brands such as Halo or Nature’s Variety, along with proper nutritional supplementation.

Digestive tract enzymes such as NaturVet Enzymes should always be added to meals in allergic pets. Omega 3 fatty acids such as Super Pure Omega 3 or Nordic Naturals can help when used long-term. In addition, bathing once to twice weekly with a moisturizing pet shampoo can also help reduce severity of contact allergies by washing away allergens.

For pets with persistent skin problems or those that develop hair loss without excessive itching, a veterinary exam is recommended to conduct skin scraping and possibly fungal culture. This is to help rule out mange mites and ringworms.  Further allergy workup can involve skin and/or blood testing to find out what your pet may be allergic to so that allergy vaccines may be developed for long term use.

Do you have experience with a pet that has allergies? What have you found to help him or her?

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  1. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianOctober 5, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Most likely chronic allergies to inhalent/contact allergens. Temaril p is an option or you could try low dose antihistamines like Zyrtec at dose of 1/2 mg per pound once to twice daily. Add fatty acid like be well to meals from 1800petmeds. Yucca intensive and proanthozone also may be helpful

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  4. Hi,
    I have an 11 year old lab/shepherd/who knows mix weighing in at about 60lbs. He developed itchy skin around the last of October this year. It about drives him and us to distraction. I purchased Yucca Intensive from 1800petmeds and have used it for about 3 weeks with absolutely no change. I mix it with cottage cheese, I started out with 12 drops because I was told to double it if I mix it with food. He is now up to 20 drops and it seems to make no difference. We have taken him off his old dog food that was full of grains and put him on Rachael Ray Nutrish with turkey as the protein and he’s been eating it exclusively (except for the cottage cheese and cheddar cheese) for 2 weeks. We have been giving him Excel Allergy Relief 25 mg, 2 tabs twice a day since Friday (12/5) evening. That more or less just puts him to sleep.
    I’d rather not do prednisone, and at this point, we don’t have the money to take him to the vet. Do you have any advice? I’m getting a bit desperate.
    Thank you,

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 25, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Get book DR Pitcairn’s guide to natural health for dogs and cats by Richard Pitcairn, DVM phd and try some of natural and/or dietary suggestions in there. You could also try zyrtec at dose of one half mg per pound once to twice daily.

  6. I cant believe you didn’t take him to the vet. Maybe you are too young of very poor, but to let the dogs hair fall out and not get him checked for Mange! An awful horrible way to go. I dont want to hurt you further but to love a dog is a life long commitment and if that were you itching to the point of DEATH! I would hope someone would take you to see a professional to find out why your hair is falling out. or wasn’t he worth it to you?. There are vets that will help you make payments. I feel so bad for that dog & you for not understanding the seriousness of the situation. That is suffering unnecessarily! LOVE all animals, L.A.

  7. I can’t see how these comments are helpful.

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 7, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Thanks for your contribution on this discussion. Points well taken.

  9. Hi,

    I’ve wrote a few times on this blog especially when I was desperate with my Pet Allergies. I think NEAT is the best option however, for those of us who cannot afford it yet love our pets and want nothing but the best for them, I would like to share what has helped my lil puppy. She is a year now, and I cannot stress enough she has had itchy skin since I got her last year. We went to the vet every week for almost a year, we have seen dermatologist and so forth. NOTHING! A friend suggests an holistic allergy assessment, it’s simple you do it at home in return they will send you an email with all that may trigger your pet allergy. it’s about $ 80. I buy the Yucca intensive, it helps, but I also use tea tree oil, quercetin , immune system booster and many other supplemental and she eats a homemade diet,. I hope this helps as many of you as possible.

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 16, 2015 at 1:08 am

    Thank you for sharing.

  11. My nine year old choc lab has always had \hot spots\ which his vet would treat with 5mgs of prednisone. Over the past 1-2 years he formed a circle spot half way up his tail that looked like a hot spot but eventually got very scaly and his fur fell out throughout the circle spot. Now, within the last few weeks we noticed a lot of itching mostly near his back and now has almost the same exact thing on his back, upper tailbone area. I started giving him a 5mg prednisone every other day and that seemed to help with the itching but his hair fell out in that area too which concerns me. Any suggestions on what this could be or how to treat it? Also, I am a little worried about putting his topical flea med on since it’s in the same area where spot is located??

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 25, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    From where you are describing the location of the itching on lower half of body near tail, I suspect there may be some type of flea bite allergy, so I would flea comb him closely and inspect closely for fleas and/or flea dirt. Look in groin area as well for fleas. If no fleas, could be inhalent/contact allergies so pred may be helpful but you should be under care of local vet. Also put him on good omega 3 fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds. I would recommend flea control. If you not like the topicals, then consider oral meds like comfortis or nexguard from 1800petmeds.

  13. Hi I have a pittbull puppy named Nova she is 8 months old weighs 50 pounds we started noticing her digging and itching a lot also shedding a lot and she is a short haired dog she has really pink skin ive been giving her allergy meds bathing her in oatmeal puppy bath mixed with tea tree oil and spraying her with dog hydrocordizone still yet shes loosing her hair and miserable its mostly on her hips under her mouth on her neck and on the higher part of her back in the middle I started to think it was fleas even though I couldn’t see them so I treated her right after I did she broke out with bumps everywhere I was advised to give her antihistamine not sure why no steroids but I cant seem to make her better and I feel terrible for her shes miserable and on top of that her ears are running really bad and the wax is almost black Im using ear wash put the very next day the are yucky again please help me im running out of ideas 🙁

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 9, 2015 at 11:15 pm

    Sounds like she needs prescription for antibiotic, which your vet can write.

  15. I have a very small dachshund mix that was about 5 weeks old that was given to me to take care of because the mother passed away. He is now 7 weeks old and was doing really great until the other day. I had him outside in the yard playing and apparently he got bite by some ants. One on his tummy and the other was on the upper side of his tummy. Well I have been making sure to keep them cleaned until they were healed and the one on his lower tummy healed fine. The one on the upper side is a different story. The next day I went to get him out of his crate and the hair was matted to his skin when the bite apparently busted. Well I tried keeping it clean and kept him from being outside too long hoping it would heal up. It didn’t happen as planned because now his hair is just hanging on in the spot so it shows nothing but his bare skin. Then today I noticed his little face is peeling. It seriously looks like craddle cap on a baby. At first I thought maybe the dog shampoo I was using was the cause but I haven’t bathed him in a week and now his tiny little face looks so pitiful and dry. What am I doing wrong and is this something that is more serious and needs further care? I don’t want my baby sick….

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianMarch 18, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    I would take him to vet for proper diagnosis of skin condition and appropriate antibiotic therapy, as may be infection.

  17. Have a 5 year old Cock-a-poo About 2-3 years ago he started chewing on his feet. One vet told us it was probably an allergy to grass or something outside. Another vet told us to change his food and we started him on Science Diet DD then ZD which is pretty pricey…but nothing is too much when it comes to the fur babies. He was doing great until we moved to a new house. then we could not get things under control. antihistamines helped but only temporary relief. Along comes APOQUEL – AMAZING !! He has marked and considerable relief. He his happy and not chewing his feet anymore. FINALLY

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