In Houston, we’re no strangers to allergies. It seems that we suffer more than our friends and families who live elsewhere. In the spring, not only are our pets closer to the ground where the nasty pollen is, but their fur coats and pads on their feet are like magnets that attract these offending particles.
Often, we only realize our pets have allergies when they already have a staph or ear infection. This is why it is important to be on the lookout for allergy symptoms early on.
SIGNS OF ALLERGIES
1. Look at their Ears, Eyes and Feet first.
- Lift up their ear flaps. Do they feel hot? Is there any wax, redness or odor?
- Do they have watery eyes, gunk or loss of hair?
- Are they red, inflamed, loss of hair or discolored?
2. Watch their behavior. Tell-tale signs of allergies include:
- Rubbing face against the furniture or floor
- Constant licking and chewing of feet
- Scratching their ears or hind quarters
3. Look at skin and areas that they are scratching and licking. Constant scratching can lead to open sores and welts.
The three primary causes of allergies in dogs are FOOD, FLEAS and ENVIRONMENT (atopic or inhalant). The severity of allergies can be also due to an underlying weak immune system. When an allergic reaction occurs the constant assault on their bodies causes secondary infections such as ear, urinary tract and skin infections. When an allergic reaction occurs, our pet’s immune system tries to get rid of it – that is why we usually observe signs at exit points of the body such as feet, ears, eyes and private areas. The stronger your pet’s immune system is the better it can fight off allergies.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
Like with their pet parents, allergies can show up at any age. Your vet can be instrumental in helping easing their symptoms. However, more importantly, you need to do some detective work and figure out what they are allergic to.
MANAGE THEIR FOOD
Top allergens are corn, soy, wheat and proteins that they have eaten before (i.e.: chicken). Other ingredients include grains, grain fractures, preservatives and processed ingredients.
Start an elimination diet so you can pinpoint what not to feed. My rule of thumb is to feed a less processed diet. Stay away from corn, soy, wheat and proteins that they have regularly eaten in the past. This also includes any treats. Once the allergy disappears, you can slowly add in new things and observe if it triggers any allergic reactions. The secondary benefit of a less processed diet is that they are eating healthier, and it will strengthen their immune system. If their issues are severe, you should look for a food with the least amount of ingredients. A good food would be California Natural which has anywhere from 3-5 ingredients. Once you get their symptoms under control, you can look to expand to foods with a single protein and added fruits and vegetables.
PROTECT AGAINST FLEAS AND MOSQUITOS
The bite of a single flea can trigger itchiness for weeks. Make sure to protect against fleas and mosquitoes. In Houston, with the milder weather they can be more severe than in other places. In addition to monthly topical treatments there are natural sprays and shampoos that can help. Products such as Natural Chemistry will help with bedding, yards are safe to use on cats and dogs. A natural flea and mosquito killer is food grade diatomaceous earth. Look for natural sprays include neem or eucalyptus natural products such as Ark Naturals neem or flea or natural flea essential oil products.
PROTECT AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENT
This is the hardest one to control. Top environment allergens include tree, grass and weed pollens, mold spores, dust, dander, cleaning products, fabrics, toys, perfumes, insecticides, rubber and plastics, cigarette smoke, prescription pills, and in some cases pet vaccinations. Some of these we can easily change (don’t smoke in front of your pet) but we cannot stop springtime pollen.
Your best defense is a good offense. You should focus on improving your pet’s immune system through a healthy diet and using supplements like probiotics, salmon or coconut oil or herbsmith immunity support. Many people have used Benedryl in the past with mixed results. There are a couple of excellent products that I would recommend to anyone that has a pet with allergies. These products are specially formulated for pets with allergy and skin issues.
- Herbsmith Allergy Solution
- This helps neutralize allergies symptoms, such as itchiness, goopiness and inflamed ears, before they start.
- Safe for eye, ears and skin issues. It kills bacteria, staph and cuts.
- Homeopet Skin & Itch, Seborrhea and Hot Spots Drops
- Taken internally, it neutralizes allergies.
Allergies are part of life for us and our pets. Make sure to look for common signs of allergies such as itchy skin, smelly ears and coat, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting.
Since prevention is key, plan ahead before triggers such as springtime allergens or flea season starts. We can’t control the environment or fleas, but we can control our pet’s health and how their bodies react when allergies hit.