The Itch is On!

My Take Tuesday: The Itch Is On!

Spring is a beautiful time of year in Utah County! As winter loses it overpowering grip, new life emerges. The smell of flowers, fresh green grass and the sound of birds chirping will invoke feelings of happiness in those yearning for warmer weather.

During springtime, a dichotomy of sorts is presented. While I love this time of year immensely, its arrival brings in the annual ritual of sniffling and sneezing, a runny nose and itchy eyes. Atopy, the genetic predisposition to allergies, has plagued my family for generations. We all have severe allergies to grass, alfalfa and flowers.

While growing up, a rosebush outside my bedroom window would bloom beautifully this time of year. This rosebush brought me seasonal misery and debilitating symptoms and endless nights of wheezing, sniffing and itchy red eyes. I hated that rosebush! I remember having such severe attacks, that I would lay in bed with a cold washcloth over my eyes, unable to sleep or do anything productive. On the worst of these nights, I scribbled a journal entry at the height of allergy season that simply read, “Today more allergies, oh I hate them.”

I have sympathy for my veterinary patients that suffer from allergies. All to frequently, they present in complete disarray. Instead of the runny noses, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing allergies mean to many people, pet allergies typically show up as scratching, chewing, rubbing, head-shaking or severe ear infections. Often dogs present with bleeding paws and open sores all over their body. These lesions are caused by continuous scratching. This insatiable itch drives them crazy. Every waking hour they spend trying to scratch the itch away.

Allergies are by far the most common illness I see as a veterinarian. It is sad to see pets suffering so. When pets suffer, they are at least as miserable as we are — and likely much more.

With each case, we try to provide suggestions specific to your pet, your region and your season, but in general, you can help your pet a great deal with an allergy-prevention regimen in the home.

Concurrently, you can limit the amount of dust and other irritants pets sweep up in their coats by vacuuming and using electrostatic cleaning products (such as Swiffers) on floor surfaces as well as using room or whole house filtration systems. And while you may have heard that frequent shampooing strips the skin of essential oils, veterinary dermatologists now recommend bathing pets at least every week (up to everyday for extremely at-risk, allergic pets) during the spring and summer to help wash allergens off the coat and skin before they can be absorbed and trigger an allergic reaction. Spray-on products or wipes for a dry bath will often do the trick and may be a great deal easier than bathing for some dogs and almost all cats.

Often, it’s not just about airborne allergens or parasites: Pets suffer from food allergies as well. Allergy reactions to pet food are usually caused by proteins, and can include beef, egg, milk or cheese products, soy or even fish. If food allergies are suspected, your veterinarian will guide you through food-elimination trials to find the culprit and recommend a diet that’s both nutritionally complete and contains pre-digested proteins. If your dog suffers from a food allergy but still needs to take medications, Greenies Pill Pockets Allergy Formula capsules may help. These are little pouches, made from peas and duck that facilitate medication administration by providing a yummy pocket for a pill.

Please don’t let your pets suffer. Schedule an appointment and let’s work together to provide the life free of pain and suffering that each of your four-legged family members deserve.

With modern veterinary options and a world of new products to help, the pet with allergies can be managed better than ever before. And that means you and your pet will both sleep better, after you’ve stopped the itch.

And that is my take!

N. Isaac Bott, DVM

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