This is the most common presenting problem in patients I see at Olive Road. Florida ranks number one in the country for Heartworm Disease, Flea Allergy Dermatitis and Atopic Dermatitis. Florida’s tropical climate is a haven for mosquitoes which cause Heartworm Disease, fleas which cause an Allergic Dermatitis and various grasses, pollen, trees and dust mites which cause Atopy. In addition to Flea Allergy Dermatitis and Atopy is Food Allergy Dermatitis which also causes skin disease either alone or in combination with the other two syndromes. So, basically 3 things cause skin disease I see daily in my practice:
Food Allergy Dermatitis is becoming a more common problem in the skin disease arena. In my experience, it is seen more commonly in dogs than in cats. The most typical presenting clinical sign is either the ears or generalized skin are slightly pink and itchy. The offending agent is the protein component of the food being fed. Most commercial over the counter foods contain chicken, beef or a combination thereof. Treatment involves feeding a hypo-allergenic diet for 8 to 10 weeks and sometimes longer. The two current diets are Hill’s Science Diet Z/D(dry formula only) or Innovative Veterinary Diet’s Venison/Potato, Fish/Potato, Kangaroo/Potato and others (dry and canned formulas). Hill’s Z/D protein molecule is formulated to be so small in size, it is not recognized by the patient’s immune system. Innovative Veterinary Diets provide a “novel” protein (proteins not available in over the counter foods) that the patient’s immune system has not been exposed to, thus the pet should not be allergic when consuming. The most important thing is the patient can only be fed the hypo-allergenic diet for the trial period. Any variance from the diet renders the results less than optimal. Results are sometimes seen immediately and other times later in the trial. Unlike Flea Allergy Dermatitis and Atopy, Food Allergy Dermatitis is not very responsive to steroids. After the trial period, it is recommended removing the hypo-allergenic food and returning to the patients original diet. Owners usually balk at this notion since the pet’s skin looks the best is has in years. It is acceptable to continue to feed the hypo-allergenic diet long term, although more expensive than over the counter foods. I have found in my practice that hypo-allergenic diets help pets improve more quickly and sustain their improvement regardless of the true allergy cause.
For more information on skin disease, see the previous 2 articles which cover the 2 most common forms of skin disease, Flea Allergy and Atopy.