Itch and Scratch! Bite and Lick! A Series on Allergies (Part 4 of 4)

The historic perennial mainstays of allergy treatment and control for pets with mild, transient seasonal allergies are the use of antihistamines like Benadryl, hydroxyzine, or chlorpheniramine. Some pets will not respond adequately to antihistamines alone, so often small doses of short term cortisone products like prednisone at tapering doses are necessary. There are also medications combining antihistamines with small doses of prednisone, like Temaril-P that provide relief at lower doses of prednisone due to the synergistic effect of adding the temaril antihistamine. Adjunctive treatment with balanced fatty acid supplements containing omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be helpful, as can using a variety of soothing sprays and oatmeal shampoos.

Avoidance of known allergens can also be effective, but is usually difficult to achieve.

When these treatments fail, or when allergies escalate with each passing year, then methods to “retrain” the immune system not to react so aggressively termed immunotherapy (or more commonly, allergy hyposensitization shots) can be the next step. We had discussed the tests used to identify individual allergens last week. Once these are known, an allergy treatment extract set can be prepared for your pet and gradually increasing amounts of the allergens can be injected under the skin at gradually increasing time intervals. Initially the injections are performed in the office, but eventually we train you to give them at home. This will gradually, over a three to nine month period, “retrain” or hyposensitize the immune system not to react to an allergen exposure with rashes, hives, and itching. This process is about 75 percent successful in controlling canine allergies, and probably slightly less effective in cats per veterinary dermatologists.

A relatively new treatment for allergies in dogs and cast is oral cyclosporine (brand name Atopica) which helps to suppress the immune system’s role in creating the itch associated with allergies. Newer still are two new medications Apoquel tablets and Cytopoint injections that target and inhibit molecules called cytokines that are the itch mediators of allergies. While not effective in every pet, 80-90 % of pets do get relief with novel new treatments – all this with a much lower potential to cause side effects in the body than the traditional use of cortisone type medications.

Our medical staff is in frequent contact with local veterinary dermatologists and review the literature to ensure that you and your pet receive the widest range and most up to date treatment options to control pet allergies.

To better assess the health of your pets’ teeth we now have DIGITAL DENTAL X-RAY EQUIPMENT. This allows us to see hidden periodontal disease surrounding the tooth roots so that action can be taken to judiciously suggest treatment or extraction since our pets can’t tell us where it hurts them.


Pittsburgh Spay & Vaccination Clinic is a state-of-the-art, full-service suburban veterinary facility serving the Pittsburgh Area since 1980.. We offer diagnostic, medical, surgical, and dental care to dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, and pocket pets in the Pittsburgh area.

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