Handling Environmental Allergens 6/2017
Pets and people share many things and environmental allergies are an uncomfortable example. People wheeze and sneeze while pets mostly scratch a patch. Chewing and licking their paws, legs and tummy while developing red irritated ears are the most frequently experienced signs. Don’t try to wait it out! Instead, figure it out with help from the vet.
What the vet will do:
1. Get a good history of the onset, duration and progression of the problem along with any past treatments given.
2. Do a thorough physical exam to assess overall health to see the extent of the problem and presence of complicating factors such as parasites, secondary infections and hormonal diseases.
3. If the problem seems complex or difficult to treat, an allergy test (usually a blood test) will be recommended.
4. Seasonal allergies (usually pollens) may be treated for a short duration with a prescription or long acting injection if they only occur every 4 to 12 months.
1. Antihistamines – some work, some don’t, depending on the individual. Benadryl probably doesn’t even stop the itching but will sedate most dogs enough to let them sleep without scratching all night.
2. Cytopoint injection – stops itching with antibodies that attach to the nerves. Lasts over 30 days, no side effects. Only stops inflammation by stopping the scratching, not the allergy reaction.
3. Corticosteroids – good for short term allergies (seasonal). Stops inflammation and itching fast. Short term side effects include panting, increased thirst and appetite plus increased urination. Doggie door advised!
4. Atopica (Cyclosporin) – immune suppressor, less problematic for long term treatment than corticosteroids. Side effects – gum overgrowth, hair follicle mite overgrowth.
5. Apoquel – fast acting anti-inflammatory and itch stopper rivaling steroids but can be used long term without serious side effects. Rarely hair follicle mites can also get out of control with this one too. (Hint-use Bravecto, Nexgard, or Simparica for fleas and ticks and they will prevent proliferation of hair follicle mites.)
6. Hyposensitization – injections or oral solution to build up the immune system to intercept allergens before they trigger allergy. May take months to work. Allergens not on the test will be missed. As with food allergy (previous article) all secondary bacterial and yeast infections must be eradicated and fleas controlled to get a satisfying result.
Remember that allergy test? Sometimes you find out that the biggest allergen is something you can just get away from, control, or get rid of. Examples are:
-Trees or grasses in your yard- cut down or change out
-Pet birds – move to their own room and keep the dog out
-House dust mites- desiccant powder in the carpet, dehumidifier, Mom’s favorite; New carpet, rugs, drapes, and furniture!
-Mold- remove/treat contaminated areas.
Why pay to treat your pet when you can get rid of the allergens? I encourage clients to go for the allergy test if their pet is chronically affected.
Last word – diagnosing and managing allergies can be simple or very complex. They usually start out simple, so the trick is to realize when it is turning more and more difficult and take your pet to the veterinarian.
My next article will tackle the subject of vaccines. The do’s and don’ts of vaccines you must know.
William Wiatt DVM