Caring for pets with allergies: solutions for itchy pets and seasonal allergens
By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM
Spring in San Diego makes for a beautiful season; but for those who suffer from seasonal allergies, the blooming landscape can loose a little of its charm. Unfortunately, people aren’t the only ones susceptible to allergens: if you see your pet scratching away at a persistent itch, there’s a good chance that he or she is dealing with a similar problem. Caring for pets with allergies begins with a visit to the veterinarian, where your pet can be assessed and diagnosed accurately. From there, treatments ranging from dietary changes to topical solutions and medication can help manage pet allergies and make your furry friends much more comfortable.
During the spring, humans tend to suffer from environmental allergies like pollen and dust. But what types of allergens affect our pets in a similar way? There are three main allergies that tend to cause itching and discomfort in pets:
- Flea saliva – not to be confused with a flea infestation, an allergy to flea saliva can occur after even a single flea bite.
- Environmental allergies – just like people, pets can react to pollens, molds, dust, mites and dander.
- Food allergies – certain foods can cause allergic reactions in pets in the same way they do for people.
Most itchy pets are dealing with one or several of these underlying allergies; and while some, like flea allergies, can be easily treated with a year-round monthly medication, others may require more complex care. Food allergies, for instance, can be treated with special diets, while environmental allergies can be controlled with a combination of antihistamines and essential fatty acids (which work synergistically to alleviate symptoms), as well as topical therapies like baths and sprays.
Secondary infections due to yeast or bacteria can also exacerbate itch, and will usually require treatment. In addition, foxtails and grass awn can work their way into dogs’ ears and nostrils, causing discomfort and even dangerous infections. A veterinarian can examine your pet to discover the root cause of itchy symptoms, and remove foxtails or take skin samples for a microscopic evaluation if needed. When it comes to allergies, of course, there is no immediate cure. However, an experienced and caring vet will work with you and your pet to determine a sustainable routine to manage symptoms and keep your pet as healthy and comfortable as possible.
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