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How often do you need to see my pet?
In order to maintain a client-patient relationship, which is required to dispense medication, we must perform a physical examination on your pet at least once per year. Of course, there may be a need for more frequent visits based on your pet’s needs.
My pet is doing well. Why should I follow up?
Even if your pet is doing well it is always a good idea to have a follow-up appointment. This allows for discussion of new treatment options that may benefit your pet. Additionally, if infection was found at the initial visit, it is important to recheck after medications to determine if any lingering infection remains
What should I expect on my first visit?
During your initial consultation, we will discuss your pet’s dermatological history and perform a focused skin examination including initial diagnostic sampling. This will allow our doctors to determine if there are any underlying bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections. These initial diagnostics are included in the $200 consultation fee. If further diagnostics are required, an estimate will be given. This information is needed for the doctor to come up with a treatment plan that will benefit the pet and the owner’s needs.
What is a veterinary dermatologist?
A board-certified veterinary dermatologist is a licensed veterinarian (DVM-doctor of veterinary medicine) who has undergone specialty training in veterinary dermatology. This includes a 2-3 year residency involving academic training, clinical practice, and completion of a research project of sufficient importance to be published in a peer-reviewed medical journal. A final requirement is to pass a rigorous examination administered by the American College of Veterinary Dermatology. Only at this point can an individual be called a board-certified dermatologist, indicated by the abbreviation DACVD (Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Dermatology) after his or her name.
Are there risks associated with testing my pet for allergies?
There are some risks associated with intradermal skin testing; however, they are very rare. To perform intradermal skin testing your pet must be sedated. There are some risks associated with sedation, but we take every step to minimize them. Your pet must be fasted before the testing. If this has not taken place, we will reschedule the appointment. A complete physical examination will be performed on the day of the intradermal skin testing. If any problems are found, we will discuss them with you. If the risks of sedation are too great, we may perform blood testing for environmental allergies.
During the skin testing your pet will be injected with a small amount of pollen to which they may be sensitive. During this process there is always a risk of an allergic reaction. This is extremely rare, but should it occur we will administer treatment to stop the reaction and prevent complications.
Will I be able to stop all medication if I start allergy serum treatments?
This is the ultimate goal with allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy serum); however, it can take up to 12 months to reach full effect. During this time, we may continue your pet on medication until it is clear that it is no longer needed. Eighty percent of pets will improve with allergen-specific immunotherapy; however, a response can range from complete control to improvement still requiring chronic medications.
What are allergy shots/allergy serums?
The name for allergy treatments are “allergen-specific immunotherapy” and “sublingual immunotherapy”. This treatment involves administering tiny amounts of the allergens to which your pet is sensitive in order to “train” the immune system to become more tolerant of them, rather than to react as if they were a threat. Each allergy serum is based on the results of your pet’s allergy testing. As such, allergen-specific immunotherapy is different for each pet based on its own specific needs.
Do I only need to give allergen-specific immunotherapy to my dog seasonally?
Allergen-specific immunotherapy and sublingual immunotherapy are administered year-round; however, the dosage can be adjusted based on your pet’s symptoms. For more information about dosing issues, please contact Coastal Virginia Veterinary Dermatology.
How do I know if my pet’s improvement is due to the immunotherapy or to the medication being administered?
This can be difficult to determine; however, by observing your pet’s signs and symptoms during medication dose adjustments we can usually come to a conclusion.
How long does it take allergy shots/serum to work?
It can take up to 12 months to see full improvement. Some pets will show improvement faster, but generally, we allow 12 months to achieve full effect. During this time, your pet’s symptoms may be controlled with steroids, antihistamines, topical medications, Apoquel, Atopica, or Cytopoint.
Will my pet need to be tested for environmental allergies more than one time?
In most cases your pet will only need to be skin tested once. On rare occasions repeat skin testing is needed.
What is considered success with allergen-specific immunotherapy?
Eighty percent of pets will improve with allergen-specific immunotherapy; however, treatment response can range from complete control to a noticeable difference still requiring chronic medications.
I would like to perform skin testing in order to avoid my pet’s allergens rather than to start allergen-specific immunotherapy. Is this a possibility?
Putting your pet through intradermal skin testing in order to try avoiding the relevant allergens rather than start allergen-specific immunotherapy is not recommended. It is virtually impossible to avoid most pollen allergens, as they are airborne and can travel for miles. They readily travel indoors, so even indoor-only pets are exposed.
I’m nervous about injections. Are there other ways to give allergy serum?
Yes, there are 2 forms of allergen-specific immunotherapy: allergy injections and sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT). SLIT is sprayed onto the gum tissue of your pet. You do not want them to swallow it, but instead it is applied to the gums or mucous membranes. This approach is effective, but it must be administered twice daily.
How long does my pet need to be off medication in order to be tested? Which medications can interfere with testing?
Some medications can result in falsely negative testing results. Your pet must be off oral antihistamines (Benaryl, Zyrtec, Claritin, Allegra), steroids (prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone), amitriptyline, acepromazine, and trazodone for at least 2 weeks. Long-acting injected steroids such as DepoMedrol must be stopped for at least 4 weeks.
There is no withdrawal needed for Atopica, Apoquel, or Cytopoint. These can be continued when skin testing is planned.
If my pet is allergic to a housemate what can I do?
There is no need to worry. We test for dog and cat allergens. If your pet is allergic to its housemate, we can add this to the allergen-specific immunotherapy in order to induce tolerance.
I’ve been feeding my pet a store-bought allergy diet. Why do I need a different one?
If your pet improves with this diet, that’s wonderful. However, if the diet doesn’t result in improvement that does not rule out the possibility of a food allergy. Some dietary proteins can cross-react. For example, if your pet is allergic to chicken, it may still be sensitive to duck protein. The same is true for venison and beef. Studies have also shown that over-the-counter diets are more likely to have unlabeled proteins compared to the prescription-only ones. For this reason, if a dietary change is needed, a prescription diet is usually recommended.
I’ve fed my pet a grain-free diet and it did not improve. Why should I do another food trial?
It is true that some pets can become allergic to the grain in a diet; however, they are more likely to develop an allergy to the protein component. This means that even if you have fed your pet a grain-free diet it may still be allergic to its protein content. In this situation, a novel protein or a hydrolyzed diet may be pursued.
I performed blood/hair/saliva food allergy testing on my pet. I feed it based on these results. Why am I not seeing improvement?
This type of testing often results in falsely positive and/or falsely negative results. It is also possible that your pet does not have food allergies at all; there could be another disease process or there could be environmental allergies.
My veterinarian is concerned my pet has an autoimmune disease. What does this mean?
Autoimmune disease is the result of a misdirected immune response in which the immune system starts attacking body tissues rather than infectious agents. There are many types of autoimmune diseases which can present with a variety of signs and symptoms. When they occur in the skin, a biopsy is often required for diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is established, treatment to “calm down” the immune system with immunosuppressive medication is administered. These medications are usually required for life.
Monday: 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday: 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Thursday: By Appointment
Friday: 8:00 am-1:00 pm
Every Other Saturday: By Appointment