Itchy Febey

Itchy scratchy skin with sore infected ears. Sound familiar? Skin and ears problems are the most common complaints we see in both cats and dogs, especially during the hotter months of the year. Febey is a 2 year old Staffy whom we saw initially back in October 2008 for ear infections. The ear infections would clear up with the ear drops but she kept getting new infections regularly. Then Febey started having very itchy skin that would cause her to lick and chew at her skin to the point of 'self-destruction', resulting in very serious excoriations in various parts of her body. The skin infections always got better with medications but not for very long. It was a constant struggle to keep Febey comfortable. Febey was eventually referred to a Dermatologist for allergy and skin work up.

Allergies are very common in both cats and dogs, and can cause a variety of clinical signs. Cats can have ulcers on their lips, itchiness and skin infections on the face, neck, ears, or loss of hair due to self trauma. Dogs can present with itchiness around the feet, face, elbows, under the belly, secondary skin infections, ear infections or signs of self trauma. Allergens can exist in the form of inhalants (house dust, dust mites, human dander, feathers, weeds, pollens, grasses, trees etc), contact (weeds, grasses etc), food (specific proteins in the diet) or parasites (fleas). Some breeds have a genetic predisposition to allergies compared to others.

Animals can be placed on food trials, parasitic (flea) control trials or avoidance (avoiding contact with grasses and weeds) trials to rule in or out certain allergens. Once these are performed, then the gold standard for testing for the other allergens is Intradermal Skin testing. This is a procedure usually done by a Dermatologist where they inject small quantities of specific allergens under the skin and monitor for responses. If appropriate, allergy vaccines can be formulated to desensitize the animal.

Febey was tested positive for Malassezia (a type of yeast) allergy and was started on a regimen of long term management consisting of shampoos, pulse medical therapy and allergy vaccines. She has responded remarkably well to the maintenance therapy and the frequency of ear and skin infections have reduced dramatically. Febey still does get flare ups occasionally which are easily managed with medications. Skin allergy is a condition that requires lifelong management and certainly much commitment from owners. Thanks to Febey's owners, she can now go on to enjoy a life without having to spend most of her time licking, chewing and scratching at her skin.