Allergies. Is your dog endlessly scratching? Is your dog chewing on his paws? Does your dog’s scratching and itching keep you up at night? Thinking it is just fleas? Well, maybe not… Most people think that when their pet is scratching and itching, it must be fleas. But most concerned pet owners are routinely using preventative flea products and yet their pets continue to scratch and itch. If a pet owner is using flea preventative products and the itching still continues, then further investigation is warranted.
The hot weather seems to be the worst of times for our poor pets. They chew, lick, scratch, scoot and tear their hair out. Their paws turn red and they get ear infections as well as hot spots. While it could be fleas, mites, parasites or mange, most of the time, it is allergies! Just as many of us experience hay fever and develop respiratory symptoms, our pets with allergies often develop skin issues. Allergies can be both environmental and food related.
Conventional veterinary treatment for allergies involves treatment with cortisone, antibiotics, allergy shots, antihistamines, shampoos and topical treatments. All of these can be very helpful for our pets and give them much needed immediate relief. But many of our pets have much more chronic problems and the symptoms return as soon as the medicines wear off. This is where holistic veterinary care can become especially valuable. Holistic veterinary care involves the use of a hypoallergenic diet and supplements to address the pet’s underlying condition. Many times pets have a chronic yeast condition which weakens their immune system. Pets with allergy problems typically have digestive disorders and since a great deal of our immune system is located in the GI tract, there is a direct correlation. Minimizing allergy symptoms is often directly related to quieting the inflammation in the digestive systyem.
Here are some general points about allergies you should be aware of:
- Allergies are cumulative. In other words, a pet may have both food and environmental allergies but the symptoms only become noticeable during certain times of the year. This doesn’t mean your pet doesn’t have allergic reactions all the time. It just means that the situation builds up similar to a balloon that fills up with air until it pops. In your pet’s case, it may mean that all of a sudden your pet has hot spots or starts chewing on its paws or rear end during the hot summer months but most likely has underlying digestive issues all year round..
- Cats and dogs may display allergy symptoms differently. Cats may have respiratory symptoms, vomiting and other digestive disorders due to allergies as well as skin reactions. Dogs may have scratching, itching, chewing on fur, ear infections, scooting on their rear end and weepy eyes.
- Most of the time, pets have BOTH food and environmental allergies. There is no one medication or supplement that will cure your pet’s symptoms. Skin problems are tough and require a comprehensive effort. Using the following protocol for your pet can be helpful:
- Topical treatment in the form of therapeutic baths (available from your veterinarian) and natural sprays (If your pet is allergic to grass, try washing paws after going outside)
- Special hypoallergenic diet—Keep the following ingredients out of your pet’s diet. There is no “one” allergy diet that works for everyone. Each pet is different. You will need to try a few diets and/or learn how to prepare a homemade diet. Dr. Carol offers consultations via telephone or in person. Call her toll free 1-866-372-2765 for details.
Common Allergens in Pet Food
- Gluten (found in wheat, barley, spelt and other grains)
- Milk Products
- Casein (found in cheese)
- Beef (problem for some dogs)
- Chicken (problem for some cats and dogs)
- Fish (cats can often be allergic)
- Peanut Butter (big allergen!)
• Air purifier—an air purifier can greatly help with environmental allergies. Try to get one that either has a hepa filter or ozone purifier. You and your pets can still benefit from an air purifier even if doors and windows are frequently left open.
- Use supplements to help your pet cope with allergy season, reduce inflammation and overall discomfort . Be sure to include a generous amount of Omega 3’s from fish and flax oil, bioflavanoids such as quercetin, digestive enzymes and an effective probiotic. There are also some homeopathic and Chinese remedies that are very helpful for controlling allergy symptoms.
- Finally, if your pet is suffering from allergies, please be advised that there is usually no “quick fix”. Medications such as prednisone, antibiotics and antihistamines can provide short-term relief but a comprehensive holistic protocol can help heal your pet for the long-term. Before using any holistic protocol, an initial visit to your veterinarian is warranted. This is because skin issues can be a sign of an underlying endocrine condition such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease and/or your pet may have some serious infections that need to be addressed as well. A veterinarian exam, blood test and doctor’s diagnoses regarding the type of infections your pet has are critical to help your pet get well. Using a combination of both conventional and holistic veterinary medicine seems to deliver the best results for dogs and cats with allergies and skin problems.