Itchy Skin


Allergy in pets is a very common problem, and our Springfield vet staff has a lot of experience diagnosing and treating allergies.   Pets can be allergic to anything they come in contact with: fleas, pollens, molds, food, etc. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies, but there are many ways to control the symptoms.

Signs and Symptoms of Allergies

Itchy skin

  • Redness, scabs, or hair loss on skin
  • Recurring ear infections (shaking head & scratching at ears)
  • Recurring anal gland infections or peri-rectal irritation (scooting)
  • Recurring skin infections (yeast or bacterial infections)
  • GI upset

If your pet has the symptoms above, please click here to download and print the history form. Fill the form in prior to coming in for your dermatology exam.

  Prevention and Treatment of Allergies in Pets

Flea Control

This is the #1 treatment to help pets with allergies. Flea allergies comprise the vast majority of allergy problems in pets. You may not see fleas on your pet, but they are exposed every time they step outside. Indoor pets are exposed from fleas coming indoors as well. An itchy pet should always be checked for fleas. Be sure to provide flea control (Comfortis or Sentinel for dogs, Revolution for cats) once monthly, year-round. Treating your home with Knock-out spray and your yard during prime flea season will also help.


Antihistamines will help many pets with mild allergy symptoms. Just like us, some antihistamines work better for some individuals than others. Luckily, most pets do not experience the drowsy side effects we commonly associate with antihistamines. Antihistamines are inexpensive, easy to get over the counter, and have minimal side effects. We can suggest options and dosages for you to try with your pet.

Food Allergy Diet Trials

Some pets are allergic to ingredients in their pet food and will develop dermatitis due to food allergy. In dogs, 93% of food allergy involves beef, dairy, wheat, lamb, chicken, chicken egg and soy. In cats ,80% of allergies are to beef, dairy and fish.

You may have heard that corn is a problem in pet food, but it's only been reported to cause food allergy in 2% of dogs and 5% of cats. With rice, it's only 1% in dogs and 0% in cats. Corn is a highly digestible carbohydrate that also has essential fatty acids for healthy skin --beta-carotene, vitamin E, lutein (antioxidants) and protein to build muscle and tissue.

The goal with food trials is to remove the source of the common food allergens while still providing a healthy, fully balanced diet. We recommend d/d or z/d diet depending on your pet’s signs and symptoms. These have a novel protein source as well as fatty acids, so you do not need to supplement fatty acids while on their diet.

To do a food trial, your pet has to eat only the prescription diet for 10-12 weeks, with absolutely no table food or outside treats. We do have hypoallergenic treats available, or you can make your own treats using the canned diets and baking them. We have recipes if you would like to try this for your pet.


This is a medication used to alter the body’s immune response to the allergens when pets have allergies to pollens. About 75% of pets with itch, hair loss and secondary skin infections show improvement when started on this medication. It works similarly to a steroid, but does not have the long-term side effects associated with steroids. It is given with a tapering dose. Rebates are available to assist with initial cost of the product.

Allergy Testing & Desensitization

Considered the gold standard of allergy treatment in pets, it identifies the underlying allergy and treats that specific allergen. A blood sample obtained from the pet and sent to Heska Laboratory is tested for 48 different allergens specific to our area of the country. Based on the results, the allergist recommends desensitization injections, a series of injections with gradually increasomg amounts of the allergen. Eventually, the pet develops immunity to the allergen. The cost of this is around $320 initially (testing and serum formulations), but over time, the cost of treatment is less because the pet only needs injections during flare-ups.


This "allergy shot"used to be the mainstay of allergy treatment, but steroid use is NOT a good option for long term allergy control. In an acute, high itch crisis, we prescribe an oral form of the steroid which is not as strong as the injection. If undesirable side effects occur, we can taper down the medication , rather than wait for the injection to wear off.  Short term side effects include increased thirst, appetite, urination and panting, which should decrease as the dose is tapered. Long term side effects include weight gain, hormonal imbalance (Latrogenic Cushing’s disease), joint problems, kidney and liver disease.

Antibiotics/Antifungal Medications

Secondary infections are very commonly associated with allergic dermatitis. The pet licks, scratches and chews at the skin, allowing normal bacteria and fungus to colonize the skin. Yeast infections also occur in the ears secondary to allergy. Unfortunately, these infections intensify the itch and make the pet much more uncomfortable. We can quickly identify these infections when we first examine your pet,  and anytime a flare-up occurs.

Fatty Acid Supplements

Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce inflammation in the skin, thus reduce itching in many pets. They come in many different formulations with varying amounts of fatty acid concentrations. Roughly 50-65% of patients will show some improvement with fatty acid supplementation. We can provide a product and dosage recommendation for your pet.

Medicated Shampoos

There are several medicated shampoos used to treat specific allergic dermatitis conditions. We will recommend one based on your pet’s specific condition. 

As you can see, there are many treatment options available for pets with allergies. Unfortunately, this means that there is not just one treatment we can select as best. We have to find out what combination works best for your pet.

Our goal is to keep your pet healthy and happy. Please feel free to call anytime if you have questions: 883-7297

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