It could be allergies.
Allergies in animals are very common and can be very frustrating to treat. In dogs and cats, allergies frequently cause skin disease rather than the "hay fever" symptoms humans get. Symptoms to look for in your pet would include ear infections, rashes, and itching. It is often difficult to determine if recurrent symptoms could be due to either a food allergy or an environmental allergy or sometimes even both. Allergies in dogs can occur at any age, but most likely to occur between the ages of 2-7 years. It is often difficult to diagnose, and treat. Depending on the type of allergy there are different ways of treating and diagnosing.
In recent years there have been great advances in the ways we can manage the symptoms of allergies. These new treatments are as effective as steroids used in the past but have far fewer side effects. Drugs like Atopica, Apoquel and Cytopoint have all made the management of allergies much easier and these medications are also easier on your pet's organs. These new techniques target specific portions of the inflammatory cascade caused by allergies instead of the whole inflammatory process which is how steroids work.
Specific environmental testing for allergies can be done at the dermatologist, similar to testing in humans. The office "gold standard" is skin testing where small doses of common allergens are injected into the skin and the reaction is measured. This test is the best but required referral to a specialist and can be quite expensive. The second most common method is a serum allergy test, or a blood test which can be performed by us. Recent evidence suggests that this can correlate well with the skin testing, and is a fraction of the cost.
Food allergies can be very difficult to test for as it requires time and patience. To rest for food allergies, it is important to restrict your pet to a prescription limited ingredient diet. Only prescription diets are free from contaminations as they are made in a separate secure facility. Over the counter diets are not made in a secure environment, risking cross contamination that makes diet trials frustrating and difficult to near impossible. It is not easy to know which diet to choose, so the right one is not always chosen first. Previous history of diets is an important consideration. A proper dietary trial for food allergies takes 6-12 weeks to see results. No other protein or carbohydrate sources should be given at this time. It is a common misconception (propagated by the media) that grains are the most common cause of food allergies. Controlled research studies have shown that beef, chicken, and soy can just as likely be the culprit.
The bottom line is, allergies in cats and dogs is a multi-factor disease and is best treated with the direction and guidance of your veterinarian to ensure success. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections can be complicate matters and need to be treated at the same time to help ensure treatment success. Please call us to set up an appointment if you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies.