Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 14, 2011

The dawn of spring allergies

Pet Talk Staff
CNHI News Service

As the trees start to pollinate, the spring season begins to dawn and so do those pesky allergies.

A time to put the winter cold past us, but it's not always a pleasant time for those with allergies.

Many pets are affected by spring allergies, so be on the lookout for signs of discomfort.

According to Dr. Adam Patterson, clinical assistant professor and a board certified dermatologist at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), an allergy is an exaggerated response in which the body’s immune system overreacts to normally harmless environmental substances known as allergens.

Patterson explains that animals can show signs of allergic reactions during a particular season or year-round dependent on what they are allergic to.

“Any cat and horse breed can be affected by allergies,” notes Patterson. “Any dog breed can also be affected, but there are certain breeds that are more susceptible to allergies, including: terriers, retrievers, Dalmatians, Shar Peis, and bulldogs.”

When people encounter allergic reactions, they tend to sneeze and wheeze. Whereas, animals tend to itch and scratch their way to a hopeful recovery.

“An itch may be manifested as licking, chewing, biting, rubbing, scratching, head shaking, and/or scooting,” explains Patterson. "Every pet has its own itch tolerance which means the intensity and reason(s) for your pet’s itch may not be the same as another animal.”

If your pet does show any of these allergic signs, it is in everyone’s best interest to contact your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can develop a customized treatment plan for your pet so the itch can be alleviated.

“Treatments are tailored to the individual based on the extent, severity, and seasonality of signs,” says Patterson. “The ‘absolutes’ of therapy include: routine bathing to remove pollen accumulation, infection control (topical and/or systemic), and flea prevention."

Sometimes steroids are used to alleviate an itch. However, Patterson warns that long-term use of steroids can cause detrimental health problems.

The most common allergens that affect pets are fleas, food, pollen, molds, mites, insects, and dander. Your veterinarian can perform tests and personal evaluations based on many factors to help determine the culprits.

“Elimination diet trials are used to exclude food allergies,” notes Patterson. “Skin or blood ‘allergy’ testing is used to select candidate pollens for immunotherapy (oral allergy drops or allergy injections) in animals with an environmental allergy. ”

Allergies are more common in pets than most people believe. Ten percent of the canine population is affected by allergies. It is important to be aware of the allergic signs and notify a veterinarian when the symptoms persist.

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University.CNHI News Service distributes this column.