Seasonal Allergy: The hazards of springtime...
The wonders of spring abound! If you are sneezing with runny itchy eyes, it may not seem so wondrous to you. Pets suffer from seasonal allergies as well, although their symptoms present in a slightly different manner.
Allergic pets may exhibit behaviors such as redness, irritation or scratching, biting or chewing at paws, ears or axillary areas. Some pet owners may not notice these symptoms until more severe conditions appear such as hair loss, self-induced traumatic areas of dermatitis (termed “hot spots”), or broken skin and bleeding from excessive scratching. If the visuals weren’t a clue, bacterial infections may develop causing infected ears or skin and an unpleasant odor resulting in even more scratching.
Some pets find relief with over-the-counter medications, both topical and oral, to alleviate the itching. While these medications do not address the underlying cause of the itching, it may provide enough relief to carry a pet through the “allergy season”.
Unfortunately, some pets require more potent medications to bring relief and then a further investigation into determining and treating the underlying cause. If the allergy recurs within certain months of the year, then there is a good indication that the problem is seasonal allergies (atopy).
Pollens are released by plants throughout the year, not just in the Spring. As a general rule, trees pollinate in the Spring, grasses in the Summer and weeds in the Fall. Therefore, a highly allergic pet could exhibit allergic reactions at any time of the year and it depends on which pollens that are most sensitized to. An intradermal skin test may reveal the offending pollen and the doctor may recommend immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is actually “allergy shots” composed of the pollens or other items that the pet is allergic to and are given at regular intervals to introduce the allergen into the pet’s system, allowing his body to alter his immune response and try to teach his body tolerance to the offending allergen. This may, over time, reduce the clinical signs of the allergy.
For pets that are not good candidates for mild sedation, a blood sample can be drawn and a laboratory can identify the allergens affecting the pet.
As a reminder, a blood allergy test CANNOT identify a food allergy. There has been little conclusive evidence to indicate the accuracy of identifying a food allergy through a blood sample.
Blood serum lab tests test for allergies in a different way than the intradermal skin test, but still can provide valuable information to the veterinarian to help your pet.
So as the seasons change and your pet starts to display allergic behavior, it may be seasonal allergies and time to pursue some advanced diagnostics at Animal Dermatology Clinic to get some long term relief.
No Needles! Allergy drops may offer alternative to injections
An intradermal skin test may identify allergens affecting your allergic pet and up to 70% dogs find relief with allergy shots. But even though allergy shots may provide a solution to an allergic pet’s itch, there are some owners that cannot inject their pets at home; some cannot bring themselves to load the needle and effectively administer the shot. Whether it’s the squeamish factor or time constraints to follow the schedule, it’s a missed opportunity to bring relief to an itchy (or worse) dog or cat.
While many, many pet owners administer their own allergy shots at home, some never can achieve a comfort level in the long term (allergy shots are usually life-long). Some pet owners bring their pets into the clinic regularly and have a technician administer the injection.
A recent development now offers an oral method of immunotherapy. No needles! Sublingual immunotherapy involves placing drops of antigen, which is a serum extract consisting of the positive reactions from your pet’s allergy test, under the tongue twice a day. Recent studies have shown success with this method including some pets that did not have success with injections. Again, not all pets may find relief and other therapies may have to be attempted.
Ask your veterinarian if oral immunotherapy is the path for your allergic pet.