Summertime and the Livin is… Itchy?
Picture this: summer has arrived and it’s getting hotter and hotter. You don’t want to run up your energy bill so you’re trying to avoid turning on the air conditioner… but we all know that only works for so long. You need an escape so you decide to go for a walk and hope the air outside is cooler than in. You grab the leash and whistle for your boy. Together you make your way up the street and down your usual shortcut through the tall grass and weeds to your favorite park. You feel an itch begin to make its way through to your nose. Spoiler alert! Your dog sneezes first. Guess I’m not the only one, you think to yourself.
Let’s talk allergies. Or more specifically - seasonal allergies. The ones that make your throat scratchy and make you sneeze all day long during those hot summer months. You pop an allergy pill and you’re more or less ready to go. Easy enough. But here’s the thing - you’re not the only one in your household that’s likely to suffer from allergies and your furry friend can’t drive to the store for quick relief. They need you. So let’s get down to business.
What are allergies and why do they affect my pet?
Allergies occur when allergens are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, respiratory tract, or gastrointestinal tract. The combination of the allergens and the animal’s antibodies result in an allergic reaction. There are two main types of allergies - environmental and food. Food allergies are a concern year-round and should always be taken into account. Environmental allergies fluctuate with the seasons. During the summer, the most common allergens that threaten your pet’s health are ragweed, pollen, grass, trees, molds, dust and dander, and fleas.
It’s important to note that fleas can affect your pet at any time and it’s highly recommended that your pet maintain a year-round flea medication - fleas just happen to be most active during the warmer months.
How can I tell if my pet is suffering from allergies?
When your throat starts to get scratchy and your eyes start to itch, you know your allergies are kicking in. But to know if your pet is suffering from allergies, there are signs to watch for. Most dogs and cats will suffer from allergic dermatitis which is skin irritation or inflammation as a result of allergies. Pets with allergic dermatitis will do nearly anything for relief - including incessant scratching, biting at the affected area, or rubbing against furniture or the floor to try and ease the itch. Dogs especially often have issues with their ears and will scratch and shake their heads more than usual, often losing hair around the affected area as a result. If not treated, the area can become infected, leading to an odor or discharge. Other symptoms to watch for are respiratory - sneezing, coughing, runny nose, watery eyes, and snoring (which can be caused by an inflamed throat). Also look for a general redness around the eyes, inside the mouth, around the paws, anus, and chin, as well as the addition of hotspots. Flea allergies will cause an itchy back or base of their tail which can result in bald spots caused by them rubbing against things for relief. Food allergies will cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Let’s talk treatment and prevention
The best care is always preventative care, so preventing allergies before they occur is key. Sometimes that’s unavoidable for a few reasons. Some pets are genetically predisposed to having allergies and some allergens are airborne or saturated in the environment. But there are ways to ease the pain of allergic reactions both present and impending. The best thing you can do is avoid the allergens altogether, but as we’ve learned, that’s not always feasible. So the next best thing is to provide your pet with the best defense system possible. For dust and dander allergies, clean their environment on a regular basis. Think spring cleaning, but summer based. Wash their bedding weekly and vacuum floors and curtains biweekly. For environmental and airborne allergies, bathe them once a week. Frequent baths can dry out their skin, so make sure to ask for a shampoo recommendation at your next appointment. Remember that walk to the park you took? Go the long way and avoid the tall grass as much as possible. Wash his paws when you get back, before he goes inside to limit tracking the allergens into the house.
There are a couple of things we can do to treat allergies. Among them are antihistamines, supplements, shampoos, sprays, immune-modulating medications, and sometimes steroids in extreme cases. Make sure you don’t administer anything before making an appointment to discuss the different options and figure out the best plan for your pet. As always, our first priority is the health and happiness of your furry friend.