Skin problems and allergy
What is an allergy?
Just like humans, dogs, cats and horses can be allergic. The immunological mechanisms underlying allergy in dogs, cats and horses are essentially the same as in humans. Allergy is a genetically predisposed condition of hypersensitivity to substances which are common and harmless to most animals. The hypersensitivity is caused by a dysfunction in the pet’s immune system. The substances that cause allergy – allergens – include pollens, dust mites, molds, dander, insects and foods.
What is the pruritic threshold?
The pruritic (itch) threshold is the point at which the pet begins to itch and scratch. The pruritic threshold is unique for each patient. A pet who is allergic to dust mites can appear normal until the pet develops a new allergy to pollens for example. The mite allergy may not cause enough discomfort to scratch whereas the summation effect of the two allergies combined may trigger the pet to cross the pruritic threshold. This will result in excessive itching and scratching.
Canine allergic disease (atopy) often presents as a skin disease, known as canine atopic dermatitis. Up to 15% of dogs suffer from an atopic condition and accounts for 25% of animals referred for pruritus. Atopy is a hereditary form of allergy to pollen of plants (for example grasses, weeds, trees), fungi or various dust and storage mites.
The first symptoms typically occur between 1-3 years of age (around 75% of all cases). Sporadically, symptoms occur in animals under 6 months of age.
Like dogs, our feline friends can suffer from allergies too. Allergy to flea bites is a common cause together with environmental allergy. Respiratory diseases are more common than in dogs.
Just like dogs and cats, horses too can be allergic. Allergies in horses are often caused by insects, weeds, grasses and trees pollens. Other allergic triggers are mites, foods and moulds contained in damp hay or straw. One of the most common allergy in horses is the Summer Dermatitis, a seasonal skin problem, caused by the bite of insect Culicoides. The symptomatology is very typical, with lesions in the neck, face and tail during summer period.
Symptoms of an atopic pet and one suffering from food allergy are usually the same. In addition to itchy skin, ear infections, excessive feet licking. Some gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting can be present in pets with food allergy. The symptoms typically come year-round.