The Veterinary Dermatology service at Veterinary Specialists of Alaska, P.C. provides care for all species of animals with skin and ear problems. Veterinary dermatologists handle cases that our human counterparts would see as well as cases seen by human allergists. Probably 80% of the cases we see are allergy related, the other 20% include internal diseases that cause skin problems (hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, sex hormone imbalances and immunosuppressive disorders, autoimmune skin diseases), as well as hereditary skin problems and parasites. We offer allergy testing and treatment and have specialized equipment for assessing and treating severe ear infections. Skin biopsies are often performed when a hereditary or autoimmune disease is suspected and we work closely with dermatopathologists (pathologists who special in skin disease) to diagnose and treat those diseases correctly.
Atopy is an inherited allergy to environmental allergens, such as dust mites, trees, grasses, weeds, molds and epidermals (wool, human dander, cat dander, etc.). It is estimated that 10-15% of all dogs are affected, with certain breeds being predisposed such as the SharPei, West Highland White terrier, Scottish terrier, Wire-haired Fox terrier, Jack Russell terrier, Boston terrier, English Bulldog, Boxer, Cocker Spaniel, Labrador and Golden Retrievers, Lhaso Apso, Shih Tzu, Dalmatian, Pug, Irish and English Setters, Miniature Schnauzer, Akita, German Shepherd dog, Beagle and Basset Hound. However, any breed of dog and all breeds of cats may be affected. Clinical signs usually start between 1 and 4 years of age and initially may be seasonal (usually spring-fall) or non-seasonal (year round). The age of onset of clinical signs is more variable in cats.
Both dogs and cats can develop allergies or intolerances for certain foods. This can occur at any time of life including the very young and old. Most animals develop allergies to one or more ingredients commonly found in pet foods and treats. The most common offending ingredients in the United States include beef, chicken, pork, soy, wheat, corn, dairy products and eggs. For cats the list is similar although fish should also be included. Contrary to what has been touted in the press or by pet food stores, there are no truly hypoallergenic ingredients. Whatever a dog or cat is usually fed is a possible allergen. For example diets that contain lamb and rice are often recommended for animals with “sensitive skin”. Lamb and rice are now fed fairly commonly to both dogs and cats and in those individuals they would not be considered novel ingredients.