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As the trees start to pollinate, the
spring season starts to dawn and so do those pesky allergies. A
time to put the winter cold past us and a look to the brighter days
are not so bright for those with allergies. Many pets are affected
by spring allergies and it is important to be aware if your pet
shows signs so you can lighten its discomfort and help provide
According to Dr. Adam Patterson,
clinical assistant professor and a board certified dermatologist at
the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences (CVM), an allergy is an exaggerated response in which the
body's immune system overreacts to normally harmless environmental
substances known as allergens.
Patterson explains that animals can
show signs of allergic reactions during a particular season or
year-round dependent on what they are allergic to.
"Any cat and horse breed can be
affected by allergies," notes Patterson. "Any dog breed can also be
affected, but there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to
allergies, including: terriers, retrievers, Dalmatians, Shar Peis,
When people encounter allergic
reactions, they tend to sneeze and wheeze. Whereas, animals tend to
itch and scratch their way to a hopeful recovery, but this can
actually promote more severe skin problems.
"An itch may be manifested as licking,
chewing, biting, rubbing, scratching, head shaking, and/or
scooting," explains Patterson. "Common itchy body areas include the
face, ears, paws, armpits, groin, rump, and anal region. Horses may
present with an itchy skin disease and/or hives. Every pet has its
own itch tolerance which means the intensity and reason(s) for your
pet's itch may not be the same as another animal. Regardless of the
animal, allergic patients are prone to secondary infections that
can cause skin discoloration, hair loss, pimples, or scabs."
If your pet does show any of these
allergic signs, it is in everyone's best interest to contact your
veterinarian. Your veterinarian can develop a customized treatment
plan for your pet so the itch can be alleviated. However, Patterson
comments that allergies can be managed, not necessarily cured.
"Treatments are tailored to the
individual based on the extent, severity, and seasonality of
signs," says Patterson. "The 'absolutes' of therapy include:
routine bathing to remove pollen accumulation, infection control
(topical and/or systemic), and flea prevention. Other treatments
can be prescribed based on what the patient is sensitive to, and
the response to the 'absolutes.' It is important to recognize that
allergies can be managed, but often are not cured."
Sometimes steroids are used to
alleviate an itch. However, Patterson warns that long-term use of
steroids can cause detrimental health problems. "For this reason,
it is recommended that the underlying trigger of allergic signs be
sought and managed with other less harmful treatments for those
animals with chronic problems," explains Patterson.
The most common allergens that affect
pets are fleas, food, pollen, molds, mites, insects, and dander. As
there are a lot of factors to consider when diagnosing what your
pets are allergic to, your veterinarian can perform tests and
personal evaluations based on many factors to help determine the
"Elimination diet trials are used to
exclude food allergies," notes Patterson. "Skin or blood 'allergy'
testing is used to select candidate pollens for immunotherapy (oral
allergy drops or allergy injections) in animals with an
environmental allergy. It is important to recognize that these
tests DO NOT DIAGNOSE an environmental allergy as 'normal' animals
can have 'positive' test results. The diagnosis is based on the
history, clinical signs, and the process of exclusion."
Allergies are more common in pets than
most people believe. Ten percent of the canine population is
affected by allergies. It is important to be aware of the allergic
signs and notify a veterinarian when the symptoms persist. If you
have any questions pertaining to allergies or skin ailments you can
call the dermatology department at the CVM Small Animal Clinical
Sciences at 979-845-2351 or visit their webpage at /services/dermatology to review
frequently asked questions and answers.
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