Annoying Allergies

posted: by: Dawn, RVT Tags: "Clinic Specials" "News" 

Allergies....if you have them, you know how annoying they can be.  Runny nose, sneezing, itchy, watery eyes...annoying.

Did you know the dogs and cats can have allergies, too?

Dogs and cats, like people, can develop an allergy to anything at anytime in their life.  They don't usually have hay fever symptoms like people, but instead get itchy.  Itching leads to scratching, which leads to skin infections.  Ear infections are also common in allergy patients.

What could your pet be allergic to?  

Food allergies are less common, but are possible.  There is no good test for food allergies in animals, so rather we do a diet elimination trial with a novel (new) protein and carbohydrate source the pet has never been exposed to.  This is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do with over the counter diets.  Some diets are marketed with a certain protein (ie salmon), but if you look further down the ingredient list, may have chicken by-product or something along those lines, which a dog allergic to chicken would react to.  Also, manufacturing plants may not completely clean or switch areas to manufacture different diets, leading to accidental contamination.

We recommend prescription allergy diets from Hill's, Royal Canin, and Purina.  These companies have done studies and food trials to ensure their foods are nutritionally balanced and that they do what they are supposed to do.  When they manufacture these diets, the equipment used is thoroughly cleaned and nothing else used in the vicinity to avoid contamination with potential allergens.

Elimination diet trials require a minimum of 6-8 weeks to determine if they work.  During this time, the pet can receive no other food or treats.

Most common are environmental allergies, like with people.  These include trees, pollens, grasses, molds, and mites.  Dogs can even be allergic to cat dander.  Flea saliva is a common allergen as well.  There is a blood test available for environmental allergies to determine what your pet is allergic to.  With that comes the option to do immunotherapy, either monthly injections or daily oral drops to help your pet not be as reactive to the allergens.

So what can you do to help your pet?

1) Monitor your pet for itching/scratching.  A normal amount of itching is allowed, just like with people.  Excessive itching/scratching can indicate a problem.  Also note when your pet it it all year round or only a certain time of the year?

2) Keep your pet on a good monthly flea prevention. Using veterinary approved flea prevention can rule out the possibility of fleas causing the problem.  Fleas are sneaky and can be affecting your pet even if you cannot see them.  Fleas are active in every season, including winter, so don't let your guard down!

3) Discuss your pet's itching with your veterinarian.  Some pets can be maintained on medication to help decrease the itching, or the response to the allergens.  This can be especially beneficial if your pet has seasonal allergies.

4) We commonly see pets have allergy tests that indicate the pet is allergic to dust and storage mites.  We do see allergy flare ups around the changing of seasons when winter versus summer items are removed from storage, or when the furnace comes on for the first time in the fall.  It is not an indicator of the condition of the home, just something that happens to animals and to people.  Cleaning food storage containers before refilling them will help cut down on storage mites.

5) Follow your veterinarian's treatment plan closely, including follow-up appointments.  This will help your vet see what is working and tailor a plan to your pet.  Each pet is different in how they respond to allergens and to treatment.

Allergies can be frustrating, for the pet and for the pet owner.  Work alongside your veterinarian to find the best solution for everyone.  Be honest in what works and doesn't work, what fits your budget and what doesn't.  Your veterinarian's goal is the same as your help your pet.