Friday, June 1, 2012

The Spring Itchies

Spring means pollen, fleas, ticks, swimming, and all sorts of things that make dogs itch.  We hear from clients these days that their dogs have allergies, but what does that really mean?  Simply put, an allergy is an over reaction by the body's immune system to something it perceives.  The three most common reasons for allergies are fleas, environmental allergies (also called atopy), and food allergy.  This post will break down each category.

What causes it? Allergic reaction to saliva of the flea
when it bites
What does it
look like?
Very persistent itching or chewing
on flanks, lower back, tail
Presence of fleas, flea dirt on pet or
in the house
How to treat it

Many products available.  Unfortunately many natural products are not efficacious with heavy infestation
How to prevent it
Flea combs, monthly preventative
especially during warm months of year
Other points
Do not have to see fleas!  Just takes
one bite!
What causes it? Allergy to nearly anything in the environment
What does it
look like?
May be localized hot spot or can be
generalized.  Often seasonal.  May end up with secondary bacterial or fungal infections
Diagnosis Intradermal skin testing with a dermatologist
How to treat it

May require antibiotics/anti-fungals to get
secondary infections down, omega 3 fatty acids, special shampoos, probiotics, diet trial, antihistamines, judicious use of steroids or immunosuppressants in some cases
How to prevent it

Avoid contact with the allergen.  Keep them
on hard floors or vacuum religiously.  Use HEPA filters.  Rise feet/legs after walks
Other points
Also called atopy.  May also have some food
allergy component to it as well
What causes it?
Immune system response to proteins
in the food
What does it
look like?
Vomiting, diarrhea, ear infections,
hot spots, red belly, paws, or ears

Strict novel protein/carb elimination
diet for 8-12 weeks.  Note: the food allergy blood test is NOT reliable!  Too many false negatives/positives
How to treat it Elimination diet, slowly add in
potential allergens back in
How to prevent it
Avoid all forms of that particular
food, including treats and heartworm meds.  Raw vs cooked may help, but not necessarily
Other points

Food allergies & intolerances are not
the same thing, but present almost identically.  Always save at least one relatively obtainable protein source for testing.