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Tuesday, 23 May 2017 21:28

Allergies In Pets

Written by  Dr. Mindy Cohan
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Although a meteorology report makes it official, you only need to look at an outdoor object such as a car to know that the pollen count is high. It is during this time of the year that you should not only be washing your car with greater frequency, but also your dog. Spring allergies often seem worse than those during the summer and fall. People and pets’ heightened symptoms of springtime allergies are possibly due to a greater number of airborne inciting agents or the fact that humans, dogs and cats receive an allergy reprieve during the winter months. While there is no cure for the annoying problems associated with allergies, people and pets can receive relief with various treatments.

Sneezing and a runny nose and eyes are the most common allergy symptoms in people. Pets with air borne allergies to substances such as molds, pollens and grasses tend to become itchy. If you notice your dog or cat excessively biting or licking its legs and paws, or scratching its head, face or armpits, schedule an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian. If untreated, pets with allergies can bite or scratch their skin to the point of causing significant injury and infection. 

Ear infections and hot spots are two common manifestations of allergies. Since the ears are an extension of a pet’s skin, ears often become inflamed and infected secondary to allergies. When a dog or cat scratches or shakes its head vigorously, the small blood vessels in the ear can break. The blood from damaged vessels accumulates between the two folds of ear cartilage resulting in a swollen ear known as an ear hematoma. This is a very uncomfortable condition for pets and often requires surgery. 

Hot spots are a painful area of skin that results from excessive scratching, rubbing or biting. The name implies the severe inflammation at the site. Hot spots are often moist and pet families will notice damp skin or sometimes a bad odor coming from the site. Hot spots and ear infections are very painful and need immediate veterinary attention and care. 

In addition to air borne allergies, dogs and cats can also develop itchy skin from food allergens and external parasites. Through diagnostic testing and and the acquisition of a thorough history, your veterinarian can narrow down the list of possible allergens. In order to determine whether certain foods are responsible for a pet’s itchiness, an “elimination” diet may be necessary. This food trial usually involves feeding a new protein and carbohydrate source or a prescription veterinary diet. An examination of your dog’s or cat’s skin and fur is needed to diagnose a mite or flea infection. Determining the source of your pet’s allergies is critical in order to develop the best treatment plan. 

Allergies are very frustrating as there is no permanent cure, and once diagnosed, allergies typically require life long treatment. Fortunately, recent scientific advances have created numerous options for managing dog and cat allergies. There are several oral medications available from your pet’s veterinarian. For dogs and cats for which it is difficult to administer a daily pill or liquid, injectable medications can be used. Pets that undergo tests to identify specific allergens are candidates for either injectable (allergy shots) or oral desensitization medication. 

In addition to prescription medications, pet parents can administer over the counter allergy medicines such as antihistamines. Always be sure to consult a veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet! The benefits of allergy medications are often strengthened by bathing. 

While bathing may not be necessary for, or appreciated by indoor cats, shampooing can significantly help allergic dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors. Medicated shampoos not only remove allergen particles from a dog’s skin, they also provide immediate itch relief. Since bathing is time consuming, in between weekly baths, families can wipe their dog’s fur and paws with a damp cloth each time it returns from being outdoors. 

Pet allergies can be frustrating, time consuming and expensive to treat. Dogs and cats that do not receive therapy can be miserable and suffer from unrelenting itchiness and significant medical issues. Pet families need to pay close attention to their dog or cat for signs of itchiness or skin problems. If treated early, and managed with close veterinary supervision, allergic dogs and cats can lead normal and happy and healthy lives. 

 

Read 630 times Last modified on Thursday, 22 June 2017 17:06