Spring Is Here – Dr. Karen Whala
We’re entering spring time here in the valley, and for many people, that means pollen and allergies. Unfortunately, many of our furry friends suffer from inhaled allergies as well. But unlike in people, our dogs and cats more often show their symptoms dermatologically through excess licking, chewing and scratching which can make life miserable for both pets and their people!
There are many potential reasons for itching in our pets including mange, fleas, adverse food reactions and even collars, clothing and shampoos. Inhaled allergens such as pollen and dander can be difficult to identify but clues in the pattern of itching, seasonality, breed and age of onset can give us veterinarians clues as to whether seasonal allergies (or Atopy) is a cause of itching in your pet. Itching due to atopy can often start with feet licking, hairloss around eyes and muzzle and armpits. It can also start off clearly only developing certain times of the year, but over time, many cases will extend to year round. If the itching is not treated, our pets will often scratch or lick themselves raw so that they develop secondary bacterial infections which further intensify the itch.
Just as in people, there are a wide range of treatments as no single treatment always works. Treatments can include one or more of the following:
Clemastine fumarate (Tavist) – avoid Tavist D
Steroids – topical or oral. Very effective, but can have harmful side effects if used chronically
Cyclosporin (Atopica) – oral. Can be very effective without typical harmful side effects of steroids.
Fatty Acid Supplementation – fish oils
Oatmeal-based Shampoos, sprays or lotions
Aloe Vera Gel – is safe for pets but watch for added ingredients to many Aloe Vera topical
Witch Hazel – spray or lotion can be cooling to itchy skin
Immunotherapy – Skin testing and allergen injections. Can take 6-12 months to see benefits. Best performed by Dermatologist
Reducing Allergen Exposure
Use of Air Conditioner and/or air filter system
Isolation – during lawn mowing, vacuuming, dusting
Removing carpeting and avoid stuffed toys to minimize dust mite exposure
So you’ve done the shampoo trials, tried several antihistamines and did your best to reduce allergen exposure in your home and your pet still seems excessively itchy. Next step is to visit your veterinarian. We will likely want to treat any secondary yeast or bacterial infections and make certain other conditions are not amplifying the itch such as the occasional flea. These steps alone will often significantly improve the itch, but if the underlying allergy is present, symptoms can and often return. If not within a few weeks, then months or years. Further treatment and diagnosis depends on severity of symptoms, duration and frequency. Our own Dermatologist, Dr. Cannon, is kept quite busy in the Fresno area because of the prevalence of allergies. Just know that you and your pet are not alone! Spring is my favorite time of the year and there are ways to help keep it from being our allergy-prone pet’s least favorite time of the year!