Spring is one of my favorite times of year. Flowers are blooming, leaves are budding and temperatures are mild. But while spring brings a bounty of beauty upon us, it also comes with Benadryl and Claritin to help combat those pesky allergies. It’s easy for us to simply avoid those things that bring on our allergy attacks, but pets have a much harder time avoiding the elements.
Allergies can cause misery to people and pets alike. Last summer, my dog Blue developed a food allergy that caused itchy, flaky and scabby skin. The poor guy was stopping what seemed like every 20 seconds to scratch, which made me feel terrible because I knew he was suffering. As it turns out his condition was easily remedied by switching foods, but not all allergies are that easily fixed. So how do you cope with a pooch or feline that suffers from allergies?
It’s important to note that a dog or cat can develop allergies at any time in its life. My dog is almost 8 years old and never had a reaction to his food, so I was surprised when he developed such a bad allergy last summer. Just like in humans, pets with allergies will display symptoms such as sneezing, scratching, redness, runny nose and eyes, and licking (OK, that one isn’t really like humans, but you get the idea).
If you suspect that your dog or cat is suffering from allergies, it’s a good idea to visit your veterinarian so you can determine the cause and develop a plan of action. But here’s what you can do at home to alleviate your pets’ symptoms:
Keep coats clean: Our pets’ coats are good at attracting dirt, pollen and other allergens, so it’s important to keep them clean. Bathe them often with over-the-counter or prescription shampoos that are gentle on their skin. Bathing your pet too frequently or using the wrong shampoo can dry out their skin, so ask your vet what is appropriate. Cats can be harder to bathe, so check your local pet store for spray-on products or wipes. If you suspect dust is the problem, clean your pet’s bedding once a week, vacuum a few times a week, including rugs and curtains, and do frequent sweeps over you wood or tile floors to keep the dust in your home at bay.
Prevent pests: Flea bite hypersensitivity and flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in pets, according to PetMD. Saliva from the flea is believed to be the cause of the sensitivity, so it can affect both dogs and cats. Symptoms include itching and scratching, hair loss and scabs on the skin. Flea control and prevention is your best defense against these pesky critters. Preventive options include Frontline or Advantage, shampoo and topical treatments or sprays. It is a good idea to start a flea-control program for your pets now before the season really ramps up. Ask your veterinarian which option is best for your pet and how often you should use the products.
Food allergies: As I mentioned before, I went through this with my dog last summer. Changing Blue’s food and treats was the first thing I tried when he started showing signs of an allergy, and his problem started to improve within a few weeks. My dog’s symptoms included dry, scabby, flaky skin, but you may also notice biting, licking, skin redness, hair loss and even ear infections.
I switched Blue from one over-the-counter food to another with great success, but you also can consider prescription food or home-cooked meals for your pets. Check with your veterinarian to help decide which option is best for you. The biggest challenge is making sure that you stick to the new diet! If you continue to feed your dog or cat treats, snacks or human foods it will be difficult to pinpoint what is causing the allergy.
Foods that may cause allergies in dogs include beef, chicken, corn, dairy, egg, soy, wheat, fish, lamb, pork, rabbit, duck and venison. In cats, foods include beef, fish, dairy, wheat, barley, egg, lamb, pork, poultry, rabbit and duck.
We all want to do what is best for our pets, but we can’t do it alone. I hope these tips have helped, but always consult with your veterinarian if you suspect your pets aren’t feeling well or are suffering from allergies.
Check back here for the next Pet Parenting Tails column on May 25. Now that we’ve discussed how to help pets cope with allergies, I will be talking about how people can deal with allergies to their pets. I myself am allergic to cats, but I lived with my feline Minnie for 18 years before she passed away in September. Many of us with allergies can’t bear the thought of living without a pet, and there are ways to cope. See you here in a few weeks to discuss it!