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5175 Pacific St., Ste B
Rocklin, CA 95677

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Dermatology 101

Filtering by Tag: Veterinarian

Allergies in Cats and Dogs

Mary Sakai


Spring is here, and with it comes increased pollen counts and the start of another allergy season!  To start off the allergy season, we’d like to give you a general overview of allergic skin and ear disease syndromes in dogs and cats.

There are three major allergic skin and ear disease syndromes seen in dogs and cats: flea allergy dermatitis, environmental allergies (aka atopic dermatitis), and food allergies.  The primary symptom of allergies in dogs and cats is itching.  Itching manifests as excessive scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, and chewing.  Skin rashes, greasy skin and coat, bad odor, bacterial or yeast skin and ear infections are also commonly seen in allergic pets.  Since all of the allergic syndromes have similar or even identical symptoms, determining which type(s) of allergies your pet has can be a complicated process. 

Flea allergy dermatitis is probably the overall most common type of allergic skin disease seen in dogs and cats.  See our previous blog entry for detailed information on this type of allergy.

The second most common type of allergic skin disease in dogs and cats is atopic dermatitis.  In animals with atopic dermatitis, allergic skin/ear symptoms are triggered by exposure to allergens in the environment such as tree, grass or weed pollens, dust, dust mites, some insects, and molds.  Atopic dermatitis can be active year-round, or only part of the year during an individual pet’s specific allergy season.

Of the three major allergy syndromes we have mentioned, food allergy is the least common.  Twenty to thirty percent of dogs and cats with food allergy dermatitis may also have concurrent gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting, soft stool, diarrhea, or excessive gas.

Check our website monthly for future blog entries with more information about diagnosis and treatment options for atopic dermatitis and food allergies.

Why All The Fuss About Fleas?

Mary Sakai

Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), or fleabite hypersensitivity, is an allergic skin disease syndrome affecting dogs and cats.  Most non-allergic dogs and cats can receive a few flea bites here and there without any significant itching, however animals with FAD cannot tolerate even the most minimal flea exposure.  Dogs and cats with FAD experience a severely itchy allergic reaction after exposure to antigens in flea saliva, when the flea bites the animal.  The exact amount of flea exposure required to trigger an allergic reaction likely varies between individual animals, but we know that it does not take a heavy flea burden to elicit signs of FAD.  In fact, owners of many flea allergic patients have never actually seen fleas on their pet.  Flea allergy dermatitis is not the same thing as flea infestation!

FAD usually shows up in dogs and cats by the time they reach middle age, however it is possible to show up later in life.  The typical symptoms of FAD include intense itching, focused mainly on the back half of the animal’s body.  This can include the hind legs, tail, rear paws, flanks, groin, abdomen, and lower back regions.  Sometimes the neck and sides of the face are involved as well, particularly in cats.  Over time, symptoms can even become generalized and involve most of the body.  With all of the scratching/licking/chewing comes hair loss, redness, and sometimes rashes, scabs, or flaky skin. 

Diagnosis of flea allergy dermatitis is mostly based on historical information and clinical symptoms, but other causes of itchy skin disease are often ruled out as part of the diagnostic process.  Yeast and/or bacterial skin infections often develop secondary to all the itchy behaviors associated with FAD, so cytology to look for yeast and bacteria will typically be performed.  Skin scrapings to look for mites may also be a part of the diagnostic workup.

Treatment of FAD revolves around minimizing flea exposure for the patient.  Cats and dogs with FAD need to be receiving  top of the line veterinary flea preventatives on a regular basis, year round!  Adult fleas can emerge from weather-resistant cocoons (pupae) any time the temperature gets above the mid 50’s (Fahrenheit).  In most areas of California these temperature conditions can occur year-round.  Also, the interior of our homes are kept at temperatures in which flea populations could thrive during all months of the year.  Another essential component of treating FAD is often overlooked… other pets in the family must also be part of the FAD treatment regimen.  Unless they are also on year-round flea preventative medication, other pets can serve as a source of flea exposure for the allergic pet.  More information on flea life cycles and environmental cleanup can be found on the following website:

So, next time you hesitate in treating your itchy dog or cat for fleas, just remember that these often unseen pests can cause a huge problem for allergic animals!  All flea control medications are not created equal, and the doctors here at Animal Dermatology & Allergy can provide guidance on the best flea control choices for our patients and their families.

Bath Time!

Mary Sakai

Winter weather is here, and California is finally getting some of the rain we desperately need!  Because this is a time of year when our pets are spending more time indoors or travelling with us to visit friends and relatives, we want them to be clean, shiny, and smelling nice.  So, how often are you actually supposed to bathe your dog?  This is a question we get all the time.  There is a lot of information (and misinformation) out there about when, how, and why to bathe your dog.  Bathing recommendations for dogs depend on your pet’s lifestyle, skin health/disease status, and their breed and hair coat type.

Dogs with healthy skin and coat really do not need to be bathed that often.  Short coated dogs can often get away with being bathed every few months, or on an as needed basis- when they run through the mud at the dog park, or are smelling a little too “doggy.”  Dogs with longer coats, or breeds with continuously growing hair (such as poodles) may need more regular grooming – every 6-8 weeks is fairly typical.

Dogs with skin disease often have special bathing needs.  For some patients, it is not uncommon for the doctors here at Animal Dermatology & Allergy to recommend bathing 1-2 times per week!  We will often prescribe a medicated shampoo for your pet- the choice of medicated shampoo depends on the specific skin disease(s) we are treating.  Pet owners are sometimes concerned when they hear that we want them to bathe their pet so frequently…”Won’t this cause dry skin?”  The answer in most cases is NO.  Veterinary shampoos have really come a long way- these medicated shampoos have just as much scientific research leading up to their development as many of the human shampoos we use to wash our own hair.  Medicated veterinary shampoos are designed for frequent bathing, and many of them contain moisturizers to help replenish natural skin oils.  Additionally, pets with skin disease frequently have up-regulated production of skin oils, and so frequent bathing helps de-grease their skin and coat.

If your dog has sensitive skin or has a skin disease of any kind, you may want to avoid shampoos that contain tea tree oil or oatmeal.  For many dogs, these shampoos are just fine.  However, when our clients tell us about pets having a reaction to over the counter dog shampoos, it is often with a shampoo containing tea tree oil or oatmeal.

For pets with sensitive skin or skin disease we also recommend bathing with luke-warm to slightly cool water temperature, because heat can intensify the sensation of itch.  If you are using medicated shampoo, here are some general guidelines: wet the skin and coat first, apply shampoo, then allow shampoo to sit on the pet for 10 minutes prior to rinsing thoroughly.  Towel dry, or use a room temperature air dryer.  

With the colder weather, we do recommend that you keep pets in a warm place until they are completely dry.   If you have questions about your dog’s specific bathing needs, call your veterinarian to ask for advice.

The doctors and staff at Animal Dermatology & Allergy wish you and your pets a wonderful holiday season, filled with the joy of family, friends, good food, and good health!