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Your Pets Get Allergies Too!

If you’re grouped among the 35 million-plus Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s not news to you that the allergy season is one of the more unpleasant times of the year. Your nose knows it’s true and so do your eyes, chest, head and maybe even your ears. Sneezing, congestion, runny nose and itchiness are the common symptoms with which you’re forced to contend. Did you know your pets could suffer from seasonal allergies just as you do? It is estimated that over half of pet owners aren’t aware that the fuzzy members of their family can also spend portions of the year feeling miserable thanks to pollen and other environmental allergens.

Your Pets Get Allergies - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

What exactly are allergies anyway?

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins; with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body. The allergen protein can be of insect, plant or animal origin. Exposure to the allergen, usually on multiple occasions, sensitizes the immune system, and a subsequent exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. Normally the immune response protects your pet against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body.

Different Pet Allergy Categories

There are primarily two types of allergies: food allergies and environmental allergies. If your pets get itchy during spring, summer or fall, they’re probably reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. But if their symptoms continue year-round, it’s more likely that the sensitivity is to something more constant within their environment or to something in their diet. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a hard freeze in the winter, environmental allergens can build up and cause year-round issues for your pet. In addition, seasonal allergies can progress to year-round allergies.

Warning Signs of Pet Allergies

Whereas allergy symptoms in humans usually involve the respiratory tract, allergies in dogs and cats more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation—a condition called allergic dermatitis. If pet allergies are present, you can expect their skin to become very itchy. They’ll start scratching excessively, and might bite or chew at certain areas of the body. They may rub themselves against vertical surfaces like furniture or may rub their face against the carpet, all the while trying to relieve the miserable itchiness by any means possible.

As the itch-scratch cycle continues, the skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs can include localized hair loss, open skin sores, and scabbing. Hot spots—inflamed, infected skin that occurs when your pet’s natural bacteria overwhelms an area of skin, typically associated with very red skin, and often bleeding and hair loss—can develop as well (more typically in dogs than in cats).

Pets with allergies also tend to have ear problems. Their ear canals may be itchy and inflamed or may grow infected with yeast or bacteria. Signs your pet’s ears are giving him problems include scratching at the ears, head shaking, and hair loss around the ears. If infection is present, there will often be odor and a discharge from the ears. Another warning sign to watch for is generalized redness. Pets suffering from allergies often have puffy red eyes, red oral tissue, a red chin, red paws and even a red anus.

To date, the only reliable way to diagnose environmental allergies in dogs and cats is through intradermal (skin) testing. Commercial blood tests for canines and felines are available, but have proven controversial due to inaccurate results. Depending on the nature of your pet’s allergic reaction, your veterinarian will be able to assist you in controlling the long-term effects. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. Our goal is to reduce the severity of the symptoms through preventive measures and by eliminating allergens wherever possible.

Importance of Heartworm Prevention

If you’ve been to a veterinarian’s office, chances are you’ve seen the photos on the wall of worms growing from the heart of a dog or cat. Although these images may be unsettling, the message is clear: heartworm disease is fatal to pets. The good news: you can protect your pet from this disease. The disease is preventable, which is why so many veterinarians become frustrated when a case presents itself. The disease is very serious and the treatment is not very easy on the infected animal(s). It’s far easier and healthier for the pet to prevent the disease in the first place.

Preventing Heartworm In Pets - Nashville TN

The Cause

Infected mosquitoes carry heartworms. One bite can cause the parasite to enter a pet’s body and mature into long worms (up to 12 inches in length) that live in the heart and major vessels surrounding the heart. Heartworm disease can affect dogs, cats, and other species of mammals. If left untreated, the disease leads to significant and deadly damage to the pet’s heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. Heartworm infection has been diagnosed in all 50 states. Heartworm disease is most prevalent for dogs in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Alabama. In cats, heartworm is not as common, but the consequences can be just as serious if not more so since the disease is much more difficult to treat in cats than it is in dogs. The disease isn’t contagious from one pet to another and heartworms in humans are very rare.

Symptoms of Heartworm Disease

While heartworm disease might not cause your pet to exhibit symptoms in the early stages, if left undetected and untreated, it can cause sudden death. In most cases, a pet will show no initial signs of having the disease. The symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs can include the development of a persistent cough, reluctance to exercise, fatigue after light exercise and a decrease in appetite followed by weight loss, whereas the symptoms of heartworm disease in cats can include vomiting, rapid breathing and weight loss. The treatment of adult heartworms in cats is usually not recommended so prevention of the disease altogether is particularly crucial for cats.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If your dog is diagnosed with heartworm disease, your 5 Points Animal Hospital veterinarian will perform lab tests, such as a complete blood count and a urinalysis, before beginning treatment, which typically includes medications to end the lifecycle of the heartworms. During the treatment process—which can vary in length but usually lasts for a few months—your veterinarian will continue to perform routine blood work to monitor the progress of the treatment and will likely instruct you to limit your dog’s activity. After treatment, heartworm preventives will generally be recommended to prevent re-infection.

Heartworm is easily transmittable—in fact, heartworm can be passed through the bite of just one mosquito. Implementing a year-round monthly heartworm preventive, as well as a yearly heartworm test, is crucial for minimizing your pet’s risk of contracting heartworm disease. If you have questions about this or any medical topic, please contact the experts at 5 Points Animal Hospital today. We look forward to helping you with all of your pet’s needs.

May Is Asthma & Allergy Awareness Month

While the allergy season for pets may be similar to the allergy season for people, the symptoms your pet experiences are quite different. People with allergies often sneeze, have a runny nose and itchy eyes. Pets, on the other hand, commonly manifest their allergy symptoms through their skin. Common areas affected by allergies include: face, ears, axillae (arm pits) and abdomen. Symptoms associated with allergies include itching, redness, and hair loss.

These same symptoms can also be caused by:

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  1. External parasites: Fleas, mites (e.g.: scabies and Demodex) and lice
  2. Ringworm (more common with cats)
  3. Bacterial and yeast infections: while commonly associated with any cause of itching, these infections intensify the degree of itchiness

Common types of allergies your pet may be experiencing:

  1. Fleas: Fleas are the most common cause of allergies. Flea control is imperative for all pets, but particularly in allergic pets

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  1. Food: Common culprits: beef, chicken, pork, dairy, fish (cats), corn, wheat and soy.
  2. Atopy1: Atopy describes a heritable disorder caused by an over-reactive immune system responding to normal, nontoxic substances (e.g.: pollens) in your pet’s environment. Some breeds are predisposed: Golden Retrievers, Terriers, Dalmatians, Bull Dogs. Dogs with allergies should not be bred to prevent transmission of this frustrating disease. Testing for your pet’s specific allergies helps tailor a specific program for your pet and offers the best results. Options for testing include:
    • Blood allergy testing
    • Intradermal skin testing: most specific test for your pet’s allergies.

While there is no cure for allergies, your pet’s symptoms can be relieved with a combination of therapies to treat for infections, parasites and itching.
Patients that undergo allergy testing will begin “allergy shots” to help control symptoms. The goal of any allergy therapy is to control the itching and limit skin and ear infections. Your veterinarian will discuss with you the best strategy to offer relief for your pet’s allergies. Your friends at, 5 points Animal Hospital.

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