Pets’ allergies can be tough to treat |

Pets’ allergies can be tough to treat

Nadine Lober

Allergies are considered a hypersensitivity disorder in humans and in animals. There are various forms of allergies such as contact (with grass or chemical), inhalant (dust or pollen) or immune mediated (from foods or drugs). The most common skin allergy seen in dogs and maybe cats is atopy. This is allergic inhalant dermatitis – skin infection or inflammation due to allergens in the air. Many humans do not realize that dogs are as susceptible as humans. The most common breeds affected are the terrier breeds, golden retriever, poodles, Dalmatians, German shepherds, shar pei, shih tzu, pug and miniature schnauzers. But the condition can occur in any dog, even our favorite mutts.The clinical signs may be seasonal or year-round, depending on the allergen. In the Vail Valley, we might start seeing some symptoms very soon as the spring begins and throughout the drier summer months. These signs include scratching incessantly or licking or chewing at the feet, flanks, groin or armpits. You may also see your pet rubbing their faces on the carpet or furniture. The trauma from scratching and licking can further develop into sores and scabs and hot spots.Ears may be inflamed, smelly and itchy. Eyes can tear and also itch.Diagnosing the exact cause of the itching can be challenging. Measuring antibodies to the various allergens is one of the more sophisticated tests available. But there can still be false negatives and positives, making results hard to interpret. Another allergy test analyzes blood samples, but this exam may not be reliable and is expensive.Treatments may be extensive if you go through the full allergy injections. This process is slow and requires much effort on the owner’s part and does not always work.Corticosteroids are used often to treat allergies. These are very strong drugs and the side effects can be problematic. These would be better for short term use when the itching is so horrible that you, the owner, are not sleeping a wink due to your pet’s constant scratching and licking.Antihistamines may offer relief in 40 percents of the dogs and cats and have minimal side effects. So they are definitely worth a try. The most commonly used are Benadryl, chlorpheneramine and hydroxyzine.Other treatments that are important are medicated shampoos (some of which are oatmeal-based) and adding fatty acids to the diet. The omega fatty acids in fish oils are proven to be the most effective. The animal version capsules are called derm caps or EFA caps.Allergies can be frustrating for us, owners, as well as for the pets. But we can try to help by using these various treatments combined – the animals will appreciate it and we can finally sleep soundly.For further questions, Dr. Nadine Lober can be reached at 949-7972

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