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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Apr 02, 2016 01:49AM ● By Mary Oquendo

According to Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), over 90,000 claims for canine allergy were submitted in 2014 to the tune of $8.1 million. And that’s number two on their claim list. The number one claim is ear infections. While exact figures are not available, it’s highly probable that many of those ear infection claims are also allergy- related. Though not as common in cats, allergies still made it into VPI’s top 10-claim list for cats.

It’s safe to say that allergies are a significant issue for both our canine and feline friends.

What is an allergy?

An allergic response occurs when the immune system decides that a normally safe substance is now a threat. There are four different types of allergies; atopy, contact dermatitis, fleabite dermatitis and food allergies. The substance that causes the allergy is called an allergen, sometimes referred to as the trigger.

Atopy is the most common. Environmental in nature and usually seasonal, examples include pollen, dust mites and mold.

Contact dermatitis occurs when the pet comes in contact with the irritant, such as rugs, household cleaners, shampoos and perfumes.

Fleabite dermatitis is caused by an exaggerated response to a fleabite. This pet does not have to be infested; a single bite will do it.

Food allergies happen when a pet ingests one or more ingredients that are triggers. Many times, food allergies occur in conjunction with atopy, which makes pinpointing the offending substance that much harder.

Typical symptoms of allergic reactions run the gamut:
• Itching
• Odor from body and/or ears
• Skin infections including secondary bacterial infections
• Anal scooting
• Face rubbing
• Burping
• Flatulence
• Ear infections
• Vomiting
• Diarrhea
• Increased bowel movements
• Licking
• Swollen lymph nodes
• Hives
• Conjunctivitis
• Wheezing
• Coat loss

A pet with allergies may exhibit one or any combination of the above symptoms. As symptoms can vary, it can be difficult to initially diagnose allergies. There are three common allergy tests.

A radio allergosorbent serum test (RAST) is a blood test for specific allergens. It gauges the blood’s reaction to individual antibodies. As it is not cost-effective to screen for every antibody, this test usually covers the most common allergens.

An intradermal skin test is similar to RAST in that it checks for specific allergens. A small amount of an allergen is injected into a shaved area on their body and reactions are noted.

Food elimination diets begin with a select ingredient or two, usually a protein or a grain/vegetable. Different foods are then added one at a time at specific intervals to determine which foods are triggers.

The problem with allergy testing is that is not necessarily accurate and may be costly. It may be worth it depending on the situation, however, since untreated allergies can lead to many more serious conditions.Not only are chronic ear infections painful, over time they can lead to hematomas, deafness or other serious medical concerns.

Skin irritations caused by scratching can turn into staphylococcus, streptococcus and pseudomonas infections, which are difficult to treat.

Rectal and anal sac abscesses can be caused by scooting.

Weight loss and digestive upset can occur as a result of food allergies.

Chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, asthma, chronic urinary tract infections and inflammatory bowel disease are possibilities.

Some scientific evidence suggests a correlation between allergies and cancer. Currently available studies are inconclusive and in opposition to each other. Some indicate an increased probability, while others suggest a decreased risk of cancer.

Treatment

You would think that removing the allergen from the pet’s environment is the way to go, but it can be impractical. If your pet is allergic to pine trees, you can hardly deforest your neighborhood.

The conventional approach is to treat the outward manifestations, then add steroids, antihistamines or immune-suppressing drugs. A holistic veterinarian would treat the physical ailments, and then detoxify the pet’s body and enhance the immune system, as well as discuss dietary and environmental changes. Other modalities that may offer relief to the allergic pet include Bach flower therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic, Reiki and crystal therapy.

An allergic pet is a miserable pet. Changing the approach to the treatment of allergies can reduce or even eliminate those symptoms, resulting in a happier pet.

Mary Oquendo is a Reiki master, advanced crystal master and certified master pet tech pet first aid instructor. She is the co-owner of Hands and Paws-Reiki for All. She can be reached at HandsandPawsReiki.com.

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