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AN ITCH IN TIME- coping with your pets allergies

No matter what time of year it seems that someone is always sneezing, has eyes that are watering, or is all stuffed up due to allergies be it pollen, dust, fur, grass or one of the hundreds of triggers. We people are not alone in our suffering from allergies our animal companions can suffer from allergies as well, especially our canine companions.

Allergies may be easy to see in people, but at times it can be difficult to detect in our furry companions. Some of the most common symptoms seem rather mundane, but paying attention to the little things can help in spotting allergies in our pets. Some of the common symptoms that may be mundane include increased scratching and licking of the paws. Other symptoms include redness or irritation of the paws, eyes, ears, sneezing, as well as increased ear infections, sneezing, hair loss, and snoring due to inflammation in the throat.

An allergic reaction in any species is defined as an over-reaction or hypersensitivity of the immune system to an allergen which is most often a protein. But how does it really work? When an allergen is present in the body an antibody, which is tasked with recognizing any foreign substance in the body, recognizes it and binds to a specific antigen just like a lock and key. This unit of the allergen and the antibody then travel to the mast cells in the body. This then triggers the mast cells to release a bunch of chemicals that result in excessive secretions such in nose resulting in the infamous runny nose or a cause the constriction of airways and endanger someone’s life when histamine is released.

There are two major types of allergies which are environmental and food allergies. A food allergy triggers a response after a specific protein found in food be it chicken, beef, or any other protein is present. These food allergies can develop at any age and our animal companions are not just born with them. Environmental allergies are allergies that are a response to a specific allergen in the environment or climate. More often than not these tend to be seasonal, but as our furry friends are exposed more to the allergen or as they age they can be more sensitive to that environmental allergy so it can become a year round issue. In regards to environmental allergies, our pets can come in contact with the allergen in two primary ways so it is important to know the difference.

The first major route is inhalation in which our pets inhale many of the substances like pollen or mold. This is what most often comes to mind when someone says they have seasonal allergies since in humans this causes the runny nose and watery eyes and it is the same for our pets since this type of allergen greatly impacts the respiratory system. The other form of transmission is through direct contact. This is when our pet’s skin comes into direct contact with the allergen like a specific grass at a specific point such as on the stomach and it’s symptoms can include hair loss and excessive licking at the point.

So what can be done to make our pets a little bit more comfortable when suffering from allergies? Well it depends on the severity, frequency and type of allergies. If the symptoms are just occasional and not very severe an antihistamine like Benadryl can be given to pets. Always ensure it is in proper doses and does not also contain a decongestant, but this is only acts as a band-aid and not a solution. For more severe or continuous environmental allergies products like Apoquel, Atopica, or CytoPoint can help. Apoquel and Cytopoint act by inhibiting the nerve pathway to stop the itch response to the allergen.

Atopica on the other hand works by targeting the immune system and its response to allergens. Atopica does take longer to act and is beneficial since it does address the underlying problem and response where the other two only stop the response. For contact allergies, regular bathing can also help by removing the allergen from the skin to prevent irritating. Food allergies must be addressed slightly differently by trying to change to a food that doesn’t have the allergen or using a hydrolyzed food which has the proteins broken down small enough that the immune system cannot recognize it.

Our pets are our best friends and recognizing that they can have allergies and treating them is important as pet owners. This ensures that our pets have the happy and healthy so their only concerns is loving us and not scratching from allergies!

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