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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117 Comments

  1. I don’t know if my last post went through so I am re-posting. I have a 10 yr old mixed female chocolate lab who licks her feet, bed sheets, floor and people all the time. She takes valiuum for seizures but had this behavior before she was put on this medication. Can you tell me why she does this and what can be done about it?

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 2, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    This is obsessive, compulsive disorder that may need other meds like phenobarbitol or clomiprimine. See your vet.

  3. My daughter has a 4 yrs old Chihuahua. He is about 5 lbs and has always had flaking problems and he fur falling out on his head. It comes back but this time it is really worse he has patches on his body where the fur is gone and really dry skin where the fur was and his head the skin is dry and cracking. It looks like what cradle cap would be on a baby. Have taken him to the vet and tried one vitamin when he was little. Have given him fish oil but does not seem to help. He has always had a yeasty order to his body. Do you think a skin and hair vitamin would help. Have had his skin scrapped when he was younger but nothing really came up with it.

  4. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 3, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    Hard to answer this one briefly here. Consider PROPER home made diet as described in book Dr PItcairn’s guide to natural health for dogs and cats by Richard Pitcairn, dvm, phd Also see recipes on http://www.k9petchef.com Consider adding 1/2 teaspoon of coconut oil to meals which can also be used topically on skin lesions. Consider consulting with holistic vet. To find one in your area, see the referral list on http://www.drpitcairn.com Also maybe consider traditional vet exam as may need antibiotics, special shampoo therapies, etc

  5. I have a long haired mini daushand. She gets really hot in the summer so I get her clipped when she starts panting a lot an looking miserable. Year round she has dots on her belly that the vet said were blackheads—and they squeeze just like blackheads. She also gets sticky black stuff at the base of her arms and legs. The groomer says it is a yeast infection. What can I do to get rid of it? The vet has given her an antibiotic (don’t remember what) and it clears up til she runs out of meds. My husband is going through cancer treatments now and I don’t have the money to take her back to the vet. What can I do?? Please help

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 13, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    Your pet needs a full allergy workup for inhalent/contact allergies known as atopy as well as food allergies as well, or infections and itchiness will increase on skin. Try feeding proper home made diet as described on website http://www.k9petchef.com I would also consider shampooing with malaseb shampoo twice weekly from 1800petmeds, and adding fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 fatty acid to meals for long term health of skin.

  7. I have a female shepherd/husky mix. She has seen over 6 vets including the vets at Texas A & M. To no avail, she again has skin allergies, rashes on the skin, swollen feet, loss of hair, extensive chewing and scratching. She has had steroid shots with a terrible reaction. She has taken vet prescribed allergy medicine with no long lasting results. Vet prescribed spray for the skin and feet. Most everything works for a short term and then stops working all together. This has gone on for at least 5 years. We have tried a variety of dog foods. Nothing is working long term.

  8. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 22, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Sounds like you have exhausted lots. May want to be under care of a veterinary dermatologist you trust as well as asking about new allergy wonder drug called apoquel. Also consider alternative approach like homeopathy See the booklet on website http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as referral list of homeopathic vets on http://www.drpitcairn.com I would try different approach like homeopathy

  9. Hello,

    I am the proud Mommy of a 7 months mix breed. I got her when she was 11 weeks, to this day she has not stopped itching and scrathing. She is and has been on flea and tick control ever since. She has some hair loss on her side and back legs, red rushes between her back paws and now (since yesterday) she has bumps with yellowish pus like!. She has been on antibiotics for over 4 months, she has been on steroids, she gets bathe every other day with Chlorhexidine 4% and she gets sprayed with a solution of water and Pavodine iodine twice a day. I have switch her food more times than I can count. Now I am cooking for her. NOTHING seems to work! We do weekly trip at the vet. She has had done 4 skin scrapes and nothing aside from a little bacteria. I am at the point where I have no Idea what to do. Last nigh she vomited several times, water, grass and pork. She is just a little girl and she has not had a break from itching and scratching her back legs feel always warm. Any Suggestion would be great.

  10. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJune 27, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    I would look for vet skilled in NAET therapy in your area, which is excellent allergy option for pets. You can google this. Also consider asking your vet about drug like apoquel which is wonderful for allergies as well.

  11. My dog is a 10 to 11 year old Korgi and Chihuahua mix ( I think…?) For the last few years he has developed occassional sores on his back and legs, and they were never really a problem, unless he tried to bite them off…
    Lately, however, for the past couple of years, he has developed severe skin allergies that give him large, crusty patched on his skin and particularly in his ears. I have taken him to several different vets hoping to find some relief for him, but none seem willing to tell me how to help him. The last vet did put him on Prescription Diet DD and provided me with Rx shampoo (to be used every 5 days) and drops for his ears (Synotic); he also discovered a problem with his thyroid gland, so Skeeter is now taking that twice a day.
    I wish I could follow through with this vet more but unfortunately his prices make it impossible for me to continue seeing him.
    I now have noticed that Skeeter has a deep hacking cough that occurs very often, maybe even hourly.
    Is there anything that you could tell me that might help him get through this coughing and skin problems…??

  12. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 8, 2014 at 9:36 pm

    Nothing I would recommend over the counter for this type of cough in a pet this age as could be heart valve issue or collapsing trachea. Full vet exam and evaluation needed to sort out and best treatment plan

  13. I have a 3 year old male cat who has developed an area on his forehead, between his eye and ear, where he’s loosing hair and his skin feels dry and scabby and is itchy. The area isn’t touching his eye, just above it. Is there something I can I use that won’t hurt his eye?

  14. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 22, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Sounds lie possible inhalent/contact allergies. Try oral chlorphenirimine at dose of 2 mg twice daily from 1800petmeds, and DMG liquid as well to boost immune system. Nordic naturals cod liver oil added to food also may help

  15. my stray cat (friendly) has fur missing from his backside, with bumps that feel like large dry pimples. he also has chunks of fur missing with bloody spots on his back legs. i give him a flea treatment every three weeks. anything else i can do, taking him to a vet may be hard. this has been an off and on condition for a while. he is most likely old, with missing teeth and a back leg that cracks when he walks, though he is still active and eats well

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJuly 26, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    You could try the topical revolution from 1800petmeds which can help with ear mites, some types of skin mites and fleas. Also consider oral chlorphenirimine at dose of 2 mg twice daily, which may help ease itching or allergies. Also give DMG liquid from 1800petmeds.

  17. I have a gorgeous little 5 year old black and white Lhasa Apso.
    This summer he has developed white flakes that come off in a shower along his back up to the tail. This only happens when I groom him. There is no fur loss or lesions that I can see so do you think i need to take him to the vet ? I am adding omega 3 to his diet.

  18. I took my Sugar to the dermatologist, she suspects it’s food allergy. However, I am not a fan of the treatment she was given. I read about Yucca essentials supposedly, has the same effect of steroids minus the side effects. Has anyone used it?

  19. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 12, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Yucca can help in some cases of allergies so certainly worth a shot.

  20. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianAugust 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm

    I think adding omega 3 fatty acids to diet is great. Make sure a good source like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds. Also consider bathing with natural shampoo like 1800petmeds aloe vera and oatmeal shampoo and conditioner If no help, see vet for assessment

  21. We have a 2 year old golden retriever, who gets skin infections quite often. Vet has prescribed Cefpodoxime in the past. Seems to work, but then a few months out, he has it again. He likes to swim in the lake, but I shampoo him afterwards with a antibacterial shampoo. Any suggestions to prevent the reoccurrence.

  22. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 14, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    He most likely has underlying inhalent/contact allergies known as atopy, very common in this breed, and which can cause recurrent staph infections. Try an antihistamine like zyrtec at dose of one half mg per pound once daily, as well as add fatty acid to meals like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds .

  23. I have a 6 year old male cat who began itching and scratching about 1 1/2 months ago. I noticed that he had lost fur in some spots on his inner thigh, between his shoulder blades and on his lateral thorax near his shoulder. The areas of his skin were very red (not bleeding). I took him to the vet and he had a skin biopsy of three of the areas (cost over $1000). It took 3 weeks for the dermatology “specialist” to provide results and all that came back was “Severe allergic reaction.” Bugsy was given a steroid injection and sent home with prednisone to take 1/2 pill every day. Now he is down to 1/2 a pill every other day but the symptoms are returning. He is not obsessed with itching and scratching but I am noticing new spots popping up on him and he seems to spend a lot of time licking his tail as well. The initial areas began healing after the steroid injection (almost immediately) and they then became thickly scabbed with a scaly texture but still haven’t healed completely (almost 4 weeks later) and he is not scratching those areas this time around. I don’t know if I should try another vet (because I’m not thrilled with the one I’m going to—For over $1000 I would expect more than a diagnosis of “Severe allergic reaction” and a $14 supply of prednisone.). I read some of the previous posts and would like to try something at home, I’m just not sure where to begin (food supplement, topical creams, antihistimine???). Any thoughts or guidance would be AMAZINGLY appreciated!

  24. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianSeptember 26, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    HI Trish. Thanks for your detailed question. Many options for you. You could try an antihistamine like chlorphenirimine at dose of 2 mg twice daily. also adding fatty acid like BE well from 1800petmeds may help as well. Changing diet to low allergy, novel protein diet also can help if food involved. Other traditional prescription drug options besides prednisone include atopica or cyclosporine. Some clients will opt for consultation with veterinary dermatologist and consider allergy testing. My own personal preference to approach these is more homeopathically. To learn more about homeopathy, see the booklet on the website http://www.beyondflatearth.com as well as my website http://www.doctordym.com Many homeopathic vets like myself offer phone consultations, which I do nationwide.

  25. I have a 5 yr old mix breed dog named Nala she is 10lbs…we recently had her to the vet because her skin was red and had a hard time breathing..he put her on temaril and a antihistamine he said it was an allergy..we have her on frontline plus for fleas and again the skin is red…anything we can do to help ease the redness…..

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