When Snookums gets a case of the itches
SUMMIT COUNTY – With spring in the air and “achoos” echoing throughout the county, some pets are doing their own share of sniffling, itching and scratching.
“Animals can be allergic to anything people can be,” said Christine Murphy, DVM, of Breckenridge Animal Clinic. “They can react to different kinds of plants, pollen, different kinds of food, dust mites … anything.”
Like allergies people suffer from, pet allergies can be both seasonal and year-round. But instead of having a box of Kleenex on standby, dogs and cats usually attempt to relieve their symptoms by scratching.
“They do more itching than anything else,” said veterinarian Mark Cowan of Animal Hospital of the High Country in Frisco. “You and I, if we have seasonal allergies, we’ll get watery eyes and a runny nose. They get itchy skin. You can see some watery eyes and sneezing in dogs and cats, but it’s not the main reason owners bring them in.”
“Animals’ allergies are usually less respiratory in nature,” Murphy said. “There are a series of itchy skins and recurrent ear infections. They chew on their feet and tails, and lick between their legs. Sometimes, some upper respiratory symptoms can be caused by skin problems. Dogs and cats have skin components in the lining of their ears. And the eyes are an extension of the skin. With pet allergies, you can still see runny, itchy eyes, or their anal glands can get infected. It depends on how severe the allergies are.”
When local veterinarians diagnose pets with severe allergies, they often send them to Denver dermatologists to undergo tests to research the cause of the allergy.
“If it’s real intermittent allergies, they’re treated symptomatically, with antihistamines,” Murphy said. “If they’re more severe, it’s best to find out what’s causing it by seeing a dermatologist. They shave a side of their body and run a series of tests. It’s the most accurate way to find out, but the most expensive. Sometimes, we take blood and send it out to a lab to check for antibodies. It’s less accurate than skin testing, but helps in most cases.”
Summit County pets are lucky to not be subjected to fleas as are pets in other parts of the world. Vets say flea bites are the No. 1 cause of pet allergies.
However, Murphy said dogs in Summit County sometimes have allergic reactions on their feet from walking in moldy areas left by melted snow. For this, she recommends drawing a shallow bath with Aveeno (a human product available in the grocery store) and letting them stand in it a couple times a week.
For other seasonal allergies, antihistamine recommendations include Benadryl and oatmeal-based shampoos found at local pet stores.
“Some shampoos have steroids to quiet down itchiness,” Cowan said. “If it’s a real mild case of allergies and the animal’s not tearing itself up scratching, antihistamines and special shampoos work well until the allergen or pollen is out of the environment.”
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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