Skin Disease and Allergies – Q & A with Shawn Messonnier, DVM

Q: ”My 5 year old collie Geoff is always itchy. His doctor did a blood allergy test which showed he is allergic to corn, wheat, and chicken. We changed his diet to an expensive allergy food but he still itches. Should I try cooking for him? Would anything else help?”

A: ”Allergies are a very common cause of skin disease in dogs and cats. Most of the time, the allergies are due to environmental allergens such as various pollens, molds, and house dust mites. While many pets have food sensitivities, true food allergies are quite rare. Since I started in the veterinary profession, I’ve seen less than a handful of pets with true food allergies. That’s not to say that pets like Geoff might not itch less when switched to a better diet. I think a better more natural diet is important for all pets. I just doubt that a dietary problem is the cause of his itchiness. Most pets with allergies to environmental allergens have normal skin (unless they have secondary infections or the allergies are a chronic problem that have never been treated.) Most pets with food allergies are not only VERY itchy, their skin is abnormal; usually they have severe ulcerations with bleeding and crusting.

Blood allergy testing can be helpful in diagnosing environmental allergies in pets, although skin testing is considered the gold standard. However, blood testing is useless in diagnosing food allergies. Instead, a food trial in which a hypoallergenic diet is fed exclusively for 8-12 weeks is the proper way to diagnose this problem. I suggest you talk with Geoff’s doctor about getting the correct diagnosis and therapy. If you or any reader would like a list of my favorite natural diets, please send me an email.”

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Written by Shawn Messonnier DVM

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