Pet Allergy Testing, Treatment, and Prevention

Is your pet scratching and chewing at his skin? Does your dog constantly rub his face and lick his paws? Does your cat groom themselves until they are bald? If so, you are not alone. Skin problems are common in pets, but they have a variety of causes and their symptoms can look very different.

Here are some signs that your pet might have a skin problem:

  • Excessive licking, chewing, biting or scratching
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in the skin, such a sores, scabs or flaky skin
  • Runny, itchy eyes
  • Itchy ears, red and inflamed ear canals or ear discharge
  • Head shaking
  • Body odor
  • Foot chewing

If you live in Lake Park, FL or Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and your pet is showing any of these signs, please call us immediately. Don’t wait… skin problems and ear infections in dogs are easier to treat early, when the signs first appear. Waiting to seek treatment can sometimes result in complications that make treatment more difficult—and more expensive. So, if you notice your furry friend itching, scratching, biting, licking, or chewing certain areas more and more frequently, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your favorite Lake Park veterinarian. Your dog will thank you (with lots of snuggling and less scratching)!

Although there are many possible symptoms of skin problems in dogs and cats, fortunately, most of the causes fall into only a few categories: skin parasites, skin infections and allergies.

Skin Parasites

The most common reason pets are itchy is fleas. These tiny parasites can live on your pet’s skin beneath the hair coat. Fleas survive by biting your pet and ingesting their blood. Not all dogs and cats seem bothered by fleas. However, most pets will become very itchy when they have fleas, which means they are likely allergic to flea saliva. In flea-allergic animals, even one fleabite can cause a reaction.

At Northlake Animal Hospital, we offer safe and effective flea prevention that will defend your pet and help keep fleas away. Given the warm weather, flea preventative is a necessity year-round in Florida. We proudly recommend Nexgard for dogs (a tasty once a month oral flea/tick medication) as well as topical Bravecto and Revolution for cats.

We know there are many flea and tick preventatives on the market today. We have chosen these options for their safety and effectiveness. To learn more about these preventatives, please come in and speak with one of our team members. If you prefer a different flea preventative, please visit our home delivery service for a wide range of options and products.

Skin Infections

Anytime your dog’s skin is damaged by scratching, chewing, or rubbing, it creates an opportunity for secondary infection. Broken or damaged skin is a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. These skin infections are also itchy, which can keep your pet’s itching going, even if the underlying cause is treated. These infections can cause red, crusty, flaky skin, hair loss, pimples, and red bumps. Once a skin infection occurs, the pet often needs medical treatments such as antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, topical treatments, medicated shampoos or even more. Depending on the severity of the skin infection, it may take a long time for your pet to recover. Animals that have recurrent infections should be screened for allergies or hormonal conditions and have the underlying cause identified and treated.


Itching in dogs is commonly related to allergies. Flea saliva is just one of many pet allergens. Dogs and cats can be allergic to virtually anything in the environment, such as dust mites, dander (cat, human, etc.), pollen, grasses, mold spores and more. Many pets have seasonal allergies. These are most likely caused by environmental allergies (also known as Atopic Dermatitis). Although relatively uncommon compared to other sources of allergies, pets can also have food allergies. The best way to determine food allergies is with a food trial and not with pet allergy testing. Pets can develop a food allergy at any time in their life—even if they have been eating the same food all along!

Pet Allergy Testing and Treatment

The best way to help your itchy companion is to discover why they are itching. Our veterinarians will perform a full physical exam, closely examine the skin and may perform diagnostic tests to determine exactly why your pet is itchy. If environmental allergies are suspected, we will likely recommend allergy testing.

Once the allergy test results are known, allergic pets can receive allergy shots (just like people!) to desensitize them to the allergen. Although not an immediate cure, allergy hyposensitization can be implemented for your pet’s specific allergy needs. This type of targeted immunomodulation therapy can help 70-75% of allergic pets to decrease symptoms and need for other medications, and address the cause of the allergies, not just the symptoms.

Other Allergy Treatment Options

There are many new cutting-edge therapies in the treatment of canine and feline allergies. Once a pet has been seen, our veterinary team will provide you with a specific plan for treatment of your itchy dog or itchy cat This may include a combination of long established therapies like antihistamines, shampoos and fish oil, or new cutting-edge therapies like Apoquel or Cytopoint.

Apoquel, a daily oral medication that stops the allergic itch in dogs without many of the negative side effects of steroids, and Cytopoint, a convenient injection given once every 4-8 weeks, is a biological therapy (a type of non-pharmaceutical treatment that works like your dog’s own immune system). These treatments are only available through a veterinarian. Come in and ask about these exciting new therapies today!

One of the most important things to remember is this: there is no “magic cure” for the allergic dog. Managing allergies in your dog is an ongoing process that will most likely last your dog’s entire life. Secondary infections of the skin, eyes and ears may pop up and need treatment despite your best efforts. Don’t lose heart. Commit yourself to giving ongoing quality care to your dog. Don’t worry, our team at Northlake Animal Hospital is here to help and address issues as they come up.

Whether you’re seeking relief and treatment for an itchy dog or looking to help your dog’s ear infection, you can rely on our team at Northlake Animal Hospital to help. At Northlake Animal Hospital, we offer the best pet allergy testing services in the Lake Park, FL and Palm Beach Gardens, FL area. Contact us today if you think your dog or cat may have skin infections secondary to allergies, or if you want to learn more about the kinds of services we provide, such as pet allergy testing, dental care, and pet wellness plans.

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