Spring is here and so too are those pesky airborne allergens that hay fever sufferers dread!
It might surprise you that many breeds of cats and dogs are also susceptible to seasonal allergies. Whilst for humans, airborne particles are inhaled and the allergic reaction is presented as sneezing and sniffling, for our pets, airborne particles such as pollens, moulds and dust etc. gain entry to the skin through a defective skin barrier. The immune system becomes inflamed, the itching and scratching begins and the resulting condition is atopic dermatitis (atopy).
Symptoms to Look Out For
There are certain indicators that pet owners can watch for to determine whether seasonal allergies are affecting their furry friend.
- Licking Front Feet
- A classic feature of atopy is licking or chewing the top of the feet or between the toes.
- Irritated Ear Flaps
- The non-haired (inside) portion of the ear flap has become greasy, red, thickened and/or smelly.
- Yeast Infections in the Skin
- Skin resembles elephant skin or tree bark and frequently becomes smelly, thickened or pigmented (dark).
Diagnosing Atopic Dermatitis
There are many causes of itchy skin in animals, including food or flea bite allergies, parasites and secondary infection, and in many cases, there are multiple causes in the same animal. To differentiate from these irritants, our veterinarians will use the following criteria to determine whether your pet has an environmental allergy – age of the animal when symptoms began, indoor vs outdoor lifestyle, response to steroids, response to food trials, location of the scratching or infections and, of course, seasonality.
Diagnosing atopic dermatitis can be a time-consuming process, as often it is a process of elimination to rule out other skin conditions.
A wide range of medical treatments are available depending on the severity of the symptoms, from topical itch relief to hyposensitisation. Multiple prescription treatments are available including some newer medications that are safer long-term than the traditional steroid anti-inflammatories. Home remedies include supplements, antihistamines and therapeutic shampoos. Removing common allergens from the environment by way of washing bedding regularly, keeping your pet away from known triggers in the garden and at the park, and feeding diets designed for allergy and skin management will also help reduce the likelihood and severity of atopy.
It is important to remember that results may differ for each individual patient but the goal of healthy comfortable skin can usually be achieved.
Unfortunately, there are some breeds that are genetically predisposed to developing atopy. In dogs, this includes Staffordshire Terriers, Golden Retrievers, West Highland White Terriers, Shar Peis, Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, Boxers and Pugs and in cats, atopy is more prevalent in oriental breeds including Siamese.
If your moggy or pooch is one of the breeds listed above or is showing signs of being itchy and uncomfortable, be sure to keep a close eye on them and take note of any change in their skin condition and behaviour.
Give our friendly team a call on (08) 9277 7488 to discuss how we can tailor a treatment plan for your pet or complete our online enquiry form to book an appointment with one of our experienced veterinarians.