Allergies in Pets

Many of us can relate to how it feels to be uncomfortable  because of seasonal allergies.  The itching, sneezing and watery eyes can make life miserable for severe allergy suffers.

Did you know that allergies are also extremely common in pets? Like people, pets allergies can be environmental or food related and some pets develop both! I have a dog that suffered from seasonal allergies and some food allergies.  The secondary issues that can develop as a result of allergies, which include secondary infections from scratching

Miss Vicki had unbearable seasonal allergies until I followed an aggressive treatment plan of predominantly alternative allergy therapies.

Miss Vicki had unbearable seasonal allergies until I followed an aggressive treatment plan of predominantly alternative allergy therapies.

and paw licking, ear and respiratory issues can make life very uncomfortable for dogs and cats alike.

” According to a survey conducted by Novartis Animal Health, over half of pet owners aren’t aware their fuzzy family members can also spend the spring season feeling miserable thanks to pollens and other environmental allergens,”  writes Dr. Karen Becker in her article,   “If Your Dog is Itchy or Your Cat is Wheezy, You Need to Read This.

So how can you determine if your pet has allergies? Cats and dogs typically exhibit the same allergy symptoms as humans which include:

  • Itchy, red or moist skin
  • Increased scratching
  • Itchy, runny eyes
  • Itchy ears and ear infections
  • Sneezing
  • Paw licking/chewing
  • Hotspots
  • Yeast infections

Some common allergens include:

  • Weed, tree and grass pollen
  • Dander
  • Dust and house dust mites
  • Food ingredients
  • Mold (spores)
  • Fleas

Determining food allergies can be difficult unless pets are placed on a strict elimination diet whilst slowly adding back in suspected food triggers. All treats and extras must be carefully monitored in order to determine the true cause of the food allergen(s) according to Shawn Messonnier, D.V.M. and author of The Allergy Solution for Dogs. Thankfully, there are now many limited ingredient foods that pet owners can feed for the treatment of pets with food allergies.

When determining what dogs are most susceptible to allergies, breed can play a role with the most common breeds being Terriers, Setters, Retrievers and flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs and Boston Terriers.

When treating allergies in pets, owners have many different options. Conventional treatments such as over the counter antihistamines, medicated shampoos and ointments are prescribed by veterinarians. In serious cases as I experienced with my dog Vicki’s allergies, a cycle of steroids may be prescribed in order to prevent secondary infections from constant scratching as well as to relieve serious scratching and biting.

There are complementary therapies that are effective as well, which I opted to use with Vicki since they were so effective and had little side effects. They included nutritional therapy; I removed all grain from Vicki’s diet, including treats since they can cause inflammation and itching. She also had an allergy to beef, so I avoided beef as a protein source in food and treats. In addition, I included allergy fighting supplements as a daily regime.  

Avoiding drying shampoos and laundry detergents that could trigger atopic dermatitis as well as chemical based household cleaners also greatly reduced the symptoms of itching, biting and paw chewing. There are many shampoos that have essential fatty acids added, which is great for relieving itchy skin.

Any course of treatment for pet allergies should be in partnership with a veterinarian that supports the owners preference for conventional or alternative methods. Accurate diagnosis is a must in order to implement the most effective treatment plan.

All pets are different so there is no one size fits all approach for treatment of allergies. The end goal is to plan a regime that will be best for the furry patient. Some pets will respond more favorably to conventional treatments and some pets may do well with a combination of conventional and alternative treatments. With correct diagnosis and a well thought out treatment plan, it is possible for our pets with allergies to live comfortable lives.

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