Dermatology – Common Issues

Allergies

Atopic dermatitis is a hypersensitivity or over-reaction to a variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances in the environment such as plant pollens, house dust mites or mold spores. Most pets with atopic dermatitis either inhale or absorb their allergens through their skin. Allergy tests are used to identify what a pet is allergic to in their environment.

There are two types of allergy tests, the intradermal allergy test and blood testing for allergies (serologic allergy testing). In an intradermal allergy test, the fur is clipped on one side of the chest and very small amounts of common allergens are injected into the skin. This test is very precise and is only performed by Veterinary Dermatology services. Because most pets with environmental allergies become exposed to their allergens through their skin, the intradermal allergy test may also best simulate a pet’s natural allergies. In a blood allergy test, a blood sample is obtained and submitted to a laboratory for testing.

If a pet is diagnosed with atopic dermatitis, there are three methods of therapy. The first method of therapy involves removing the allergen from the pet’s environment. Unfortunately, this is not possible in most cases. The second method of therapy involves the use of anti-itch drugs such as anti-histamines or steroids (cortisone). Some of these anti-itch medications do not work in every pet. Other pets develop side-effects from taking certain anti-itch medications.

The third method of therapy for atopic dermatitis (environmental allergies) is allergy injections. Other names for allergy injections include desensitization, hyposensitization, allergy vaccine, or allergen-specific immunotherapy. Immunotherapy involves a series of injections of diluted allergens. Over time, these injections make a pet less sensitive to their allergens and thus less allergic. Most pet owners are able to learn how to give the injections at home. When based on the results of intradermal allergy testing, immunotherapy helps manage the allergies in approximately 70-90% of pets. Most pets will respond to immunotherapy within 6-9 months, but some pets will require up to a year of immunotherapy injections before a full benefit can be noted.

The Angell Dermatology Service provides intradermal allergy testing, serologic allergy testing and custom immunotherapy formulation for allergic dogs and cats. We take a comprehensive and thorough approach to diagnosing and managing your pet’s allergies. Each immunotherapy treatment plan is tailored to your pet’s clinical signs, environment and test results and is custom-formulated by Dr. Klaus Loft of the Angell Dermatology service.

Ear Diseases

Otitis externa is the medical term for ear inflammation. Most cases of otitis externa also have an infection that is causing the ear inflammation.

The structure of the ear in dogs and cats can make them more prone to ear infections. The ear canal in dogs and cats is longer than the ear canal in people. The ear canal is also “L-shaped” with vertical and horizontal parts.

Because only some dogs and cats develop ear infections, other conditions often contribute to the development of otitis externa and ear infections in your pet.  Allergies, parasites, and masses or tumors can all cause ear irritation and infection. Allergies are the most common cause of ear infections in dogs and cats. Since an ear infection can be secondary to an underlying problem, it is often important to diagnose and treat the cause of the ear infection while treating the ear infection.

An ear infection can develop into a severe health problem for a dog or cat. Left untreated, ear infections can spread deeper into a pet’s ear (middle ear infection) and cause permanent damage to the ear canal (ear canal mineralization). Some chronic ear infections can develop resistance to antibiotics and become untreatable with medications.

Skin Biopsies and Dermatopathology

A skin biopsy is the removal of a piece of skin for the purpose of further examination in the laboratory using a microscope. A skin biopsy can help to diagnose a variety of conditions and give your pet’s veterinarian more information about the skin.

Skin biopsies are obtained using a combination of local anesthetic and sedation. Sometimes, skin biopsies from certain areas of the body need to be obtained under general anesthesia.

A punch biopsy takes a piece of the skin and can be used to remove small lesions and diagnose rashes and other skin conditions. Excisional biopsies are usually larger and deeper and are used to completely remove an abnormal area of skin (lesion) such as in a skin cancer. After the biopsy, the skin sample is fixed in a special solution and stained for examination. The doctor (usually a Veterinary Dermatologist or Pathologist) can then evaluate the appearance of the skin under a microscope for normal and abnormal conditions. Sometimes specialized stains are used looking for antibodies and immune proteins.

To schedule an appointment with the Angell Dermatology service, please call 617-524-5733.