Does your dog wake you up at night licking their feet or scratching? Does your cat have daily sneezing episodes or intermittent vomiting? Well, these are just a few of the symptoms your pet may have as an allergy sufferer. Pet allergies are common but frustrating for pets and for pet owners. Unfortunately, no quick fix exist and making a diagnosis can take several vet visits and tests to get to the final diagnosis. It is up to veterinarians to have good communication with pet parents and it is important for the pet parent to be mindful that often allergies are not cured, but managed.
Pet allergies cover a wide range of symptoms. Dogs often are foot lickers, head shakers, belly scratchers, bottom scooters and/or face rubbers. Cats can have small scabs around their necks and head, bald bellies, vomiting, coughing, and/or chronically sneezing. The underlying cause of the symptoms can be hard to uncover and require careful investigation. Veterinarians can help uncover the cause of your pets allergies thus leading to a happier pet and pet parents.
The top three causes of pet allergies includes parasites, food allergies, and atopic dermatitis.
The most common cause of itchy skin is still the flea. If your pet has a lot of fleas, you'll find them. However, many pets that have a flea allergy dermatitis have no evidence of fleas on them at all. Pets can be so sensitive to flea saliva that only 1-2 fleas have to bite to ignite the skin to be itchy, leaving you totally confused and frustrated. Once the scratching starts, secondary skin infections can occur and cause the pet to remain itchy. One surprise to indoor cat owners is that fleas are often the cause of their cats itchiness. Indoor cats occasional escape even for a couple minutes and can pick up a flea, indoor cats often have a dog companion that a flea may hitch a ride indoors on, or fleas can get through some screened-in porches or windows. So the first thing an owner with an itchy pet should be doing is ensuring that the pet has been treated with a safe and effective flea control and repeating it as directed, often every 30 days. All the pets in the household should be treated with effective flea control to avoid infestation.
After flea allergy dermatitis has been ruled out, veterinarians usually move onto food allergy or environmental allergy. Food allergy patients are typically younger and some will have intermittent stomach upset or softer stools. Food allergies often are associated with recurrent ear infections starting early in life. Cats with food allergies will intermittently vomit. Remember pets are not allergic to specific diets but rather ingredients in the diet. If you ask around, everyone seems to be an expert on diets for pets. An over-the-counter hypoallergenic diet recommended by a well intentioned, local pet store employee is not typically going to improve the problem. Recent studies have shown that over-the-counter diets claiming to have specific or limited ingredients, when tested, actually had several other unlisted proteins and carbohydrates. This can lead to a worse response to the food and pet owners believing their pet may not have a food allergy when they still may. A pet owner that is concerned that their pet may have a food allergy needs to work with their veterinarian to select the correct diet and go through a monitored food trial to determine if this is the cause of your pets allergy symptoms.
Grass pollen and molds
Atopic Dermatitis is an itchy skin disease associated with environmental allergens, such as pollens and molds. Atopic dermatitis is commonly diagnosed based on a thorough history and elimination of parasites. As more studies are conducted, vets are finding a higher percentage of atopic patients also have food allergies. So some itchy pets may need a hypoallergenic diet as well as atopic dermatitis management.
Management of atopic dermatitis often includes therapeutic shampoos and adding fish oils to the diet that contain a high amount of omega 3 fatty acids and EPA. Antihistamines may help some mild allergy sufferers but these meds can sometimes be too weak. New medications (some new in the past 2 years) have revolutionized control of allergies. They include Atopica, oral allergy serums, and Apoquel. In many cases, these medications have worked wonders for pets.
Don't let your pet suffer from long term allergies. Please contact your veterinarian, or schedule a consultation at Blue Oasis Pet Hospital if you are frustrated with her pet's allergies and need better control. You're not alone in this, and your pet can live a healthier and happier life.
As a whole, our family pets are living longer and healthier lives. As our pets age, they develop very similar age related diseases as we do. One of the most common diseases in aging dogs and cats is osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD). Osteoarthritis is a slow erosion of the cartilage that lines the joints. As this cartilage erodes, bone rubs on bone and inflammation develops. As the disease advances, boney points (osteophytes) develop in the joint. We can see this on X-rays of the affected joints. Veterinarians are faced with managing the chronic pain and we want you to help recognize the problem and know of all the options for managing this painful disease.
Recognizing chronic pain in pets-
Pain in pets is often difficult to recognize because they are naturally inclined to hide their pain so that they don't draw attention to their weakness. But as osteoarthritis advances slowly, the signs of pain may be subtle, but constant. In order to help determine if your pet may be suffering in silence, look for these signs at home.
Management of Osteoarthritis in pets
A multimodal (using several methods or medications) approach to managing chronic joint disease is currently the most effective and safest way to manage a pet's pain. Often focusing on only one therapeutic method will not be as helpful as doing many at the same time.
It’s true. Bad behavior in pets is everywhere. They’re also a large cause of frustration for pet owners. A lot of pets are abandoned or abused because of bad behavior. As a veterinarian, I hear about all sorts of worrisome problems my clients face and some common myths they believe cause them. I would like to address some of these myths in order for more solutions to be found and my patients to live a happier life and my clients as well.
“My pet is mad at me! That’s why they peed on my bed/clothes/shoes…”
Urinating and defecating are normal body processes and are not used to “get even” with pet owners. No matter what happens, no pet urinates on your bed, your clothes, or your floor out of revenge. Animals have no concept of revenge. Often a pet will make a poor potty choice due to either an underlying medical or behavioral problem. If a pet jumps up on the bed and urinates, instead of thinking that was an act of spiteful revenge, think what could be wrong with the pet. Some pets will have medical concerns such as urinary tract infections that may them have sudden urges to go, kidney disease that creates increase urine volume, or urinary incontinence and they are unable to hold it. Some pets may have arthritis and it hurts to get into a litter box or use stairs to go outside. Some pets experience a moment of anxiety such as a loud noise outside, other pets in the area, children running after them, or missing their message that they really needed to go outside just a moment ago.
My dog is fearful, shy or even aggressive because she was abused as a puppy.
The truth is that an animals behavior is a complex interaction of genes, socialization, and environment. The exact histories of re-homed dogs are not known so abuse may be the case in a few. Much more often the undesirable behavior is a result of poor socialization as a young puppy that has created a more fearful adult. Either way, these pets can often be helped with a combination of positive reinforcement training and potential medications. A trainer can often help work with the pet through positive rewards for doing the desired behavior.
Finding the right trainer is very important, as this profession is not licensed or regulated. Research trainers and chose the ones that do not use punishment or forceful correction techniques as this can make the problems worse. Select trainers that have been gone though the process of becoming a Certified Pet Dog Trainer or have other extensive pet behavior training. Research their websites and look for words that express positive training such as reward-based, force free training. For more information about finding a trainer or veterinary behaviorist, call your vet.
Puppies should not go to puppy class until they have all their shots because they will get sick.
The opposite is true. Get that puppy to training at week four. Puppies have a window of social development between four to fourteen weeks of age that can influence their behavior for the rest of their lives. Puppies have a limited window of fast learning about how to interact with other animals and people. Starting to train a puppy to the touch and sounds of their lives and expectations is good. Decreasing biting/nipping, jumping up on kids, barking excessively can prevent abandonment or punishment.
Make sure the puppy kindergarten class is with similar aged puppies, held inside with cleanable surfaces, and pups are required to have started their puppy shot series.
My cat freaks out at the vet’s office and we can’t get him in the carrier.
Admittedly, this can be a frustrating situation for pet owners and veterinarians but the fact is cats need to see a veterinarian regularly. It’s natural behavior for a cat to try to hide diseases and injuries. However, the stress of getting them to the office can be deemed too overwhelming and owners just don’t bring them in. The fact is cats can be trained to accept the carrier with some positive training, changing carrier types, and using some pheromone therapy. Several progressive vets are using “fear free” techniques in the exam room to minimize stress or even safe sedation exams to get your cat the care it needs.
My dog acts guilty so he knows what he did was wrong.
Just like revenge, guilt is a bit too complicated for dogs. Revenge is about the past. Guilt is too. Dogs have no past or future. They only have now. Dogs that have a tucked tail, head down, ears down, eye contact avoidance and submissive posture are afraid and fearful in response to your body language or tone of voice. If you have arrived home to find garbage on the floor, chewed up toys/shoes, or soiled carpets and yelled or punished you pet, that pet has no idea why you’re yelling at it. Your pet does not associate the poor behavior with the punishment. No matter how many times you yell or punish the pet, they will never make the connection to the behavior. The fear will escalate in the pet and potential aggression may be created. All you’re doing is ruining the relationship.
For more information on your pets behavior problems, please always consult your veterinarian first. We are a safe place to voice your concerns and help you find the right solutions.