As we mark the beginning of spring, we start to see an increase in allergies in our families, and sometimes that may include the family dog.
In your canine companion, you may begin to notice itching or scratching of the sides and belly or perhaps an increase in how much your pet licks his/her paws. In some instances, we do see eye discharge or sneezing in our pets, but not always. Allergies can result in hair loss or even skin infections, and often a pet licking can result in salivary staining, a brown discoloration to the fur.
Allergies in animals can range from mild to chronic. There are many different options to manage allergies in our pets. The first involves reaching for an antihistamine. Benadryl or Zyrtec are common over the counter antihistamines that I prescribe.
I would recommend touching base with your veterinarian for a dose specific for your pet. These antihistamines can give some relief to pets with very mild allergy cases and usually involve minimal side effects. Daily dosing of an antihistamine is a good first step in managing allergies in your pet.
Another avenue to relieve the itchy pet is with frequent bathing. A nice oatmeal shampoo or a veterinary prescribed antibacterial shampoo can help remove pollens and debris from your pet’s coat. The pollens are often the inciting cause of your pet’s itch. Bathing every week or two can allow for a more manageable level of itch. However, in a larger dog, this is not always an easy task.
Ultimately, allergies and the itch level of your pet can bring about secondary skin infections or ear infections. If your pet is quite itchy, it is possible that the allergy has led to a secondary infection. The scratching and chewing breaks down the skin’s natural barrier, leaving your pet susceptible to bacterial infection or yeast infection or sometimes a combination of both.
Crusting, redness, or small bumps resembling pimples, are a few things to look for in determining whether a secondary infection is likely. It is important to treat these secondary infections as they arise as bacteria and yeast are inciting factors in itch. If you suspect a secondary infection, this does require a trip to your local veterinarian’s office.
In the cases where a pet has recurrent episodes (frequent trips to the veterinarian’s office for itching), steroids are often used intermittently to dramatically lower the pet’s level of itch. However, steroids are not without their own set of side effects.
In most cases where a pet has seasonal itch year to year, I recommend a trip to the veterinary dermatologist. A veterinary dermatologist can perform a skin test on your dog to determine the most common environmental allergens that your dog reacts to. The dermatologist formulates allergy shots that you can administer to your pet at home.
This is not an inexpensive treatment option and it can take up to a year for your pet to experience the benefit. This is the only treatment avenue aimed at correcting the allergy and can be met with great success in certain patients.
Allergies can be difficult and frustrating to manage as pet owners. Working with your veterinarian to find the therapy that works best for your pet can be a time consuming process. With patience and dedication, there is relief in sight for the itchy pet!