Friday, May 10, 2013

Itchy, Scratchy and Sneezy - Don't shoot the vet over your allergic pet.

It is finally springtime again in Michigan!  The temperature is hitting over 60 degrees each day and the sun is actually shining more often. The improving weather is sometimes "bad news" for our vets and pets.  Along with spring and summer temperatures comes allergies.   Dogs and cats develop allergies to many things in the environment, just as people do.  They exhibit symptoms such as itching, scratching, rubbing, rolling and chewing.   We see ear infections, eye infections, skin infections and hair loss, all associated with allergies.

 Allergies are as common in dogs and cats as they are in their human counterparts.  On our daily schedule we may see  2 or 3 allergy cases, and sometimes more.  We learn to dread these appointments because we know that there is not a simple solution to the pet owner's problem.  Because there is not a simple answer, we must deal with frustrated and confused pet owners.  In many cases this problem is going to be a longtime, possibly lifetime issue, and there is no magic bullet cure.  

The best way to treat allergies in our pets is to diagnose exactly what that particular pet is allergic to.  We can do this through food trials, blood testing for inhalant allergies and/or skin testing. These test are often time consuming and can be expensive.   They will take time and effort investments on the part of the pet owner.   Veterinarians may treat these pets with antihistamines, antibiotics, and immune suppressant drugs, as well as allergen injections customized for the specific patient.  The allergies are often controlled but very rarely cured.  

If you suspect that your pet may have an allergy, there are several things that you can do to assist your veterinarian with their diagnosis and treatment.

  • Be sure that your pet is treated monthly with flea preventative (i.e. Frontline or Certifect) so flea allergies can be eliminated from the equation.  
  • Keep a list of your pet's habits and symptoms, and when they occur.  This may help your veterinarian compile an accurate history for your pet.  
  • Be patient with your veterinarian so he/she can make the proper recommendations and remember to follow up on your veterinary visits, so you can stay ahead of your dog or cat's symptoms. 

 Remember that it will take an investment of your time and energy (and maybe your checkbook) to get your pet's allergies under control.

Try to enjoy the spring and summer with your pet, and please don't shoot the vet!