Springtime has finally arrived in Washington, DC and with the beautiful cherry blossoms comes an onslaught of pollen and allergens. Pet allergies can happen anytime of year and they can be a frustrating problem for both pets and their owners. Dogs and cats are affected by the same allergens that plague humans. The difference is in how pet allergies are manifested. While we can have red/watery eyes, sneezing and coughing more commonly skin issues are the problem in dogs and cats.
Pet allergies usually present as itchy skin, ears and feet that can quickly lead to infection. When the skin’s natural environment is disrupted by constant scratching this allows bacteria and/or yeast to proliferate causing a superficial infection. This infection itself can then cause itching making the problem even worse. If you see red, irritated skin, small bumps, crusts on the skin or hair loss this may indicate infection is present and a visit to the hospital is necessary.
If your pet is itching without an infection present, you can try giving an over the counter antihistamine. You should check with your veterinarian about how much to give as dosing is much different in dogs and cats than humans. Also be sure not to put a product containing pseudoephedrine or any other additive as this can be very toxic to pets.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be extremely beneficial in treating skin issues and is by far my favorite supplement for pets. Not only will the omega-3’s condition the skin but they also provide strong anti-inflammatory effects to help calm irritated and itchy skin.
Another allergy that is not such a big deal in humans but can be torture for pets is an allergy to fleas. Some dogs and cats are so sensitive that just one flea-bite can drive them crazy and the itching that follows can result in a serious skin infection. Thanks to the effectiveness of medications like Frontline, Advantage and Nexgard this is relative easy to prevent.
If you notice your dog or cat is itching more than usual this spring you can try giving an omega-3 fatty acid or using a soothing shampoo. If the itching continues, make an appointment to speak with your veterinarian about a treatment plan right away.
Ashley Gallagher, DVM