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Protecting Your Companions from Pet Allergies

Jun 21, 2008
As the temperature and humidity increase, so do the incidences of allergies in dogs and cats. Your pet's allergies can be the result of various contributing factors, such as flea bites, mites, atopy (inhaled allergies), skin infections, skin-fold diseases and food allergies. If your pet shows any of the following signs, he may be suffering from pet allergies.

* Skin rashes
* Digging at their ears
* Chewing their feet
* Excessive grooming and licking
* Rubbing their faces against furniture or the floor

Preventing Flea and Other Insect Bites

Flea bites are the most common and frequent cause of itchy skin in pets. However, when a pet is regularly exposed to the outside, many insects can contribute to bites and itching. Some of these insects are:

* Fleas
* Flies
* Mosquitoes
* Spiders
* Ticks
* Other biting insects

Cats that have fleas itch the most around their heads. Dogs tend to itch more near their tails. The best way to prevent fleas from biting your pets is to apply a topical flea prevention medicine on a monthly basis. This is very important in protecting your pet and your home from flea infestation.

Mites also can cause a lot of irritation for your pets. They can cause skin diseases, such as ear infestations, mange, scabies and dandruff. Mites are contagious and abundant in shelters and grooming facilities. Treatment involves using a medication which kills mites and also is used as a de-wormer.

Preventing Skin Diseases and Infections

Dog breeds like pugs and sharpeis have a lot of excess skin that folds and creates large wrinkles. This creates a warm, moist place for skin-fold diseases to develop and spread. Using baby wipes and acne control wipes can aid in preventing infections in these areas. If the problem is serious enough, surgical procedures can be an option to discuss with your veterinarian.

Skin and ear infections can be caused by excessive amounts of bacteria and yeast on the skin. In these cases, the primary skin disease must be treated along with the secondary, resulting infections.

Pet Atopy and Food Allergies

Atopy is caused by inhaled allergies. Pets that suffer from this type of allergy often itch all over and have patches of hair missing on their bodies. Cats with this allergy usually develop skin rashes and scabs on their necks and heads. This is often a seasonal allergy and symptoms are much worse in the warmest months. Your veterinarian can perform skin tests on your pet to diagnose and determine treatment for these allergies.

Pets with atopy often have food allergies, too. In some cases, the symptoms are the same so it is important to have your pet tested to determine exactly what is going on. One major difference is that pets with food allergies often have gastrointestinal problems. Additionally, their skin itch is not seasonal. Treatment for food allergies involves placing your pet on a strictly enforced hypoallergenic diet.

Treatments for pet allergies usually require antibiotics and antifungal medications that are either given orally or placed directly on the affected area. Sometimes, dietary changes are required. There are natural products available to repel insects and soothe skin itch. There are also natural foods and dietary supplements that you can feed your pet in order to prevent health and skin problems from becoming issues as your pet grows older. Talk to your veterinarian about preventive measures you can take to protect your pets from many types of allergies and health issues they may be susceptible to.
About the Author
Donna Spector, DVM, DACVIM, is a board-certified veterinary internist who has practiced at the Animal Medical Center in New York and the Univ. of California, Davis. She completed degrees in Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State Univ. Dr. Spector writes for Halo Pets, a maker of natural pet products.
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