You likely know how miserable spring allergy season can be, with your nonstop sneezing, congestion, and itchy, watery eyes. But, did you know that allergies to pollen, mold, dust mites, fleas, and more can make your pet equally uncomfortable? Like people, pets can suffer from a variety of allergies that can crop up seasonally or be present year-round. However, allergies in pets manifest differently than in people. Rather than suffering from the classic hay fever signs, pets tend to suffer with skin issues. To highlight the differences in allergies between pets and people, let’s examine the case of itchy Ichabod’s seasonal allergies.*
Itchy Ichabod’s pet allergy problem
Ichabod, a white American pit bull terrier, sighs heavily, and lays his head back down as another family passes by his kennel door without stopping. This poor pup was found as a stray a month ago, and, while he’s been enjoying two solid meals a day and a ton of love from the shelter staff, he wants to be part of a family. However, Ichabod is not the cutest of dogs at the moment. When he was picked up from his dumpster-diving routine, he was a hot, itchy mess of pink skin, missing fur, and stinky double ear infections. Based on his appearance, the shelter staff named him Ichabod, and affectionately nicknamed him Icky.
After a month of dedicated treatment from the shelter staff and veterinarian, Ichabod needs a new name to match his healed skin condition, but he has to wait until he finds his perfect family. Then, only a few days later, a family of four strolls the aisles and stops in front of his kennel. The two children are delighted with his wiggling hind end, happy grin, and soulful chocolate-brown eyes gazing at them, and beg their parents to let them play with Ichabod. The shelter staff happily allows the family and the dog to go to a playroom to get better acquainted.
The family immediately falls in love with the sweet, 80-pound lap dog, who slathers their faces with sloppy kisses. Ichabod has no interest in leaving their side, and is content to soak up all the attention from the two children who roll around on the ground with their new four-legged friend. The family, of course, decides to welcome Ichabod into their home, and lets the shelter staff know. They are then asked to speak to the shelter veterinarian about the dog’s skin issues.
Dr. Smith, the shelter veterinarian, greets Ichabod’s new family. Since he has been dealing with the dog’s skin issues since he arrived at the shelter, he knows the family is taking on a lot, and wants to ensure they can handle the dog’s future problems.
The veterinarian explains, “Ichabod had severe skin allergies when he arrived at our shelter, and his skin was a wreck. Dogs and cats can have allergies, like people, but they usually show signs through their skin, rather than watery eyes and sneezing. Ichabod had hair loss, pink skin, and double ear infections, and he was constantly scratching, licking, and chewing any spot he could reach on his body. Since it’s the height of spring allergy season for people, we’re hoping Ichabod has only seasonal allergies, and they won’t flare up year-round, but that’s a possibility.
“Fortunately, he responded incredibly well to his treatment plan. We gave him medicated baths twice a week to battle bacterial and yeast infections caused by all his licking. We thoroughly cleaned his ears, and also applied a long-lasting medication to handle his combination yeast and bacterial infections, along with a steroid to help reduce the itchy inflammation. I did not want to use steroids long-term for Ichabod, since other medications are available that can help reduce allergy responses with fewer side effects. I chose Cytopoint for his main treatment, because this injection can last a month or longer in most dogs, and acts similar to the body’s own immune system by targeting and neutralizing only the main protein that causes the itch.
“This treatment plan has worked well—you can see that Ichabod’s skin and fur look great! However, allergies can change as he ages, and managing this condition is a lifelong commitment. I want you to be prepared that Ichabod will have allergy flares all his life, but a good relationship with your veterinarian can help keep him comfortable and itch-free.”
Ichabod’s new mom is grateful for the advice, and responds, “We’re so glad you warned us about Ichabod’s allergies, rather than letting us be surprised later. We had an English bulldog once, so we’re well-versed in managing pet allergies. Dr. Campbell at Palmer Vet Clinic has been our family veterinarian for years, and we’re on a first-name basis with the entire team from all our visits with our bulldog. I know the staff will take great care of Ichabod and help keep his allergies under control, no matter how they change in the future. We’re delighted to welcome this loving pup into our family!”
Ichabod settled into his new home and remained itch-free until the following pollen-filled spring, when his allergies re-emerged. As time went on, his allergies worsened, and his flares occurred year-round. His veterinary team tested him for allergies and started him on immunotherapy, which is essentially an allergy vaccine. He had to remain on immunotherapy, and also required additional therapies when he was extremely itchy, but he was comfortable and happy the rest of his days.
*While Ichabod is a fictitious pet, many cats and dogs suffer from the same exact problem as this poor itchy dog.
Although we can’t help you with your seasonal allergy problems, our Palmer Vet Clinic team can certainly help make your furry pal comfortable during allergy season and beyond. Give us a call to schedule your pet’s appointment so they can get back to enjoying the warm weather without itching, scratching, and chewing.