As spring approaches, allergies are going to be a problem for some people and maybe for their pets, too. Allergies are one of the most common conditions affecting dogs this time of year.
We adopted our senior pup, Romeo, about seven months ago now, and I’ve learned that allergies can also be a year-round problem for some pets. Diagnosing them can be a challenge. While springtime can bring about constant itching, scratching, paw licking, chewing, skin rashes and even chronic ear infections for pups, Romeo suffers from all of these symptoms – all of the time. This is uncomfortable for him and frustrating for me, and we are exploring all the treatment options to find the combination that will give him relief.
Treatment options vary based on the cause — and figuring out the cause is half the battle. There are several different types of allergies that affect pets, and there can be multiple triggers.
In most situations, allergies show up in three ways:
1. SKIN: A dog will itch and scratch; he may constantly chew and lick at this paws or may develop skin sores or lesions. Romeo is also prone to constant ear infections and yeast on his nail beds.
2. RESPIRATORY SYSTEM: A dog will cough, sneeze, wheeze and may have nasal or eye discharge. Romeo gets the eye discharge, in addition to his skin issues.
3. DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: A dog may vomit or have diarrhea. Thankfully, we are not experiencing this issue.
Common allergy culprits include:
POLLEN: The release of pollens in the air is no fun for anyone. An allergic reaction to pollen can cause swelling and itching. A dog’s skin may become flaky and dry, and this in turn can cause excessive scratching. The feet are especially sensitive, and your dog may lick or chew on his feet to try to alleviate the itching. Constant licking of the groin area, rubbing of the face, inflamed ears, recurrent ear infections, recurrent hot spots, and sometimes respiratory problems, including wheezing and coughing, are all symptoms of this allergy.
If the dog has an allergic reaction to pollen, it is best to keep him indoors as much as possible to limit contact. A nice bath with an oatmeal shampoo can help soothe the symptoms.
FOOD: Sometimes food is the cause for a dog’s allergies. Food allergy symptoms include itching of the face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal areas; ear infections that are often yeast-related; and skin infections that may go away with antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic is completed. In some cases, dogs with true food allergies may have increased bowel movements and soft stool. We are feeding Romeo a limited ingredient diet to see if his allergies are due to food.
FLEAS: As the weather heats up, fleas will soon be back with a vengeance. If a dog is allergic to fleas, just one bite can cause severe itching and swelling of the affected area. Dogs may scratch, lick or chew the bites, often resulting in open sores and loss of hair in that area. Flea treatments will kill the fleas; however, the home must be treated as well, as these pests can reside in the carpet and reinfect the dog upon contact. Giving a monthly flea preventative year-round is so important to keeping pets free of fleas.
CONTACT: This is a less common allergic reaction that happens when a pet comes into contact with certain materials such as carpets, cleaners or plastic. Symptoms of a contact allergy include red itchy bumps or blisters on the belly, feet, or muzzle and can result in intense scratching and hair loss. We have had several dogs over the years at ARNO that have had contact allergies, and the shelter uses a special detergent for their bedding and sheets to prevent an allergic reaction.
Allergies are miserable for our pets. A visit to the vet is important to getting a proper diagnosis and treatment plan, and as I have come to know all too well, it may take some time and a combination of multiple treatments options in order to get the situation managed.
MARCH 20: Dog and Cat PetSmart Adoption Event, hosted by Rolling River Rescue every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at PetSmart in Elmwood, 1000 S. Clearview Parkway in Harahan. Meet adoptable dogs from Rolling River Rescue, Greta’s Ark Animal Rescue and Take Paws Rescue, and adoptable cats through the Spaymart Kitten Foster Program. Donations of gently used items, food and monetary donations for foster and medical costs will also be accepted. For more information, email [email protected]