Spring and summer can be an itchy, uncomfortable time for some dogs. Today Dr. Eloise from Love That Pet vet clinic Darlinghurst talks about some of the ways to help your dog gain some comfort this allergy season.
Allergies in pets are very common and there are so many different causes. Your dog can be allergic to something in their food, fleas, suffer from contact allergies or atopic dermatitis. Dogs with allergies get frequent ear infections, lick or chew their feet, experience skin rashes, often have an itchy bottom or anal gland problems and may get irritated, watery eyes. For some pets one symptom is particularly bad, for example your dog might just get an ear infection every springtime.
What is Atopic Dermatitis?
For those dogs unlucky enough to experience atopic dermatitis, the cause can be challenging and sometimes costly to identify. Atopic dogs tend to have seasonal allergies, depending on what they are allergic to, similar to humans that experience hay-fever. They might be allergic to pollens, dust, grasses or anything that is airborne. For these dogs, short of keeping them in a bubble, it will be hard to remove the cause of the allergy entirely.
When to See the Vet
Dogs with allergies are very prone to developing infections on the skin, both fungal and bacterial. They are usually red, smelly and extremely itchy. If the infection has extended into the ears, your dog might shake his head, scratch at the ears, or you might just notice a pretty foul smell. This is the time you really need help from your vet for medications. A good relationship with your vet will help you get through the process required to identify the cause of your pet’s allergies, or if that is not possible, to work out a strategy that works for both you and your pet.
Managing Mild Allergies
All allergy prone pets are different and in my many years helping pet owners manage their pet’s allergies I find that different things work for different families too. Not everyone can wash their dog weekly, and for some dogs that can even exacerbate the problems. The things that I have found do work include:
- Oatmeal-based shampoo therapy weekly, like Aloveen. The oatmeal is soothing and the regular shampoo will remove any allergens like pollen granules from the coat, so they don’t keep on causing irritation.
- Wipe your pet down after coming inside with a damp towel, particularly the problem areas like the feet. Again, the idea is to remove any allergens from the skin and coat.
- Use omega 3 and 6 fatty acids ideally in the correct ratio to reduce inflammation and allergy. My favourite is Dermoscent weekly (on the back of the neck), since it makes dogs smell nice. This strategy is particularly important for dogs with dry, flaky skin.
- Use QV bath oil at the concentration on the bottle and allow your dog a nice soak for 10 minutes, just don’t let them drink the water and keep it away from those ears!
- Wash bedding weekly on a hot cycle in the washing machine (over 60 °C or 140°F) will help to kill any dust mites and fleas.
- Strict flea control with the fastest flea product available, Comfortis. Even if fleas are not the cause of your pet’s allergies, we do find that switching to Comfortis helps the overall itch level.
- Vacuum twice weekly to reduce allergens in the home.
- Topical treatment using cortisone creams or sprays can often manage symptoms without having to get out the ‘big guns’ and put your dog on those little blue prednisone or steroid pills. Ask your vet if you can get some Cortavance spray next time you go. It’s brilliant at getting through the hair, particularly on those feet.
- Antihistamines can work well for some dogs, particularly if combined with fish oils and shampoo therapy. Just check with your vet which dose to use, and you can buy over the counter human varieties. They don’t work in dogs as efficiently as humans, but they are very safe to use and may just cause some drowsiness, just don’t let your dog drive the car!
- Medicated shampoos are useful to use when you notice the skin is starting to get red. This usually means there is a secondary infection on the way. You can often nip it in the bud with a good Malaseb or Pyohex wash and hopefully avoid the need for antibiotics. For dogs that have generally smelly, greasy skin and skin folds (like English Bulldogs and Shar Peis), a weekly Malaseb wash can help with fungal infections.
Allergies can be challenging and frustrating for our pets and of course their families. No one likes to watch their furry friend itch and scratch their way through spring and summer. We hope some of these strategies help your dog beat the seasonal itch this year.
What remedies have you found work well for your own pets?