The sound of my dog licking her paws drives me insane.
But a while back I noticed she was doing it, like, a lot. She started losing patches of hair, her eyes were red and swollen and then she got another chronic ear infection (She’s had more ear infections than all of my other pets combined, and, at the time of her diagnosis, was barely 2 years old). She even reverse sneezed a couple times, which really freaked me out.
Like most pet parents, I assumed the worst and started panicking. And I felt even more terrible for being annoyed by the sound of her licking her paws. She was clearly uncomfortable, maybe even in pain, and needed to see a vet ASAP.
“Allergies are the bane of every pet owner’s existence.” – Dr. Marta Andelson, PRCKC
I talked to Dr. Cruse, who used to be an associate veterinarian at here Pet Resource Center and who is now a relief vet for us, and, out of all the crazy diagnoses I played out in my head, I couldn’t believe what she told me. My dog literally had allergies.
I felt silly for working myself up, but, for something that sounds so trivial, they really do put pets through torture. So, I’m just going to come out and say it. Allergies suck. And as our very own Dr. Marta Andelson says, “Allergies are the bane of every pet owner’s existence.”
They really are, but pets, even if they lick their paws, are worth it. Here’s five things you should know if you suspect your dog or cat has allergies.
Most allergies are environmental.
An environmental or atopic allergy is the most common type of allergy. Don’t be alarmed by what I’m about to say, but your pet could be allergic to essentially anything: pollen, dust mites, cleaning products, etcetera. That’s why your vet will help you do the process of elimination. Are their allergies seasonal, year-round or only occur once? Have they gone anywhere new recently? What are their symptoms? Whatever the allergy might be, your vet will most likely prescribe your pet with medication. Apoquel is what I give my dog, and it’s a lifesaver.
A flea allergy doesn’t always mean your pet has fleas.
A flea allergy is the second most common allergy in pets, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have fleas. All it takes is the saliva of a single flea to cause your pet to scratch like no one is watching. Itchiness and hair loss are the most common symptoms, and the solution is simple. Flea prevention.
Food allergies are almost always triggered by protein.
If your pet has a food allergy, the third most common type of allergy, it’s probably chicken or beef. After ruling out all other types of allergies, a veterinarian’s last resort is a food trial. There are novel protein diets for allergy-prone pets (duck, kangaroo, venison, crocodile, etc.). Notice how grain-free is not one of them. Dr. Andelson highly recommends not putting your pet on a grain-free diet. Less than 1 percent of pets are actually allergic to grain, and grain-free food can cause serious heart problems in pets.
There are some symptoms of allergies you’d never expect.
Itching and scratching, those are a given. But paw licking and chronic ear infections throw owners, me included, for a loop. Paw licking is actually a way for pets to soothe the itching, and ear infections are caused by inflammation or secondary infection due to allergies.
There are remedies you can try at home to relieve symptoms.
One is weekly baths with cold water. Warm water will actually make them more itchy, and you also want to make sure not to give them too many baths as it will dry out their skin. Second is Benadryl (recommended by a veterinarian). You may give your pet 1 mg per pound of body weight every 12 hours (for example, 25 mg for a 25-pound dog). Third is fish oil or Omega 3. This helps hydrate the skin and relieve symptoms.
Allergies are no fun, but they are manageable. And they should get better with these tips, so please don’t lose hope! If you have questions, we can help answer them. We may not be a full-service vet, but we can provide you with education or help you find one.
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