Pets can suffer from allergies and sensitivities to particles in the air, in much the same way people do. Many times, pollen, certain grasses and trees or even dust mites can trigger this reaction in pets. Unlike people though, our pets rarely sneeze and show signs similar to “hay fever”. Instead, our pets become itchy and will do just about anything to relieve that sensation. Some pets scratch constantly, others lick and chew at certain spots, like their feet, and still others might rub against carpets and furniture. This behavior, and the consistent noises and thumps produced, is often too much for many pet owners.
It’s been estimated that approximately 10% of dogs suffer from environmental allergies, or atopy. Cats can develop this condition as well. Many pets begin showing signs as early as six months of age and most will occur before the animal is five years old. Beyond the itchiness (known medically as pruritus), pets might also show recurrent skin and ear infections or seem to be obsessed with licking their paws. These symptoms most commonly occur in warm weather for pets with pollen or dust allergies, but can also occur year round in some cases.
Diagnostic tests for atopy may help determine what allergens are causing your pet’s problems. Atopy is typically managed with baths, medications, managing the environment and sometimes with immunotherapy.
For pets that suffer seasonal allergies, being prepared ahead of time is the key. Atopica (cyclosporine), which suppresses the immune system, may be prescribed to treat skin-related conditions. It works by targeting the immune cells involved in the allergic reaction. Antihistamines are sometimes used to help provide relief. Steroids can decrease the symptoms to make your pet more comfortable.
Adding Omega 3 fatty acids to the diet can help decrease allergy-related inflammation and itching. Pets with minor irritation can benefit from daily cool water rinses and a fragrance free shampoo one to two times weekly. Clipping long-haired pets decreases the allergen load and makes bathing easier.
Pollen counts in the home can be reduced by asking family and visitors to remove their shoes at the door. Routine vacuuming of areas that the pets frequent and washing of pet bedding in mild, fragrance free detergents can also limit the allergen exposure inside.
Keep in mind that most cases of atopy are not cured, but the symptoms may be managed in order to keep your pet more comfortable. If therapy is discontinued, symptoms often recur when allergens are present. Lori H