One of the most challenging problems to have as a pet owner is an allergic pet. The inability to cure the problem is often frustrating and costly. We at San Clemente Veterinary Hospital employ all modern methods of allergy control available.
The usual causes for allergies ranked in order from most to least likely include:
– Flea Infestation and Allergy
– Pollen Reaction known as Atopy
– Food Allergy
1) Flea Control
Flea control does not have to be expensive or complicated any longer. Frontline and Advantage are now obsolete and really never worked well in challenging households (the more pets you have, the more this is true).
A newer oral product named Comfortis and its cousin Trifexis (which contains a heartworm preventive as well) is taking over as the leading flea protection for both dogs and cats. It is a prescription product, but can be provided at a reasonable cost even for multiple pet households.
It has been on the market for 5 years now and has a proven safety and efficacy record!! We have never seen anything work better or faster. It truly eliminates fleas from your animals environment, rather than controlling the number of fleas.
Frontline and Advantage wear off in 2-3 weeks allowing fleas to replenish their numbers.
– Orally taken
– Your pet can have baths and swim without decreasing the effect
– It lasts a full 30 days or more.
2) Pollen Reaction
Pollen reaction or atopy is a tough one. This condition is selectively more prevalent in certain breeds but can affect any dog or cat. It is almost always seasonal, coming and going with warmer spring or summer weather.
Most affected animals have facial, ear, and or foot itching. This pattern often leads to secondary infections which cause not only odor, but pain and misery.
– Cortisone (best avoided but sometimes necessary to prevent self-injury)
– Apoquel (this relatively new class of pharmaceutical has been a “game changer” for many pets with chronic allergies. Usually successful with less side effects than cortisone.)
– Cytopoint (this brand new injectible [introduced in March 2017] has virtually no side effects. If effective the injection is usually repeated monthly.
– Bathing with special shampoos
– Atopica (rarely used currently but can be effective in chronic unresponsive cases)
– Allergy testing and hypo sensitization injections
These are the only therapies that can help control affected dogs. The cure can be difficult, but the above medications, fatty acid supplements, and more frequent bathing can provide reasonable relief.
3) Food Allergy
Food Allergy is truly the rarest of all causes, but is curable once diagnosed.
Blood and skin testing for food allergies in animals is rarely accurate. Most animals are diagnosed and treated by performing a food trial. The problem is that most pet owners “wing it” with the advice of a pet store clerk and end up wasting hundreds of dollars on “destined to fail” products.
A properly designed food trial must examine all foods ever fed to that pet. All foods once fed must now be avoided! It typically takes 2 to 4 weeks for a response, but that response will never come if the pet is eating something it is still allergic to.
The time of year that a food trial is initiated can also create a false positive response. If a pet is truly pollen allergic and the food trial is started in fall while a pollen allergy is active, the pet will improve as the weather changes and the pollen count falls. When the pollen comes back next spring the itching returns and the benefit attributed to the food change is lost.
The truth about the dog food industry is that very few products are made in the brands’ own proprietary kitchen. Most name brand and boutique foods are made by a sub-contractor with food production facilities.
There are a lot of “grain free” dog foods made this way causing cross-contamination in the formula. Even though you bought “duck and potato” or “salmon and sweet potato”, there still could be grain or other food residue from the prior batch made in the same facilities hoppers.
Here’s another way to think of it…in order to have the ingredients of kibble stick together and make a crunchy nugget, there has to be a starchy binder in the formula to glue it together providing another possible cause for the allergy.
Food trial worthy products must be made in a grain free kitchen. You will find these are few and far between. I could never figure out why the “hypoallergenic ” kibble I was recommending to people to feed their pet didn’t work until I realized this.
The best way to food trial your pet is to cook for them yourself using only one protein and one carbohydrate ingredient that is unique to this pet’s feeding history, or feed a prepared product that has strict quality control of their production.
The only food that I know of that fulfills this is called Primal. They have wholesome and safe raw and freeze dried products. The reason they are “wholesome and safe” is because they use a unique method called “high pressure pasteurization” to kill possible bad germs in the food and also do microbiologic testing on their foods for safety. They maintain their own “grain free” facilities in Northern California. We have seen outstanding and unprecedented success feeding this product to allergic animals.
WE CAN HELP.
After reading the above information, it is evident that an itching dog or cat can be complicated. We have seen pet owners waste hundreds of dollars on ineffective flea control products and foods, as well as supplements only to come to us in desperation.
Our advice is to start with one of our doctors. The odds are high that your pet will get better faster and you will save money in the long run.
Questions & Answers
Where can I find useful information about my pet?
INTERNET & OUR ADVICE. The internet is an incredible resource for modern pet owners. Unfortunately, there is much to be desired about some of the advice you can find which can serve to confuse your understanding of a particular topic. Our best advice to you is to avoid “blogs” that are written by breeders and breed fanciers. They may have a passion for a particular topic, but typically fall short of “truth”. We like a particular website called www.veterinarypartner.com. It is managed by the Veterinary Information Network or (VIN) which is an international veterinary learning community. You can be assured that the material there is what we call evidence based, meaning that science and research backs up the statements made there. You can search most any medical topic for multiple species. LICENSED VETS. Any licensed veterinarian has done their homework and can claim to be an expert in animal health care. It takes the average vet 8 to 9 years of college to complete their education. Once course work is finished, we are subjected to both national and state board exams and must pass these tests in order to practice. Veterinarians are your best information resource. Lastly, don’t be hesitant about calling the office with your questions. There is always someone on staff who can cheerfully give you the answers that you need!
There are a lot of vets in our area, what sets you apart from them?
LOCATION. Our location allows for easy freeway access. So getting here is a breeze! DOCTORS. All of the primary care doctors who work here seeing patients has had at least one year of specialty training at a referral hospital and/or is a board certified specialist. You can be assured that they are using all of the newest and best diagnostic & treatment plans when your pet is ill. EMERGENCY CARE. Emergency and Critical Care as well as surgery is another area we really stand out from the average hospital.
How can I help my pet be healthy but not spend a lot of money?
Some pets never seem to get sick and others have nothing but trouble throughout their lives. Be prepared for some maintenance costs for: Annual examination – This allows the doctor to find problems early so that small remedies can be employed. Dental Cleaning – This is usually needed every 2-4 years for the average pet and if kept up with, it will protect your pets teeth from diseases and painful problems. Baths often – Especially if your pet has itchy allergies, bathing as often as once or twice a week can be very helpful. Parasite control – Fleas and internal parasites are easily prevented by simple monthly medications that have been proven safe. Outside risks – Rattlesnakes in the hills commonly bite pets. Stay clear of areas where they live. Also, avoid exercise on hot days. Your pets cannot cool down like people do and are subject to overheating. For Cats keep them indoors – they are good at finding trouble when they live outside.
What should I feed my pet?
There is no simple answer to this question. I typically advise people to pick a food that is affordable, easy to get, and well tolerated by your pet. Unfortunately, everyone has a passionate opinion about pet food. As far as I am concerned there is no cure for all disease with your food choice. We as veterinarians have diet plans that help control certain medical problems such as diabetes, urinary tract disorders, intestinal issues, and obesity. A healthy pet food need not be an expensive or “hypoallergenic” food as it does nothing to prevent disease.
How can I be sure my aging pet is healthy?
A wellness visit is just what you need to set your mind at ease. This includes a chest x-ray, full blood panel, urine test, abdominal ultrasound (very important in again dogs), blood pressure check, and a thorough physical exam. Ninety-nine percent of problems will be uncovered by this screening (we cannot investigate the brain however as we do not have MRI at our facility). The entire package above is only available to animals without symptoms.
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