Scratching the Surface of that Itch

posted on Thursday, April 13, 2017 in From the Mailbox of Dr. M

First off, it was wonderful to get to meet so many people at the welcome reception the first week of August, as well as, out and about at the county fair at the end of July! I truly am blessed to get to make my home in an area that is welcoming and with people whom are easy to get along with!

Due to the number of cases I’ve seen over the last month, and common questions asked, I decided maybe we should chat about allergies. That’s right: the sniffly nose, runny eyes, “miserable feeling” allergies we get, our feline and canine companions can get as well. However, the way we see allergies manifested in animals, can be different than how we experience it as humans. Here’s a quick list of symptoms we can see in animals.

1.       Intense scratching

2.       Paw licking leading to red, raw irritated paws

3.       Red eyes

4.       Ear infections-(often in conjunction with other signs)

5.       Reddened skin

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  Image result for Skin in Dogs

The image of the paw shows how irritated the skin and between the toes can become due to constant licking, the other image shows how reddened the skin can become due to constant scratching. Photos courtesy of Bing Image search.

For many dogs and cats, the cause of their symptoms can be from ragweed or pollen. Their allergies are generally seasonal, meaning they come on in the early spring, and disappear once the first frost hits. These allergy symptoms can be easily managed with over-the-counter medication recommended by a veterinarian, or a prescription from the veterinarian for a shot or pill. Additionally, wiping paws and noses after coming in from outside, and using a gentle, skin soothing shampoo and conditioner can help ease the itching sensation for some animals. Before a diagnosis of allergies can be made, it is important to rule out any other potential problems first. This is where we will also thoroughly examine your pet for signs of fleas and or flea dirt. Flea allergy can be a major cause of scratching and itching. A side note- once a house is infested with fleas it takes a long time and money to get rid of them.

On the other hand, some animals suffer from allergies year round. These kiddos tend to be the ones allergic to the dust and dander that like to take up residence in our home. These dogs and cats tend to be treated differently, and with medication that has a long term potential to alleviate itch and irritation. Year round allergic animals are also the ones we tend to allergy test and find out exactly what they are sensitive to. From there, specific injections to target the allergens can be formulated.

A misconception across the board is that the majority of allergies are due to a food. In order to say an animal has a true food allergy, environmental allergens are ruled out first, and then a food trial can be initiated. A food trial involves a STRICT diet set forth by the veterinarian, eliminating all other outside sources of protein and/or grains. Determining whether a food trial is successful requires 3-4 months of this strict diet. Common allergens for dogs include beef, dairy products, wheat, eggs, chicken, lamb, fish, corn, and soy. Common allergens for cats include beef, dairy products, and fish. We usually see food allergies manifest as a skin problem or a gastrointestinal upset.

If you suspect that your animal may be suffering from allergies, it is best you contact your veterinarian. We would be happy to exam your pet, and come up with a treatment plan that will best fit your pet’s case.

On a side note, I have to say, the last month brought a new experience for me. I had the opportunity to help check livestock in for the Audubon County Fair. Now, I grew up showing and raising cattle, and am no stranger to swine, sheep, and goats either. However, poultry and rabbits on the other hand....that was an area that was briefly covered in school, and outside of walking through the exhibits at the county fair, the closest I got to a chicken or turkey was when I stuck it on the grill for my evening meal. I was excited though, as Randy taught me the ropes of properly handling these species, and before long, I was able to help blood test the birds for disease. (Don’t worry, there were a few pictures taken of me in all my sweaty glory working to collect blood that I'm sure will resurface at the most (in)opportune time courtesy of Dr. Travis.) It was great to chat with each of the exhibitors, learn the different names they had for some of the rabbits and birds, but mostly to see how proud they were of what they could accomplish. It was great to learn a few things along the way as well! My life advice for this month is don’t be afraid to step outside of you comfort  zone, regardless of what area of life that may pertain to, you’ll be amazed at the things you can discover!

I hope you have a wonderful rest of the summer as we gear up for “back to school,” and the promise that inevitably cooler fall weather is around the corner.