Seasonal Allergies or Atopy in Dogs and Cats
What are seasonal allergies or atopy? It is a genetically predisposed hypersensitivity or exaggerated response to common environmental allergens, such as grasses, trees, pollens, molds, dander, insects and others. Seasonal allergies (atopy) is characterized by allergic symptoms that commonly reoccur at the same time of year, each year. For example, the symptoms will occur each summer and symptoms will resolve in the other seasons of the year.
What are common clinical symptoms of atopy? It is common to see areas of hair loss, redness, crust, scale, excoriations, hyperpigmentation, lichenification and itching. Atopy can also cause ear infections. These symptoms can be exacerbated by the formation of secondary bacteria and yeast infections on the skin and in the ears.
How can seasonal allergies (atopy) be diagnosed? We diagnose this condition based on history from the owner, clinical signs and by ruling out other skin diseases that can cause similar clinical signs. We use intradermal or serum allergy testing to identify which allergens in the environment cause an allergic reaction for the patient.
How can seasonal allergies be treated? There are numerous treatments for atopy. The only known possible cure for atopy is allergen specific immunotherapy (ASIT) or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). Immunotherapy is formulated by using small amounts of the allergens the pet is allergic to produce an allergy serum. Immunotherapy can be given via injection (ASIT) or via oral drops (SLIT). Some additional therapies for atopy include Apoquel, Cytopoint, Atopica, corticosteroids and antihistamines. It is always a great idea to consult with your regular veterinarian about which medication is best for your pet and the side effects of these medications. It is also a great idea to use an antibacterial and/or antifungal shampoo to help treat any secondary bacterial and yeast infection. A systemic antibiotic or antifungal may also be needed.
Tomeshia Hubbard, DVM
Alabama Veterinary Allergy and Dermatology Service & Assistant Clinical Professor at the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine