Does your dog scratch, lick or nibble their own body's as soon as warmer temperature arises in the spring or summer months? This could be in relation to an environmental disease called seasonal allergies. Yes, our pets, just like us, can have skin irritations to the most common environmental allergens such as the trees, grasses, weeds, mites, fungi/moulds, etc. It is known that 10 to 30% of dogs that present themselves to their veterinarian's with a skin irritation, such as redness, bleeding or scabbing, are tested positive for seasonal allergies.
It is important to keep into consideration that their are two types of allergies which your pets can suffer from: food allergies and environmental allergies. We ask pet owners to watch their pets year-round for any skin flare-ups. If your pet tends to get itchy during the warmer seasons such as spring, summer or fall, your pet is most likely reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. But if your pet's symptoms persist all year long even during the winter time, most likely the sensitivity is to something other than it's environment, and more with their current diet.
Is my pet suffering from Seasonal Allergies?
Dogs and cats who have allergies present themselves with skin irritations, also known as allergic dermatitis or inflammation of the derma or skin. Since this condition causes the inflammation of the largest organ of the body, the skin, the animal can become restless and cause them to scratch, bite or chew their skin to the point of blood and for some extreme cases right to the bone. Some pets may also rub themselves against vertical and horizontal surfaces such as furniture, walls, carpet, grass even concrete. This behaviour is a sign of relief by any means possible since they cannot communicate their discomfort verbally. Other signs of allergic dermatitis are vocalizing to touch (the areas which have been gnawed down to the lower more sensitive tissues), alopecia also known as hair loss, scabbing and the build up of puss over the open sores.
What is a Seasonal Allergy?
A seasonal allergy is a reaction produced by the pet's immune system where being in contact to a specific allergen, releases chemicals such as histamine into the bloodstream in order to defend itself against this intruder (allergen). This chemical response within the body causes the itchy reaction. When an allergen is inhaled or penetrates the skin, it causes the allergic pet to have an excessive immune response. This is where an inflammation develops, causing the pet to itch. The most common affected areas are the face, paws, and the abdomen. By scratching and biting, the animal in question damages the skin and promotes the development of skin infections such as yeasts and bacteria. This causes the skin to become red and dry, this is where we normally see formation of scabs and puss. Their is also possibility of hair loss and the formation of pimples. The inflammation of the ear, also known as otitis, the inflammation of the nose, rhinitis, and the irritation of the eyes, conjunctivitis are all medical conditions that are secondary to an allergic reaction.
When can a Seasonal reaction occur?
It is known that dermatitis can occur when a pet is still in it's development stage. A young pup or kitten can present itself to an animal clinic at the age of 4 to 6 months with an inflamed stomach, inflamed ears and sometimes even a mild ear infection. Not knowing the cause of the flare-up, a veterinarian can prescribe an anti-histamine medication to relieve the apparent symptoms for the time being. What most owners can notice is that every year, around the same time, when the temperature rises above freezing, their is a reoccurring skin problem, small or large irritation of the derma, in which they question the source. It is important for all pet owners to know and understand that the more their pet is exposed to the allergen they are sensitive to, the more sever the response can become. It isn't irregular for a pet's reaction towards environmental allergens to go from May to September and prolong the following years to an all year ongoing problem. It is important to find the source on the allergic reactions to aide your pet and reduce the risk of an escalating response year after year.
Seasonal allergies can affect pets as young at 6 months and continue through their adult life. Their first manifestation can occur as late as 1 year and 3 years of age. Puppies and kittens whose parents have a sensitivity to allergic dermatitis are more likely to develop the same allergies in their adulthood. Some breeds, such as the golden retriever's, boxer's and shih-Tzu's, are the most common breeds that are affected by seasonal allergies.
What to do if your pet is showing signs of an allergy reaction?
If your pet is presenting itself with some, if not all symptoms associated with allergic dermatitis, it is highly recommended to have your pet examined by your veterinarian immediately. Seasonal allergies will not subside with time, without any treatment it will worsen to the point of no return. Ideally, running a blood test for specific allergens to your city is the best way to the diagnose this disease. Depending on the circumstances, your veterinarian may suggest a treatment related to skin parasites if he deems it necessary in order to rule out this possibility. Your veterinarian can than perform a skin scrapping to ensure that their are no dermic infections present such as bacteria or yeasts. Otherwise the infection should be controlled. If the itching persists, medication can be prescribed to control the symptoms the allergy such as antihistamines, cortisone, immune suppressants and anti-itch medications such as creams and injectable prescriptions. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure for your pet's allergies. Treatment is used to reduce the symptoms of the disease in order to offer a better quality of life to your pet therefore, allergy symptoms should be expected to recur year after year.
Although the diagnosis and treatment of skin disorders for our pets are sometimes long and frustrating, constant communication and collaboration between veterinarian and pet owner is essential. Let's work together to improve every pet's quality of life.