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With the emergence of springtime, comes the arrival of
allergies. Although the landscape is lush, many people experience
the beauty that comes with the warmer weather as well as the
bothersome allergy symptoms. Pets can also be affected by allergies
and it is important to be mindful of any symptoms that your pet
might be displaying.
"People sneeze and wheeze with allergies, while dogs tend to
itch and scratch," says Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant
professor and a board certified dermatologist at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "The
hallmark sign of allergic skin disease is itch that can be
manifested as licking, chewing, rubbing, biting, scooting, head
shaking, and/or scratching. Typically, the face, ears, paws,
armpits, groin, and rump are the most affected sites."
Patterson explains that animals with allergic skin disease are
highly prone to recurring skin and/or ear infections involving
bacteria and yeast. Infections can cause increased itch, redness,
pimples, blackheads, scabs, dander, hair loss, skin thickening, and
odor. Horses many times will break out in hives.
"Animals tend to be allergic to many of the same things people
are hypersensitive to such as pollen, mold, dust, house dust mite,
and foodstuffs," Patterson explains. "An exception would be fleas -
the most common thing dogs and cats are allergic to. Despite this,
many people are in 'fleanial' and refuse to believe just a few flea
bites can be triggering the itch response in their pet." Likewise,
horse owners may not be aware how just a few insect bites could be
responsible for or contributing to itchy skin disease.
Allergic skin disease can be mistaken for many other forms
of skin disease. A veterinary dermatologist is trained to work with
primary care veterinarians to get down to the bottom of how to best
diagnose and manage skin and ear disease, including allergies, in
animals. See www.acvd.org for more information.
It is important to understand that allergies can be managed, but
not cured, just as with humans. The goal is to reduce the extent
and severity of signs, not completely eliminate them.
"Management regimens might include increased frequency of
bathing (washing pollens of the skin surface), antimicrobials or
antibiotics, flea prevention, fatty acids, antihistamines, change
in diet, steroids, and immunotherapy, also known as desensitization
or hyposensitization. The use of the latter can be determined
through a good step-wise diagnostic approach along with allergy
skin testing and administered by way of allergy shots or
oral allergy drops," says Patterson.
When it is time to take your pet in for allergy skin
"Typically, dogs should have allergy symptoms for at least 5-6
months out of the year before considering skin testing for
environmental allergies, which include reactivity to pollen, molds,
house dust mite, and house dust, in order for the diagnostic tests
and treatment to be cost effective over the long haul," Patterson
Patterson explains that rainfall cuts down on airborne pollen
and may provide itch relief to pets, but at the same time rain may
cause plants to produce more pollen over the next few weeks.
Indeed, rain fall might worsen flea and mold allergies because
moisture and humidity are favorable to fleas and mold. Of course,
rain has no effect on food-related allergic skin diseases.
"Given the mild winter and lack of national weather fronts
during the 2011-2012 seasons, pollen is likely to be at an all-time
high this year. Consequently, there likely will be many itchy pets
this year," says Patterson.
Allergies are certainly not an uncommon thing to see in pets. It
is important to be aware of the symptoms and to notify a
veterinarian when they persist. For more information please visit
ABOUT PET TALK
*Photo- The cat was scratching because of allergies
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