Spring Allergies and Your Pet – Dr. Megan Kelly

Spring Allergies and Your Pet

Spring is a beautiful time of the year. Nature, no longer in hibernation, slowly comes to life again reawakening our senses. But as plants and flowers start to bloom so pollens are released causing our senses to react more than we would like. Many of us are all too familiar with seasonal allergies such as hay fever, but have you considered your pet?

Surveys show that more than half of pet owners aren’t aware their furry companions are feeling just as miserable thanks to pollens and other environmental triggers. Pollen, dust and mould are not immune to our pets as they can often experience their own type of hay fever. Instead of sneezing, pets typically experience itchy skin causing them to scratch, lick and bite incessantly in the hope of the slightest relief. There are three types of allergies to watch out for this spring…

Contact Allergy:
Occurs when a dog’s skin reacts to pollen triggering an allergic response such as itching and swelling. Often the skin can become flaky and dry and the feet particularly sensitive causing the dog to lick, bite and scratch the affected areas excessively.

Inhalant Allergy:
Also known as atopy occurs when a dog breathes in pollens from trees, plants and grass causing itchiness and respiratory problems. Usually, this will cause the dog to become itchy all over the body, which becomes extremely uncomfortable! The origin of this disease is unknown although it has been shown there is important hereditary predisposition, i.e. allergic parents will probably have allergic offspring.

Flea Allergy:
Fleas will often lie dormant during winter and re-emerge in springtime. A flea allergy is a complex allergic reaction to proteins in the saliva of the flea. It comprises between 50% and 80% of all allergic skin disease in dogs. Just one flea is all that is needed to cause the allergic reaction, often symptomatic of severe itchiness and swelling. Excessive scratching, biting and licking by the dog can quickly result in open sores and loss of hair.

Management for all skin conditions no matter what the cause:
– by Dr. Megan Kelly, holistic vet consultant to Regal Pet Health

Skin care:  Scratching can traumatise the protective surface of the skin. This will make the skin susceptible to secondary infections. Shampoo weekly with antibacterial, anti-itch, antifungal and emollient shampoos. They contain hydrating agents such as urea and glycerol, as well as essential fatty acids which have a double function: to restore the lipid layer of the horny layer avoiding the loss of water, and to avoid dehydration and reduce inflammation. Soothing skin sprays and gels containing herbal preparations are available to soothe and treat skin conditions topically.
Skin diets:  Various specialist diets are available to improve the skin and coat condition in animals. Hypoallergenic diets are commonly prescribed for allergic animals, and some of the ingredients are fish oil, rich in essential fatty acids (omega 3 and omega 6). It has been shown that the administration of diets or supplements rich in essential fatty acids is beneficial and helps to control allergy signs, apart from improving the skin barrier function in animals suffering from atopy.

Supplements:  Herbal and homeopathic preparations to assist with treating skin conditions and supporting the immune system.

Other treatments your vet may consider:  Cortisone, antihistamines, immunotherapy. Ask your vet about the side effects of long term use of these products.