WA Veterinary Emergency & Specialty (WAVES)

Allergic Skin Disease

Work up of allergic skin diseases

Allergies are common causes of itchy skin and ears in dogs and cats. Uncontrolled itching can result in recurring skin and ear infections. The most common allergies affecting dogs and cats are atopic dermatitis (environmental allergy), food and insect/flea bite.  Some dogs and cats can have multiple allergies. Through a detailed history taking and full physical exam, we can prioritise diagnostic tests to diagnose the underlying allergy your pet has and provide detailed treatment options.

Atopic dermatitis (environmental allergy)

Pets with atopic dermatitis most commonly have itchy feet, muzzle and ears. Some pets may also itch around their stomach and sides of their chest. If your pet has atopic dermatitis, we offer intradermal (skin) and blood testing against an extensive panel of grasses, weeds, trees, moulds, insects, house dust mites and storage mites to identify the offending airborne allergens. This would allow us to formulate an allergy vaccine to desensitise your pet against these allergens. The allergy vaccine is the only treatment that reverses the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. By starting atopic pets on allergy vaccine early, we can better control their itching for years to come.

Inflamed and infected feet due to atopic dermatitis









Allergen immunotherapy (allergy vaccine)

The allergy vaccine is given as subcutaneous (under the skin) injections every 3 weeks or orally  under the tongue once to twice a day. The allergy vaccine needs to be given for 12months to evaluate response, with most dogs and cats showing improvement within 6-9mths. The success of the desensitisation program is about 70%. Pets that improve will show at least 50% reduction in the overall itch level and amount of anti-itch medications required. If the vaccine is successful, we recommend your pet stay on the program for at least 3 years to reduce the likelihood of a relapse.

Positive skin test showing multiple large wheals

Food allergy

Pets with food allergies can have a combination of itchy skin/ears and gastrointestinal disease (e.g. increased bowel movement >3 per day, mucus in stools, loose stools, belching and flatulence). Up to 30% of food allergic dogs have concurrent atopic dermatitis. The most common food allergens in dogs are beef, chicken, dairy and wheat. The most common food allergens in cats are fish, beef and dairy. Currently, there is no reliable blood test in dogs and cats to diagnose food allergy. An elimination diet trial using a novel protein (dogs and cats) and carbohydrate (dogs only) or a hydrolysed biscuit formulation for 8 weeks is the only way to determine if your pet has a food allergy. It is important to know the potential cross reactivity between the different proteins when selecting the protein and carbohydrate for the elimination diet trial.