Does your dog…
- Scratch uncontrollably day and night?
- Constantly chew, dig, or lick paws, ears, lower back or belly?
- Have swollen paws or open sores or scabs?
If so, your poor pooch may be suffering from fleas or allergies…making your life stressful, too.
Here are the usual suspects and symptoms
Flea Allergic Dermatitis:
- Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease in pets, and flea control is often the fastest, easiest way to help an itchy canine.
- Dogs with FAD react more strongly to fleabites because not only are they bothered by the bites, they are also allergic to the flea saliva.
- Very few fleas are necessary to trigger severe scratching in your pet as well as body lesions, skin inflammation, hair loss and more.
- Thanks to indoor heating, these awful little parasites can “invisibly” exist year-round in your home torturing your poor pooch.
- If your pet only scratches at certain times of the year, odds are your furry friend has a seasonal allergy to pollens, grasses, trees, etc.
- However, if your pet itches year-round, he or she may be allergic to fleas or an environmental allergen in your home.
- In addition to itching and scratching, other symptoms of both seasonal and environmental allergies may include:
- Head shaking: The ears, both internally and externally, can become inflamed due to bacteria and yeast. Redness, discharge and pain can result.
- Sneezing and runny nose: Dogs use their noses to explore. Pollens and other allergens can attack the nasal passages causing irritation.
- Coughing or gagging: Because the nose and the mouth are connected, allergens, as well as nasal discharge, can affect the throat.
- Red or watery eyes: Just as with humans, seasonal and environmental allergies can cause your dog’s eyes to tear or redden. In addition, your pet may rub or paw at its eyes.
- Many pets are allergic to food additives and preservatives as well as soy, wheat, corn, milk and various meats.
- Food allergies can develop at any age and over time. In fact, a food that has been liked and tolerated for years can suddenly make your dog sick.
- Food allergies are more difficult to diagnose because symptoms are similar to other allergies. However, here are some additional indicators that your pet may have a food allergy:
- Symptoms aren’t seasonal
- Vomiting or diarrhea can occur
- There may be a lack of appetite
- Chronic ear infections are frequently associated with food allergies
While allergies can’t be cured, they can be controlled.
Here are some of the medications and treatments we use to help your pet as well as things you can do at home.
First, bring your pet in for a physical exam so that we can begin to diagnose the problem. Ear swabs, skin tests and a blood test may be done to help identify possible allergens and we may want to review your dog’s diet with you.
If fleas are the culprits, we’ll recommend year-round treatment with an effective med such as Bravecto®, an FDA approved oral chew that only has to be administered every 12 weeks. You also may need to “bomb” your house and/or yard with a pesticide to eliminate a flea infestation. You can do it yourself or call a professional.
If your dog has a seasonal or environmental allergy, antihistamines may be prescribed depending on your pet’s condition and the suspected allergen. Antihistamines don’t work the same with dogs as they do with humans so we’ll work with you to find the most effective type and dosage for your pet.
To protect a dog with seasonal allergies, environmental management is important. You’ll need to keep windows closed during peak seasons and limit outdoor time. Plus, each time your dog returns from outside, you’ll need to use a damp washcloth or baby wipes to clean his or her coat, focusing on the legs, paws and underbelly. This will help to remove allergens.
If your dog has indoor allergies or sensitive skin, then dust mites, mold or your cleaning products may be the irritants. Try switching to asthma and allergy-friendly cleaning and laundry products. If possible, dust frequently and wash your dog’s bedding often. Also, try eliminating scented air fresheners from your home.
If a food allergy is suspected, swapping one brand of food for another higher quality brand with the right balance of ingredients may be the simple solution. However, one or more prescription foods may also be recommended for your dog and if symptoms cease, a food allergy will be confirmed.
Scratching and tearing at the skin, eyes and ears can make your pet susceptible to secondary infections. If a secondary skin or ear infection has developed, an antibiotic, anti-yeast or anti-fungal medication may be prescribed.
If your dog is suffering and in pain, or if symptoms are severe, a corticosteroid treatment may be required. While steroids should be used sparingly because of side effects, when used appropriately they can be highly effective in providing fast relief for your pet.
Another new drug, Apoquel®, offers a new approach to itch relief. It works as fast as corticosteroids to alleviate the itching and pain but has fewer side effects.
Other ways to help your pet:
Once weekly bathing in lukewarm water using a soothing shampoo, such as colloidal oatmeal or aloe, will help to calm your dog’s skin and remove any irritants. In addition, there are shampoos and rinses to help treat specific skin conditions.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are highly recommended for long-term management. These help make the skin less reactive to allergens and boost the effects of other anti-itch medications. We typically suggest using either EicosaDerm™ or human fish oil capsules dosed at 1 capsule per 10 pounds of weight. You should begin slowly and work your pet up to a full dosage over the course of several weeks.
Monitoring and follow-up are essential. It’s very important that you follow all directions provided by your vet and that you monitor your pet’s progress during treatment. One or more re-checks may be required, too, and if there’s been no improvement within two weeks, or if your pet’s condition worsens, please call us at 402-884-3383.