Spring and summer are creeping in for Southwest Michigan! As happy as many of us are to bask in the sunshine and thoroughly enjoy these warm days, for many of our pets spring also welcomes in that itchy, scratchy sensation that is allergy season. In an effort to optimize your pet's comfort this season and minimize those troublesome skin infections, we would like to remind you of the steps to take to optimize your pet's resistance.
1). Frequent bathing. The right kind of bath can soothe irritated skin, wash allergens off of the skin surface, and moisturize the skin (moist skin minimizes absorption of the allergens). Your pet should either be bathed in an aloe or oatmeal pet shampoo or a medicated shampoo as recommended by Dr. Bowles or Dr. King. Bathing should begin ideally before your pet's itching starts. Initially, try a frequency of once weekly. However, if the bath gives your pet relief but the itching starts up again 2 to 3 days later, increase the bathing frequency to twice weekly thru allergy season. If your pet has specific problem areas (for example just the feet are a problem or just the ears) these areas may need to be cleaned once daily. Please call if you have any questions regarding the right shampoo for your pet or would like a specific recommendation on how often to give those baths.
2.) Omega Fatty Acid Supplementation. Your pet can actually benefit from the anti-oxidants in these formulations year round. However, high doses of Omega Fatty Acids can also reduce inflammation (and therefore itchiness) and provide optimal skin and haircoat health (thereby creating a barrier to allergen absorption). We recommend that you use a trusted brand-name product (such as Omega TriV Caps) formulated for animals. Always follow label recommendations. Dr. Bowles or Dr. King may recommend increasing the dosage in individual cases.
3.) Avoid fleas! Many of our pets with "seasonal" allergies or atopy will also be allergic to fleas. In these cases, one little flea bite will be enough to cause intense itchiness and discomfort for your pet. If you know you live in a high flea pressure area or your pet has been diagnosed with a flea allergy, please use a flea adulticide in addition to an insect growth regulator as directed for your pet. Some forms of flea control can be combined with your monthly heartworm preventative. Please call to discuss your options!
4.) Anti-histamines. Antihistamines such as Benadryl, chlorpheniramine, and Zyrtec are yet another building block in allergy control. Just like humans, pets react differently to each of these medications. Each one should be given a good two week trial to assess its benefits and side effects. If one does not work or causes your pet to be drowsy, don't lose hope! Please call us for an alternate recommendation. As with the bathing, these medications should be started early - even before your pet begins to scratch.
5.) Your veterinarian!! Each patient has special needs and responds to treatment differently. We want to be a helpful resource for you and alleviate some of the frustration that can go hand in hand with caring for an allergic pet. We hope that this allergy season update has reminded you of some "tricks of the trade" that will keep your pet comfortable. Again, please call if you have any other questions or concerns!
Many wishes for a warm and wonderful summer!
Your friends at the Shaver Road Animal Hospital