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Recognizing Allergy Symptoms

An Overview of Dog & Cat Allergies

The most obvious symptom of an atopic condition is pruritus. Pruritus is caused by skin inflammation, typically on the paws, head, armpit or groin. Dogs often lick or bite their feet and can be seen rubbing their heads along the floor or other objects. Cats typically overgroom.

The skin inflammation associated with itching is an important symptom and to correctly diagnose atopic dermatitis it is important to know in what context, at what times, and how much the dog or cat itches. Skin inflammation can be aggravated by bacterial (Staphylococcus) or yeast (Malassezia) infections, which also need treatment. Recurrent ear infections are also often caused by allergy (in over 75% of cases).

Signs such as redness, superficial scratch wounds, discoloration of the fur (from excessive licking / grooming) and hair loss also reflect the severity of the allergy. Depending on the duration and severity of the disorder, lesions can vary between erythema (redness), hyperkeratosis (keratinisation) and lichenification (thickening) of the skin. Occasionally, atopic dogs and cats will have watery eyes, asthma or sneeze. Sometimes there may be digestive symptoms.

Symptoms can be present throughout the year or only during a particular season, depending on the allergens that trigger the allergic reaction. The first symptoms typically occur by 1–3 years of age (in around 75% of all cases). Occasionally, symptoms occur in animals under 6 months of age.

Common Allergy Symptoms in Dogs

Canine atopic dermatitis (CAD) is thought to be the most common form of allergy in dogs, affecting up to 15% of the dog population and accounting for 25% of dogs referred for pruritus. Atopic dermatitis is a hereditary allergy whereby the dog is sensitive to airborne substances from the environment, such as pollens, mites, moulds and dander.

The most obvious symptom of an atopic condition is pruritus. Pruritus is caused by inflammation of the skin, typically of the paws, head, armpit or groin. Dogs often lick or bite their feet and can be seen rubbing their heads along the floor or other objects. The skin inflammation can be exacerbated by bacterial or yeast infections, such as Staphylococcus and Malassezia. First symptoms typically occur at 1–3 years of age (~75% of all cases). Occasionally symptoms occur in animals under 6 months of age.

When other triggers of the symptoms are ruled out, atopy is diagnosed. The next step is to perform an allergy test to identify which allergens are causing the allergic reaction. SPOT Platinum+ Serum Test uses the latest technology in allergy testing. It has three proprietary monoclonal antibodies from a specific recombinant IgE as well as CCD blockers, resulting in the highest level of specificity and sensitivity.

Atopic dermatitis is a lifelong condition, and for this reason any treatment must be continued for life. The recommended choice for treating atopy is Hypo-sensitization (also called allergen-specific immunotherapy). Immunotherapy is the only treatment that will stop the allergy from progressing, by making the immune system less sensitive, or totally insensitive, to the allergens that trigger the allergic reaction.

Common Allergy Symptoms in Cats

In cats the most common types of allergies are flea allergy and atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis or feline atopy is a hereditary allergy whereby the animal is sensitive to airborne substances from the environment, such as pollens, mites, moulds and dander.

Common symptoms in allergic cats are pruritus, asthma, respiratory symptoms, acne, sneezing, watery eyes, ear infections, vomiting and diarrheic. If a cat is already suffering from asthma, an environmental allergy often worsens the discomfort.

Feline atopy is underdiagnosed because a common symptom of atopic dermatitis in cats is over-grooming, which is mistaken for normal behavior, or anxiety. When other triggers of the symptoms are ruled out, atopy is diagnosed. The next step is to perform an allergy test to identify which allergens are causing the allergic reaction. SPOT Platinum+ Serum Test uses the latest technology in IgE serum testing. It uses three proprietary monoclonal antibodies from a specific recombinant IgE, plus CCD blockers, resulting in a product with the highest level of specificity and sensitivity.

Although evidence for the treatment of feline atopy is scarce, it does show that immunotherapy has a 70% efficacy rate and is safe for long-term use. Hypo-sensitization (also called allergen-specific immunotherapy) is the only treatment that will stop the allergy from progressing, by making the immune system less sensitive, or totally insensitive, to the allergen that trigger the allergic reaction.

Common Allergy Symptoms in Horses

Insect-bite hypersensitivity (IBH) or “sweet itch” is the most common allergic disease in horses. It is a seasonally recurrent allergic dermatitis caused by hypersensitivity to the saliva of biting insects, especially Culicoides species. Atopy or atopic dermatitis involves a skin allergy to environmental substances such as pollen, mites, dander and molds. Depending on the specific allergen, it may be seasonal or non-seasonal.

The clinical symptoms of IBH and atopy can overlap, with pruritus as the primary symptom. Some horses are affected by both conditions simultaneously.

In both conditions, self-trauma due to scratching, biting and rubbing may lead to skin erosion and ulcers, hair loss, excoriations, lichenification and pigmentary disturbances that contribute to the development of secondary superficial bacterial infections. A pyoderma is typified by excess scaling, small epidermal collarettes and encrusted papules.

Sometimes recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) can occur, with or without pruritus. RAO is an allergic-type condition of stabled horses and is characterized by small airway inflammation, airway neutrophilia and obstruction after exposure to, for example, moldy hay and straw (allergy to mold spores).

Uncommon symptoms such as laminitis and head tossing may also be associated with allergies.

Overall, the veterinary field has not studied the pathogenesis of horse allergy in enough detail to clarify the underlying mechanisms. However, it is known that immunological reactions (IBH or atopy) are triggered when an allergen-specific IgE antibody on a mast cell binds to an antigen. Potentially inflammatory mediators and cytokines are released, resulting in allergy symptoms. IBH and atopy are both IgE-mediated (immediate type I), but type-IV hypersensitivity (delayed T-cell-mediated) reactions may also be involved.

As Culicoides and other insects are not present in every region, the prevalence of IBH-affected horses ranges from zero to 71%. The prevalence of horses with atopy is unknown.

The average age of onset for IBH and atopy varies from 1 year to 6 years. Hereditary predisposition may have an important role in both conditions. IBH may occur in every breed, but Welsh, Shetland and Connemara ponies, and Friesian, German Shire, Arabian, Quarter and imported Icelandic horses seem to be affected more often.

Atopy-predisposed breeds are Thoroughbreds, Quarter horses, Warmbloods, Arabians and Morgans. Males seem to be almost twice as likely to have atopy as mares.

Key facts about atopic dermatitis in Dogs & Cats

  • Usually starts at a young age.
  • Involves pruritus and can lead to severe and recurrent infections.
  • Identifying the responsible allergens is crucial, as is the use of a high-quality, specific and sensitive IgE serum test.
  • Requires lifelong treatment for which the recommended option is Immunotherapy.

More than 30% of all skin irritations in animals can be attributed to allergies. The right approach can set you on the best path towards happy, symptom-free patients and satisfied pet parents.

Diagnosing with SPOT Platinum+ Test

Nextmune provides best in class allergy testing, having tested over 1 million animals worldwide, our SPOT Platinum+ allergy test will analyze the 91 most common allergens in your region to put your patient on the path towards long-term allergy relief. To learn more about our testing process click on the link below.

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Hypo-sensitization Treatment

Hypo-sensitization (also called allergen-specific immunotherapy) is the only effective cure for allergies and avoidance is unrealistic. Our comprehensive approach to treatment incites compliance because we are able to treat for more allergens in a single set. We now have two delivery methods available for our hypo-sensitization treatment sets: subcutaneous injections or sublingual drops. Manufactured in our USDA licensed facility, our treatment has been proven to provide long-lasting relief for your patients. Learn more about long-term allergy relief below.

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Key facts about Equine IBH and atopy

  • Insect-bite hypersensitivity and atopy are the most common type of allergies in horses.
  • Pruritus is present and can lead to severe and recurrent infections.
  • Identifying the responsible allergens is crucial, as is the use of a high-quality, specific and sensitive IgE serum test.
  • Requires lifelong treatment and the recommended treatment is immunotherapy.