Allergy is an exaggerated, inappropriate and unnecessary response of the immune system to non-infectious things. Allergic reactions, especially to certain foods, drugs and chemicals are a twentieth century phenomenon. The word 'allergy' was only coined in 1906, by a Viennese paediatrician, Baron Clemens von Pirquet. Allergic reactions occur on a dog's skin, causing itchiness, on the lining of the air passages, causing sneezing, coughing or difficulty breathing, or to the lining of the gastrointestinal system, causing vomiting or diarrhea. In cats, allergy can trigger life-threatening asthma. Chemicals in insect bites (as in flea saliva), certain foods, drugs, plants and herbs, dust mites, plant pollens, fungal spores, even our own shedding skin (human dander) can set off an allergic reaction in your pet.
These are helpful questions to ask when diagnosing whether your pet is allergic.
- Has the problem occurred before?
- Does it occur at a particular time or season?
- Does it occur in a particular environment?
- Are the ears involved?
- What is in the diet?
- Is there a history of allergy in the breed or your pet's immediate family?
- Allergic dermatitis
- Food allergy
- Allergic bronchitis
- Allergic rhinitis (Hay Fever)
- Allergic gastritis
- Allergic enteritis
- Eosinophilic enteritis
- Allergic colitis
We usually recommend avoidance as the best treatment for allergies but of course that is easier to recommend than to implement. Through intensive history taking, allergy testing using skin tests or blood samples, altered protein or novel protein diets, and sometimes temporary removal of a pet from its normal environment, we try to determine specific causes. Finding specific causes is frustratingly difficult. For immediate relief from allergy we try to 'turn off' the allergic reaction at its source. Although many different chemicals are released when mast cells explode, only one of them, histamine, can be effectively controlled with an 'anti-histamine'. Frequent shampoos are recommended for skin allergies. We also recommend high-dose essential fatty acid (EFA) supplements.