ANITA'S ANIMAL CORNER
"Pets & Allergies"
By Jean Sutherland
a pet scratches, bites or chews excessively, chances are it is suffering
from an allergy. In some instances, a highly allergic pet may have several
allergies simultaneously. Identifying the cause of the allergy requires
teamwork between the pet owner and the veterinarian. The same teamwork
is needed to control the allergy.
Inhalant allergies result from breathing
in substances such as pollen from trees, ragweed and other plants, house
dust and mold. There seems to be a genetic predisposition to this allergy,
but it can occur in any pet at any time of the year.
Contact allergies are caused by a pets
physical contact with an offending substance. Thin-coated or hairless
areas are usually affected. Among the most common allergens are soaps,
insecticides, wool nylon carpets, paint, wood preservatives, poison
ivy, oak or grass. Some pets may be allergic to plastic feeding dishes.
In the case of certain plants and/or geographic locations, inhalant
or contact allergies may be seasonal.
Identifying the offending substance is
critical to controlling inhalant and contact allergies. If this is accomplished,
every effort should be made to eliminate it from the pets environment.
A veterinarian can recommend appropriate treatment for skin lesions
and to help relieve itching.
Although some pets develop allergies to
food, this is rare. A food allergy results from an abnormal immune reaction
to an ingredient found in a pet food. Food allergies usually appear
as skin problems or gastrointestinal upsets. However, a variety of diseases
have similar signs. Consequently other causes should be excluded before
a pets diet is blamed or changed.
Most affected pets have been fed the same
food over a period of months or years. The allergy develops over time
with exposure to the same ingredient, usually proteins. Changing from
one pet food to another is not the answer because many of these diets
contain similar ingredients.
No food source is completely non-allergenic.
The only foods that can be considered hypo-allergenic are those a pet
has never before eaten. To be hypo-allergenic, a diet must contain proteins
that have been broken sufficiently so that the immune system does not
recognize them. If a food allergy is suspected, a veterinarian will
probably recommend a special elimination trial diet in order
to be certain that diet is the cause of the allergy and to identify
the ingredient to which a pet is allergic.
If a pet is on an elimination trial
diet to isolate the offending ingredient, the owner and all family
members are faced with the challenge of keeping the pet on its special
diet. This means no rawhide chews, snacks, table scraps or letting it
eat another animals food. Once the ingredient to which a pet is
allergic is identified, an appropriate diet can be recommended. Again,
the challenge is to keep a pet exclusively on the prescribed diet with
nothing else offered.
For any allergy, once a tentative diagnosis
is made, treatment can be attempted. The goal of the treatment is to
control the symptoms by avoiding the cause of the allergy. If avoidance
is not possible, medications or a series of injections may be beneficial.
Identifying an allergen can be a complex process requiring time and
patience. The reward of successful treatment is providing a more comfortable
life for the affected pet.
Our snow-birds are finally starting to
arrive. With them come some of the latest current paperbacks. Its
a time a lot of us wait for. Please remember to visit us at the market
and look at all the latest books we have available. We are also in need
of old towels, blankets and newspapers. Please dont throw them
out but give them to us to use at the shelter. Snow-birds! Would you
like to foster a pet while you are here? Please visit us at the market
and discuss fostering a pet. Usually our little ones only need to be
fostered for a few weeks to get them back on a healthy tract.