Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear Labby

Tackling Springtime Allergeries

Dear Labby,

Lately I have noticed that my Labs’ allergies are getting worse and causing more frequent itching and licking. Do you know what may be causing it?

Katie in Kennesaw

Dear Katie,

Spring pollen is in the air… and on our cars, lawn furniture and unfortunately on our pet’s fur. Unlike humans who react to allergies with a stuffy nose, watery eyes and a scratchy throat, pets react with skin problems, goopy eyes and ear infections.

Unfortunately there is no magic pill to cure your Labs’ allergies but there are a lot of treatments for the symptoms. Check with your vet to see if any of these suggestions may work for your situation:

  • Change your pet’s food to a natural brand for 8-10 weeks and watch for allergic reactions. If there is no reaction, feed your four-legged friend the original food. If the symptoms return, then the diagnosis is probably a food allergy. Your vet will then help you choose different foods that eliminate certain ingredients until the culprit is determined.
  • A cold bath with a medicated shampoo can do wonders for some dogs. For my dog, it certainly gives him a little relief from the itchies.
  • When your Lab comes in from the yard, try to wipe his feet off before he comes in the house. It may seem like a lot of work, but remember that whatever they step in outside ends up on your carpet and floors and then gets inhaled again.
  • Adding Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty acids to your Labs diet may also do the trick. They are a natural anti-inflammatory remedy and are virtually harmless to your pet if given as directed. I add a few squirts of the liquid version to my Labs meal every day.
If you are not seeing success with these tips, your vet may choose to go a step further and prescribe medication:

  • Antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe medications that see about a 33% success rate among users. The main side affect with this type of treatment is that in some animals (just like people) the drug may make them sleepy. Be sure to check with your vet for correct dosage amounts.
  • Immunotherapy or allergy shots typically show a 70%+ success rate. Your dog will be tested to determine what inhalants they are allergic to including mold, pollens, dust, feathers, wool, cotton and cats. A specific serum is developed for your pet and the shots are administered for up to 12 months by the pet owner at home. They are safe but it may take six or more months to see any improvement.
  • The last resort is administering steroids, which help to reduce the inflammation that causes itching. Steroids are a final remedy because they may damage the pet’s liver, cause diabetes and possibly promote behavioral changes such as increased or decreased appetite, thirst and urination.
Allergies are becoming more and more common in pets. Don’t give up hope if it is determined your Lab has allergies. There are many different options that you can explore to find the right combination so that your dog will live a long, happy, itch-free life. Until next time, Woof!

© 2009 Atlanta Lab Rescue