According to the Pet Allergy Worldwide Survey (PAWS) sponsored by Novartis Animal Health, 44 percent of pet owners are unaware that their pet can suffer from chronic seasonal allergies.
Atopic dermatitis is one of the most common allergic skin diseases in pets and is estimated to affect 10 to 15 percent of animals. It is also among the top 10 reasons that pet owners take their cats to their veterinarians. The disease is chronic, recurrent and requires lifelong management.
According to the PAWS survey, 80 percent of pet owners would like to know more about how to recognize and treat pet allergies. To determine whether a pet's symptoms warrant a veterinary visit and possible treatment to relieve the symptoms, pet owners can take a simple online quiz developed by veterinarians at www.itchfreepet.com.
Signs of allergic dermatitis in pets may vary, but common symptoms include red, scaly patches, persistent itching and scratching, and biting or licking of paws. Hair loss and sores are also common, as a result of the itching and scratching, although the pattern for this differs between dogs and cats. By taking this online quiz, pet owners can determine if they should bring their pet to the veterinarian for testing.
Just like people, dogs and cats can suffer from seasonal allergies to pollen, as well as year-round allergies to dust mites and mold spores. Although the underlying mechanism of the allergic response is similar to what people experience, the symptoms are quite different. People with allergies sneeze, cough and suffer from runny nose, eye irritation and sinus problems. Allergic cats and dogs, by contrast, itch, scratch and lose their hair.
In the past, treatments were limited to creams and steroids, which either caused limited effectiveness or less-than-desirable side effects when used long-term. Today, while there is no cure for atopic dermatitis, there are more options to help animals find relief. Pet owners can ask their veterinarians about a drug that treats the problem.
"Allergic dermatitis for some pets means scratching or licking more frequently than what is considered normal, and for other pets it can mean sores and furless patches on the skin or painful paw biting that gets in the way of exercise, sleep and overall comfort for the animal," says Dr. Keith Hnilica. "It is important to take your pet to see the veterinarian if you suspect your pet may have allergies, to determine whether it is a candidate for a long-term, comforting solution to this painful condition."