Dr. Oldenhoff sets the record straight about pet allergies and some of the myths around them.

Like humans, pets suffer from all sorts of allergies. And like in human medicine, allergies in pets are not a black and white area.There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to diagnosing, testing, and treating allergies. Our board-certified dermatologist, Dr. William Oldenhoff set out to get the record straight and debunk some of the myths about allergies.

Myth 1: All animals with skin disease have allergies

The primary manifestation of allergy is itch. But it can also be caused by parasites or infection. The only way to diagnose allergy is to rule out all other causes of itch. If treating infection or parasites resolves the itch, then allergy is not present.

Myth 2: Pet allergies can be diagnosed with an allergy test

A common misconception about allergy testing is that its results can be used to avoid the relevant allergens. Allergy testing never gives a simple answer about what can be avoided by the pet. Its primary use is for formulating allergy shots or allergy drops. Allergy testing should be done ONLY in animals that are definitively known to have allergy through the clinical process of elimination other causes (parasites or infection).

Myth 3: Symptomatic therapies can replace immunotherapy

Symptomatic treatments like Apoquel and Cytopoint help with the allergy symptoms but don’t address the underlying problem. They do not replace immunotherapy. Rather, they are symptomatic treatments to be used while immunotherapy starts working. The goal of immunotherapyis to reduce or eliminate the need for these symptomatic therapies.

Myth 4: Immunotherapy doesn’t work

Immunotherapy is a natural product with a proven history of safety and efficacy, and it’s an effective method to treat allergies if performed properly. In the hands of a trained dermatologist, the typical response rate is between 66-75% response to immunotherapy. But it is a long-term commitment that typically requires 6-10 months to START working. This means that no patient who starts immunotherapy should have it discontinued before one year of treatment. In animals who have had good response, the immunotherapy should be continued, often indefinitely.

Myth 5: Symptomatic therapies can’t be used together with immunotherapy

All of the symptomatic therapies available (Atopica, Apoquel, Cytopoint, even steroids) can be given at the same time as immunotherapy. These medications do not interfere with the ability of immunotherapy to start working. They should be continued for the first several months of treatment until allergy shots or drops start working.

Allergy cases can be complicated and veterinary dermatologists are a valuable resource to primary veterinarians in managing these cases. Here are a few helpful tips on how to prepare a patient for a successful referral appointment along with information on how to perform a hypoallergenic diet trial.


To find out more, please contact William Oldenhoff, DVM, DACVD at:

(818) 887-2262

ACCESS – San Fernando Valley
20051 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, CA 91364