Now that Spring is here, many people who suffer from seasonal allergies are preparing for the inevitable: watery eyes, itchy skin, sneezing. Dogs can also suffer from seasonal allergies, having reactions to pollen and other plant-derived allergens in the same way that we do. It is very common for seasonal allergies in dogs to manifest as itchy skin. When skin is chronically inflamed from allergies, it is easy for it to become secondarily infected with bacteria and yeast. The chronic inflammation impairs the skin’s normal barrier, allowing infection to happen.
Managing seasonal allergies in dogs can be somewhat challenging. Many dogs have allergies to things that are ubiquitous in the environment, such as grasses and plants that are common to the geographic location. If these allergens cannot be avoided, we must come up with a way to effectively manage the allergies to keep the pet as comfortable as possible. The options for managing seasonal allergies in dogs are quite similar to how allergies are managed in people. Allergy testing can be performed to determine exactly what the pet is allergic to in the environment. Once identified, the results are used to formulate “allergy shots” that are tailored specifically to that individual. The pet then begins the process of receiving the “allergy shots” over the course of several months to years in order to desensitize the immune system to the allergens. Another option for the management of allergies is the use of medications that control skin inflammation and itchiness. These medications include antihistamines, immunosuppressive drugs like steroids and Cyclosporine, and a newer drug called Apoquel, which inhibits the enzymes produced by inflammatory cells that cause itch.
Some over-the-counter products can be very useful in helping to manage skin allergies in dogs and cats. Omega 3 Fatty Acids, often in the form of Fish Oil, are an all-natural anti-inflammatory for the skin and can be given as a daily oral supplement. Allerderm is a topical treatment comprised of a blend of fatty acids found in normal, healthy skin; when applied to the skin it replenishes the fatty acid component that is often lacking in allergic skin. There are also many different kinds of medicated shampoos and conditioners that can be used to topically treat itchy skin.
Often times it is not any none thing, but rather a combination of several of the aforementioned things, that creates an effective method for the day-to-day management of seasonal allergies in pets.