Allergic skin disease in dogs and cats can be the result of environmental allergens (inhaled or absorbed through the skin) or ingested allergens (food allergies). Dogs and cats suffering from allergies can become extremely itchy. All that licking and scratching can really disrupt the joy in our beloved pets’ lives and
none of us want to see them suffer.
We all want to help our pet feel better and searching for solutions on the internet is a common choice. Although there is a lot of information on different products, home remedies, and diets on the internet, not all of this information is reliable and some of it
could even potentially be harmful.
Your veterinary team is the best source of advice for diagnosing and treating your pet, they have the most up to date scientific information on products and treatments that will help your dog or cat.
What you should know before considering a
product or home remedy for your allergic pet:
Why is my pet itchy?
Not all itchy pets have allergies. Diagnosing food allergies or atopy (environmental allergies) is challenging and your pet needs to be carefully assessed by your veterinarian.
There are numerous causes of itchiness (also known aspruritus) including bacterial, fungal, parasitic infections, autoimmune disease, etc…..the list is long! Having a correct diagnosis is essential to successfully manage your pet’s itch. Using a product or home remedy to “treat allergies” without your veterinarian confirming the diagnosis
means you could be giving an unnecessary treatment.
Does the product or home remedy work?
Anyone can make a claim that a product or home remedy is useful, this does not mean it actually is. Before trying a product or home remedy it is important to know who is making the claim and what this claim is based on. Your veterinary team are the best people to ask about specific products or home remedies. They have the ability to review the product claims and assess if they are credible. There are lots of products and home remedies that have not undergone ANY scientific testing to prove that they actually work.
Is the product or home remedy safe?
Although a product or home remedy may seem harmless, it may not be. Just because something is safe for a human does not necessarily mean it is safe for a dog or cat. For
example tea tree oil may be safe for humans to use but it can cause toxicity in pets. Many products and home remedies have not undergone safety studies. Your veterinarian can assist you in finding a product that is both safe AND efficacious.
What is the appropriate dose or treatment schedule?
Similar to safety studies, many products and home remedies have not undergone testing to determine an appropriate dose or treatment schedule. It is important to know how much of the product or home remedy is needed to see benefits and not cause harm. Even things that our pets require (for example Vitamin D) when given in excess amounts can cause serious harm. On the other hand, if we give too little, we may not see any benefits.
Is the product pure and free from contaminants?
It is important to know if the company manufacturing the
product has done any screening for contaminants
or potential allergens. For pets with food allergies, giving
a product that contains unidentified protein sources may result in an itchy pet.
Is it adding extra calories?
Any time a pet is consuming something, we need to consider that it could be increasing, sometimes significantly, the daily caloric intake. While your pet is on a balanced diet, the calories coming from treats and/or supplements should not exceed 10%. Otherwise your pet’s diet may become unbalanced or obesity may result.
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Fascetti AJ and Delaney SJ. Feeding the healthy dog and cat. In: Delaney SJ, Fascetti A (eds). Applied Veterinary Clinical Nutrition. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012: 75-94.
Olivry T, DeBoer D, Favrot C, Jackson HA, Mueller RS, Nuttall T, Prélaud P. Treatment of canine atopic dermatitis: Updated guidelines from the International Committee on Allergic Diseases of Animals (ICADA). BMC Veterinary Research (2015) 11: 210.
Villaverde C. Nutritional issues with neutraceuticals. World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings; 2014.