Welcome back and happy fall season, everyone. I am always thankful for the opportunity to share some medical knowledge through the Woof column about the care of our dogs and cats.
As many of you know from personal experience, the fall is considered allergy season here in Texas. In fact, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Dallas ranks second in the nation for the worst environmental allergies (2023 Allergy Capitals).
Unfortunately, many things that cause allergies in humans also affect our dogs and cats.
Environmental allergies, the most common type of allergies that we encounter with our pets, can affect our babies in different ways. And these allergies can be seasonal, nonseasonal or even year-round in more extreme cases.
There is a common misconception pets that barely go outside do not suffer from allergies. All dogs and cats, even if strictly indoors, are exposed to allergens and can suffer from environmental allergies.
The most common symptom or clinical sign associated with environmental allergies is itchiness, which can present as excessive chewing, scratching and/or licking.
Cats and dogs can normally itch a few times during the day and not be suffering from allergies. But if it seems more prevalent than the usual, then we consider that our baby may have allergies.
We can also see skin infections/irritations, ear infections and coughing/sneezing caused by allergies.
That being said, please be aware that allergies are not the only cause of itchiness. It is also important to know that there are other common causes of allergies or itchiness, including skin parasites and food allergies (although the latter is not as common as some people may think). But we will focus on environmental allergies in this Woof column.
Testing our pets for environmental allergies through a veterinarian is an option, and it will tell us not just what exactly they may be allergic to but also allow us to create a personalized treatment specific to our pet and his/her needs.
Nevertheless, most of us veterinarians may not recommend this as the first option because we have amazing anti-allergy medications that can be used right away and if positive responses are seen, most of us commit to these options, just like we do with ourselves. If for any reason we do not see a positive response to medical management, then we might suggests multiple tests, including allergy testing and skin or ear tests to rule out common causes of skin/ear issues seen with our pets.
We may also recommend blood work to rule out other causes that may lead to skin/ear problems, like thyroid disease.
Your doctor may also discuss referral to a veterinary dermatologist, based on what may be going on with your loved one.
Some pet parents ask if some human anti-allergy medications work for our fur babies; the answer is yes, but from my experience, these medications typically work only if our babies have milder allergies. Even then, I always recommend a consultation and physical exam with your veterinarian, as your doctor may find causes of itchiness that are not related to environmental allergies.
If these common anti-allergy medications do not provide relief, your doctor may suggest a prescription drug and/or testing. As mentioned prior, we have medical options that are safer than steroids (although steroids are widely used, based on individual needs) and even novel injections against environmental allergies.
Having a thorough ear care routine will also be vital for many pets, but please consult with your doctor first. It might be recommended that you bathe your baby regularly with a specific shampoo or to give them specific skin supplements or feed them diets created to help our pets with environmental allergies.
Please be mindful that if we stop treating/managing environmental allergies (seasonally or year round), they will return, just like they do with us humans. This means that constant care and monitoring, along with communication with your doctor will be important to prevent the complications that can be seen with allergies that are not well managed. I recommend acting as soon as possible, because many of these problems can complicate very quickly and can be very uncomfortable for your baby.
As always, please consult with your veterinarian if your baby is not doing well and if you do not have a veterinarian, you are in luck because my hospital is in Addison. Thank you all so much for spending this time reading my column and I hope it has been educational! Abrazos, mi gente linda.
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital, 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110 in Addison. Call him at 972-738-1111 or visit IslaVet.com.