Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Dog Allergies

Being man’s best friend, dogs share numerous experiences with him and that entails several of life’s ups and downs, including, you guessed it right – allergies. Dog allergies also exhibit almost the same symptoms as human allergies do. A vital fact to consider is that allergies is a hypersensitivity reaction of the dog’s bodily system against organisms or foreign substances. That substance that provokes the allergic reaction is called an allergen. Getting down to the business of resolving dog’s allergies is to pinpoint the cause and that leads us to the different types of allergies experienced by dogs. Generally, dog allergies are of five types – flea allergies, food allergies, contact allergies, bacteria allergies and atopy.

Flea allergies is the most common cause of dog’s year round itch. It is quite easy to recognize as it is manifested by uncontrollable scratching and biting at the legs, tail or the abdominal area. An interesting fact here is that the allergies is not caused by the flea bites per se, but by the fleas’ saliva. The real allergen in this situation is the saliva that irritates the dog’s skin. This can be solved by application of dog dermatological products and anti –flea measures.

Food allergies is quite rare, and will only be considered after ruling out the other types of allergies that usually share the same symptoms. This is usually caused by certain ingredients found in dog food. It is manifested also in the form of skin irritation and accordingly, gastrointestinal disturbance. Obviously this can be resolved, albeit not easily, through dietary restrictions and correction. This is the type of allergies that cannot be remedied thru medicinal intake.

Just like in humans, there are allergens that affect the skin upon contact, with the effect being on the negative side. Itching and irritation will occur at the points of contact. Most common substances that trigger contact allergies are nylon carpets, wool, insecticides, soaps, grass and even flea collars. This is the least common type of allergies and can easily be solved by removing the harmful contact.

Inhalant allergies, otherwise known as atopy is caused by inhalation of , molds or pollens acting as allergens floating in the air. This is the second most common type next to flea allergies. Occurrence of this allergies type can be seasonal as tree pollens for instance, scatter only during certain periods of time, either during spring or during fall. Symptoms include watery eyes, paw licking and skin itching. Female dogs are easier prey to this allergies than the males and certain breeds like the Boston Terriers, the Shnauzers, Boxers, and the Irish Setters are more disposed.

The Staphylococcus bacteria normally thrives in dogs’ skin. Most dogs do not show any adverse reaction to its presence, however, certain dog types do develop an allergies to it. Much of dog’s hair is lost and the dog’s skin is marked with a ringworm like formation where the infection develops. This is commonly treated with an antibiotic. And here is something that connects dogs closer to its human caretakers. Dogs manifest allergic reactions when they undergo emotional stress. And that is a direct link to the caretaker’s personal life, whether he or she is undergoing an emotional or stressful phase in life. Tales about dogs alleviating men’s burden by taking it upon their own bodies is not far from the truth.

Food Allergies in Dogs

My dog once started scratching himself uncontrollably. I had been up to date as to his grooming and I am convinced this problem is not caused by a parasite. The third most common type of allergies in dogs is food allergies. I am guilty of sharing my food with him, or rather letting him finish my leftovers. A visit to the veterinarian enlightened me that I should not fully blame myself. There are indeed components in dog's food that may cause allergic reactions. Meats, dairy products and some type of grains are the most common ingredients that can trigger this unwanted discomfort. Other people claim that the coloring and preservatives in the dog food is the one to blame, but studies have proved them false. There are valid health concerns over the presence of these elements in dog food, but food allergies is not one of them. I was reprimanded though since it’s a known fact that many dog breeds, like the greyhound, are extremely sensitive even to the most common type of food. Tuna, cheese and sausages easily brings allergies to most dogs. Humans do not eat dog food, let dogs eat dog food.

Though scratching is the most visible symptom, other behavior that are otherwise misconstrued as one’s dog’s newly acquired habit could actually be signs of food allergies. These symptoms are coughing, increased bowel movement from 1.5/day to 3+/day, vomiting, sneezing, hair loss, eye and nose discharge, breathing problems, itching around the anus and loss of appetite. A recurring ear infection despite antiobiotic treatment is also a major indication. Apparently this set of symptom can similarly be caused by other types of allergies. It is therefore crucial to rule out the other problems first before the dog can be properly diagnosed for food allergies.

It's a daunting task to investigate the source of these allergies with the myriad of food in the dog's menu. Since the dog is allergic to one specific allergen existing in one of it's food, it is necessary to analyze and pinpoint that lone culprit. This can only be done through elimination. And elimination is a task that only those with extra time and energy can afford. It requires preparation and cooking of special foods that are not usually found in the dog's day to day menu. A meal of rice mixed with some exotic meat such as venison may be served. Then, gradual introduction of the regular food the dog usually eats such that the offending agent can be detected and be appropriately kept at bay. A shortcut to this exhaustive elimination diet is to give the dog a different brand of dog food, the one which he hasn’t tasted before. But almost always they just vary in taste but not in ingredients, and that therefore just prolongs the agony. My love for my best friend is put to test as I help him find ways to overcome this problem.

It can be very frustrating that dog food allergies are rarely solved by any medicinal intake. It cannot be solved overnight and a lot of patience and thoughtfulness is required in the proper monitoring of quality food intake. I can say prevention is still a lot less burdensome. And leftovers are a welcome treat as long as they’re safe, but I guess I’ll stick to safer home made dog foods.

Dog Allergy Medications

Dogs are prone to allergies - in almost everything they get in contact with, there are ingredients in food, elements in the air or just plain house dust that inevitably cause dog irritation. It is usually during the dog’s three to six years of age that these symptoms are typically noticed. It will be at most beneficial for both the dogs and their owners, to manage the onset of allergies before it aggravates, causing unspeakable misery and discomfort.

Fortunately, animal enthusiasts and veterinarians have come up with several ways to alleviate this. Various products have been formulated to be used to lessen or if possible resolve the problem of dog allergies in its various stages. For dog’s dermatological problems, the use of fatty acids in the form of a capsule has been widely practiced and tested. Specific products in this category are Doctors Foster and Smith’s 3V Caps, Vitacoat® Plus, Healthy Coat Allergy Tabs and Healthy Coat Omega-3 Gel Caps.

Various publications have reported the proven benefits of administering fatty acids in dog allergies situations. The list of positive effects are heartening – inflammation was inhibited, haircoat luster was restored, steroid dosage was possibly reduced and it synergizes well with antihistamines. It will take weeks to months of fatty acid intake before a significant improvement can be observed.

Ask Ariel’s Bioallergies Plus is another great product that can help dogs stop the torturing itch. This is considerably a safe product as it veers away from sedating elements or antihistamine solutions that can cause hyperstimulation. This products uses enzymes and botanicals that help tone down the body’s sensitivity to contact and airborne substances as well as food that brings about the allergic reaction.

Atopica from Novartis have recently been released as a suggested replacement against the widely used prednisone. This cyclosporine in oral form is considered a lot safer versus the negative side effects the steroids can bring to the dog’s immune system. Another option, though somewhat a bit expensive, is to give dogs some allergy shots. This works in a way that it will manually introduce the allergens into the dog’s body in acceptable amounts until it reaches the limit that the dog’s body has enabled itself to to be immuned to them.

Dr. Andrew Jones on the other hand, would like to shun the commercial products and offers a variety of alternative treatments at home for dog allergies. He espouses that a simple change in diet, improved practices in hygiene and awareness in outright allergies prevention is the key for the dogs life quality.

Not to be overlooked is to treat the problem from its roots – eliminate the cause. Frontline or Heartguard are some of best product to repel this irritating fleas. Antihistamine can also be administered if the dog starts sneezing or shows signs that it has inhaled allergies. This medication should be administered with the help of a veterinarian. Caring for one’s pet is a challenge. It is almost impossible to protect one’s dog from all the allergens that could be present in one’s environment. Frequent bathing and use of quality grooming products do not guarantee against allergies as allergens can also be absorbed through the dog’s skin. Bathing also easily dries out the dog’s skin, so frequency has to be noted as well as proper use of oils. Just ensure that with all these tasks of protecting and caring for one’s dog, one shouldn’t be amiss with the same care for the one’s self. Only a healthy caregiver can give proper care to a healthy dog.

Flea Allergies in Dogs

The most common skin disease among dogs is flea allergic dermatitis. The allergies is caused by the fleas’ saliva and the symptoms are aggravated by the dog. On a normal animal, a single flea bite will have a minimal effect. But for a dog with flea allergies, the bite immediately causes swelling, redness and agonizing itching.

Allergies to fleas is highly debilitating. It causes listlessness and the dog’s appearance is unattractively “sickly”. The skin itch usually starts from the rump, and a “hot spot” develops at the base of the tail Hot spots are circular, reddish and painful sores in the skin resulting from the dog’s excessive scratches. It can also start at any part of the back.. When the hot spot gets infected, the dog’s bodily system gets strained and this can lead to a major health threat. The skin abrasion is also characterized with an unpleasant odor.

Fleas become more active during warm weather. Allergic symptoms arise during spring and improves when the temperature lowers during fall. This suggests that this dilemma exists year round in warm climates and of course in flea infested surroundings.

Most dog owners solve this problem by preventing the fleas from getting to their dogs through the use of topical solutions. Some allow their dog to take hormonal oral products that somehow sterilizes the flea bites. B Vitamin is also given to ensure return of skin and coat health especially after an allergic outbreak. Although flea allergies is very common, it helps to practice improved hygienic conditions to remove fleas from the environment. Additional care would also help by using flea comb to brush away the fleas, including their feces.

Bacterial Allergies in Dogs

Pyoderma is another term used to refer to bacterial skin diseases in dogs. This is commonly caused by a bacteria called the Staphylococcus (Staph).

The Staph bacteria has several species of its kind that normally live in dogs’ skin. This bacteria doesn’t pose any threat to its host as long as the dog’s immune system is operating perfectly and the skin is normal. However, when the dog’s immune system gets weak by either being unhealthy or by suffering from other serious allergies, it can develop allergies from this bacteria as well.

It is interesting to note that the Staphylococcus bacterium is not rare. It commonly exists everywhere in certain amounts. However, it’s the adverse reaction to it is the one quite rare to occur, but does in fact affect a minuscule percentage in the dog population.

When this happens, visible unappealing symptoms on the dog’s skin can be seen – red blotches, formation of pus puckets or pustules and considerable hair loss. A skin formation resembling a ringworm also signifies infection. The skin becomes ulcerated and emits an unpleasant odor. It has been noted that this allergies frequently affects pug nosed breeds of dogs and the obese ones.

A blood test can be done to determine the specific type of bacteria that causes the allergies and treatment in the form of antibiotics or immune stimulant may accordingly be administered. Culturing the skin to grow the bacteria in order to conduct sensitivity test and to discover the best antibiotic treatment to use is sometimes performed.

The Staph bacteria however have the tendency to return once antiobiotic is discontinued. It is best to desensitize with Staph antigen to fully free the system from this type of allergies. Good news is that this bacteria is not contagious to other pets nor to humans.

Inhalant Allergies in Dogs

An inhalant allergy, otherwise known as atopy, is the most common type suffered by dogs. Much like in human situations, certain elements in the atmosphere inevitably acts as allergens when inhaled. These may be molds, mildew, house dust mites, pollens from trees (oak, ash, cedar), pollens from Bermuda grass and also ragweed pollens. However, unlike humans that manifest inhaled allergies through respiratory problems, dogs display significant atopy through severe itching. There will be frenzied scratching in every parts of its body, feet included. Most acute itching can be felt on the armpits, flanks, groin and feet. Contrary to the belief of many that itching is caused by flea allergies, the most common cause is in fact inhalant allergies. The biting cum scratching can cause much hair loss, skin lesions and inflammation. The infection that arises from this behavior is called atopic dermatitis. Saliva also stains light colored hair and because of much licking, the dog’s hair color turns reddish to orange.

There is a genetical predisposition to inhalant allergies and there are certain breeds that are more commonly affected. These are the Irish Setters, Schnauzers, Scottish Terriers, Boston Terriers, Cairn Terriers, West Higland White Terriers and Wire-Haired Terriers. Atopy usually appears in the first 3 years of dog's growth. Female dogs are more vulnerable to this aversion than males.

Unfortunately, no cure has been found to resolve atopy, but several treatment options are available to control the symptoms. The best solution theoretically is to avoid the allergen. But since this may prove to be too impossible a task, a desensitization therapy and other remedy options are employed. Steroids effectively relieves skin irritation and itching, but the negative effects of this drug in the dog’s body is a disadvantage. Other safer medication that can be used are Cyclosporine A, antihistamines and fatty acids.

Contact Allergies in Dogs

Contact allergies occur when a dog develops sensitivity and manifests adverse reactions to objects that its skin comes in contact with. It is the least common among the four general types of dog allergies and the easiest to cure as it involves localization of a skin area’s reaction to an allergen. Examples of substances that can cause contact allergies are rubber, wool, certain types of metal like chrome and nickel, antibiotics or lotion applied on the skin, and chemicals like fragrances or fabric deodorants. Some of the irritants are usually common materials that the dog normally had no previous unpleasant reaction to such as beddings, flea collars or carpets. Allergies to chemicals is as rare as 1 in a million, but it is nevertheless advisable to restrict the pets from areas treated with cleaning fluids, carpet detergents and waxes.

The commonly affected areas are the parts of the body which are sparsely haired and are directly exposed to the offensive substance. There will be visible reddness, blistered lesions, or vesicles, with small bumps on the lips, muzzle, abdomen, and/or the back of the paws which gradually turn reddish in color and become very itchy. The dog sometimes scratches the irritated abdomen against the floor developing blisters and aggravating the condition.

Prednisone or corticosteroids is given to lessen the hostile itch and pacify the inflammation. Antihistamines, biotin, topical shampoos and fatty acids can also be utilized to ease the itching. It is quite sensible to monitor the animal’s lifestyle, habits and routine for the proper identification and elimination of the irritant. The simplest solution is the removal of the contact. Needless to say, the symptoms manifested such as inflamed feet and itch, is shared by atopy and food allergies, and it is therefore important to investigate the ailment on these areas as well.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

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