CANINE ALLERGIES - WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR DOG IS ITCHY?!?

Canine Allergies...

Coping with an itchy pet can be an extremely frustrating experience for a pet owner and can truly test the limits of the human-animal bond.  Persistent scratching, licking, head shaking, and chewing by a dog can also result in open wounds to the skin, infections (skin and ears), and pain to your pet.  The following information is intended to help provide pet owners with a basic understanding of the most common underlying causes of itching and allergies in small animals.

What are Allergies?!?...

Allergies are a common cause of skin and ear conditions in dogs.  People with allergies usually have “hay fever” (watery eyes, runny nose and sneezing) or asthma. However, dogs with allergies rarely have respiratory signs from their allergies and instead usually have red and itchy skin, hair loss, or recurring skin or ear infections.  Part of the difference is because "mast cells/allergy cells" are more densely populated in dogs' feet and ears. 

 

The 3 major types of allergies in dogs...

 

(1) Flea Allergies

Flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs.  For the flea allergic patient, 100% flea control is essential for remaining symptom-free, along with treating the environment.

You may not see them, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there!  Flea allergy is caused by an allergy to the flea’s saliva, and it only takes a few bites to cause a problem.  Also, an itchy dog often scratches so much that adult fleas are hard to find because they are removed from the body, along with a lot of hair near their rear/rump area.

 

(2) Food Allergies

Some pets develop hypersensitivities to foods. Various food proteins, carbohydrates, or even preservatives or dyes can all be potential food allergens. There is currently no accurate blood or skin test to determine if your dog has a food allergy. The only method of diagnosing a food allergy is by placing your dog on a carefully selected prescription or homemade "hypoallergenic" or "hydrolyzed protein" diet for 2-3 months, which is called a food trial. The diet only contains ingredients your dog has never eaten before. If the allergy signs resolve, a food challenge is performed by feeding the former diet and watching for a return of the itching. If this occurs, a diagnosis of food allergy is confirmed.

 

(3) Atopy (Seasonal Allergies) - ***THE MOST COMMON***

Atopy (seasonal allergies) is an inherited predisposition to developing skin problems from exposure to a variety of commonplace and otherwise harmless substances including the pollens of weeds, grasses and trees, as well as house dust mites and mold spores.  Diagnosis of "Atopy" is made based on the results of intradermal skin testing or by in vitro blood testing. Evaluating the results of these tests helps us compile a list of allergens for a “vaccine” to decrease the pet’s sensitivity.  However, the most realistic "diagnosis" in my experience, is observing your dog licking at his/her feet (most commonly both front feet, but can be all 4) +/- shaking his/her head or scratching at his/her ears.

 

Secondary Infections due to Primary Allergies...

Allergies are often the underlying cause of recurring skin and/or ear infections.  Bacterial and yeast infections, though secondary to the allergy, can increase your pet’s level of itching. Long-term treatment with antibiotics and anti-yeast medications is commonly required, along with medicated bathing programs (ex. antifungal shampoos).  Remember when bathing, to scrub well, and don't rinse your dog off until about 10-12 minutes of contact time.  

 

Can the itching be treated without the expense of diagnostic testing?...

Definitely.  There are many anti-allergy medications to reduce itching.  These medications do not cure allergies, but can help decrease the symptoms.  However without addressing the underlying cause of the allergy, the itching will return when the medication is stopped, unless the combination of "seasonal allergens" have dropped to a low level/are gone. Long-term use of some anti-allergy medications, such as steroids, can result in many health problems - especially, if used for many months.  Working with your veterinarian to diagnose the underlying cause of the allergy and itching may reduce the need for medications or enable your veterinarian to use more specific and targeted allergy treatments.

Allergy Summary...

Allergies are very common and can be very frustrating for you and your dog(s).  Please contact me directly at marlon@vetcarenc.com or visit www.vetcarenc.com for any additional information, or for a mobile vet visit/consult to help your itchy dog ASAP, as catching it early has enormous benefits and decreases the chances of secondary skin and ear infections.  Stopping the "Itch/Scratch Cycle" is priceless in alleviating these conditions due to allergies.

-- Dr. Marlon Sequeira     |     Raleigh Mobile Veterinary Services

Introducing..."Veterinary Telemedicine" for Existing Clients/Patients ONLY.

 

To All Pet Parents ...Do you ever run into situations where you have questions about your furry friends, but have a feeling that it's not very serious?  However, you still want to speak to an experienced, reliable veterinarian about your concerns, (1) for the best interest of your pet's health and, (2) for your own personal understanding and "peace of mind?" Or, a situation where you aren't sure if you should take your furry family member to an Emergency Clinic ASAP, or not?  And, want to discuss this with a veterinarian before shelling out $500 - $1000 (in some cases less, in some cases much more...) for something that could potentially be treated at home for a fraction of the stress and cost.

Dr. Marlon & Veterinary Care Anywhere. Mobile, PLLC are introducing "Veterinary Telemedicine," to be able to help more pets and people in RTP and surrounding areas. Dr. Marlon will be providing this service through phone, +/- video chat.  A thorough history, photos, and videos of the situation are always helpful.  And, this service will be provided ONLY to Existing Clients/Patients in which a "Veterinary-Client-Patient Relationship" has already been established, and also on a specific, as-needed basis. If we cannot help solve the issue(s) through our Telemedicine Consult(s), or Dr. Marlon feels that a thorough Physical Examination is critical to move forward, then a guaranteed, in-person mobile vet visit will be the next step and part of the "mobile visit fee" will be deducted.

Email or Call Dr. Marlon (at marlon@vetcarenc.com or 919.914.0079) for specific questions or to request a consult.  

-- Dr. Marlon Sequeira

 

Feline Upper Respiratory Infections

General Information:
Cats, often times more so than dogs, are good at hiding how sick they really are.  This post will help you be aware of what to generally look for so that you can better monitor your cat(s) for a common illness termed, "Feline Upper Respiratory" infections.

Upper respiratory infections in cats are common and can have a quick onset.  Remember that your cat's risk of infection is usually higher with multi-cat households, kittens coming from crowded shelters, or if he/she spends more time outside.  It's important to be knowledgeable about some of the most common symptoms to watch for at home.  Some are very obvious, but some not at all.  These may include: sneezing, nasal discharge, eye discharge, but also include the less obvious such as a fever, lethargy, weight loss, and/or decreases in appetite.  

It's vital for you to be aware of a few common causes of upper respiratory infections in your cat.  These are most commonly a combination of viral and bacterial organisms, therefore; contagion is always a concern.  If seeing any of the signs listed above, please SEEK VETERINARY ASSISTANCE RIGHT AWAY AND ISOLATE ANY AFFECTED ANIMALS FROM HEALTHY ANIMALS IMMEDIATELY TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF DISEASE  This also includes separation of toys, bedding, and food bowls until the proper treatment and recovery is obtained.  Otherwise, infections can be spread back and forth like a football and make recovery much harder for us to solve.  Remember that by far the most common infectious agents include viruses such as Herpes Virus and Calici Virus.  In addition to a potentially suppressed immune system, this can be very serious.  As always, catching a disease or infection early gives us a much better opportunity to help your precious kitty recover AND recover much quicker!

Cleaning Your House:
Remember that bleach is your friend, but always be careful when cleaning and use gloves.  Herpes can live up to almost a day in the environment and Calici up to 10 days.  Ask your veterinarian about a good cleaning protocol for your particular house to limit the spread of disease and keep your cats safe from overuse of household cleaners.  Breathing-in these chemicals can make matters worse.  Keep your pets out of the particular room you are cleaning for at least a few hours.  Air filters can also help limit the concentration of chemical inhalants after cleaning as well as fans for ventilation.     

Treatment:
One very confusing and counterintuitive part of treating feline upper respiratory infections is that most often, even when "viral" related, your cat may be treated with antibiotics (medications that, in general, help fight against bacteria).  Why are we fighting off bacteria when it's most commonly viral you ask?  This is because we often cannot readily kill the primary virus itself, but we can treat supportively and battle secondary bacterial invaders that have taken advantage of the situation.  Treating the secondary infection with or without extra support such as diet/nutrition and fluids, etc, can help your cat feel much better, boost his/her immune system, and successfully fight off the virus.  

Monitoring:
Knowing what to look for is Key.  For additional treatment options and future prevention of upper respiratory infections, remember to do many of these simple (but extremely important) steps listed below:

(1) Keep your kitty up-to-date on his/her vaccinations.
(2) Try to keep him/her active and living environment/litter boxes very clean.
(3) Lower "stress" for your cats.  This may include more playtime and attention.
(4) Ask your veterinarian about starting your kitty on L-Lysine or a multivitamin supplement that may help boost your pet's immune system.
(5) ALWAYS monitor your cat's thirst, appetite, weight, and energy levels at home on a weekly basis and call your vet right away if concerned about any changes.
(6) Monitor for obvious signs such as frequent sneezing, nasal or eye discharge.    

Together, let's keep your cat as happy and healthy as possible with these basic steps!

Dr. Marlon

When your dog vomits: What to do and what not to do

Similar scenarios to ones listed below can occur within hours to days, or in just a few seconds. Whether you have a 5 lb Chihuahua or a 150 lb Great Dane, it's extremely important to know what to do immediately if your pet is vomiting. Remember, vomiting and regurgitation can look VERY similar, but are in fact quite different (as well as other completely unrelated processes such as retching or coughing).

WHAT TO DO

If your dog has vomited at home, the first thing to do regardless of the cause is to: 

  • TAKE AWAY his/her food and water immediately.
  • Then, LOOK at the vomitus and document its volume, consistency, and anything else you can gain from what it is composed of (Ex. food - digested vs undigested, mucous, blood, foreign objects like plastic toils or clothing, color, etc) and frequency of the vomiting/how many times.
  • And, MONITOR for any subsequent vomiting, energy levels, and any loose stool.

A Good Scenario That Can Potentially Be Managed At Home:

Example 1: Max, a 5 year old Yellow Lab.

Max has vomited once or twice about 5 minutes ago. You've taken away his food immediately (for 6-8 hrs), and observed normal energy levels and no vomiting since. At this point (6-8 hrs later) it is okay to feed very small amounts of a bland food (such as boiled chicken or hamburger meat and rice - Roughly 1/3 to 1/2 of what Max normally gets per meal when he is healthy and not vomiting). If Max has still not vomited for 6-8 hrs after eating this bland meal and his energy levels are normal, you may continue feeding Max at his normal meal times and gradually increase the amount of food from 1/3 the amount of his “normal diet” to full amounts of his normal diet/food over a period of 3-4 meals (1-2 days total). Always monitor Max’s bowel movements as well. If ever concerned or have questions about this transition back to Max’s normal routine, please ask your local veterinarian.

A Bad/Worse Scenario That Will Definitely Require Veterinary Care And Potential Treatment, IMMEDIATELY.

Example 2: Max, a 5 year old Yellow Lab.

Max has vomited more than twice and his energy levels are slightly decreased. In general, if seeing any of the following, TAKE AWAY ALL FOOD AND WATER IMMEDATELY AND Call Your Veterinarian for the next step(s).

  • Max has vomited more than 2 times.
  • There is blood in any of Max's vomitus.
  • Max is more lethargic than normal.
  • Max also has diarrhea.
  • You notice any foreign objects (ex. Plastic toy parts, sock, etc) that he may have eaten.
  • You are at all concerned about Max's well-being/health at this time and need additional advice.

These scenarios listed above can be signs of something more serious and possibly lead to serious fluid loss and electrolyte imbalances, especially in very young and very old animals. Vomiting in dogs can range from mild gastroenteritis to very serious concerns such as intestinal foreign bodies that require a surgery to remove or cancer in older pets.

WHAT NOT TO DO

  • NEVER administer any “over the counter” medications or prescription medications without asking your veterinarian first. 
  • DO NOT keep feeding your dog if he is vomiting. His GI tract may be disturbed or inflamed and need some time to recover before being able to normally digest any small treat or even bland food. You will not “hurt” your dog by taking away his food for 6-8 hrs.

Most importantly, keep in mind that not only every situation is different, every dog is different. Small dogs can get very dehydrated very quickly so always err on the side of caution and seek a veterinary opinion if ever concerned. 

–Dr. Marlon

The Importance Of Dental Care For Your Pet

Smaller dogs have the same amount of teeth as larger dogs, although packed into a small space (crowded). However, it's multifactorial why smaller dogs, like Yorkies, can be prone to building up additional food and plaque - and eventually bacteria that leads to "periodontal disease." SOLUTION: Even simple things like brushing 2-3x/week with "doggy toothpaste" and routine dentals can really help at home whether you have a small or large dog. DO NOT use human toothpaste, as it can be quite toxic to dogs, especially since they will often swallow the paste instead of spit it out.

Unlike humans, pets cannot readily brush their own teeth. You can imagine what goes on after months to years of not brushing, flossing, or rinsing your own mouth. Another very important thing to remember when evaluating dental care in your own pet is that the most important pathology is often NOT what you can see, but what is hidden under the gums (that you can't see). Over time, the bacteria of the mouth can seed into other areas of the body, leading to infection of vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidney or virtually anywhere the bloodstream carries them. A pet’s mouth is a gateway for bacteria and should be monitored and treated with the best care possible AND as soon as possible to prevent more serious effects. 

There are some very simple things you can do at home to manage your pet's dental care. In general, dry food, dental chews, and routine brushing can be very effective. Also, routinely monitor your pet for any redness of his/her gums, pain while eating, dropping food, excessive salivation, or foul breath can help tremendously. A regular, routine oral examination at least once a year can be very helpful along with a dental cleaning, if necessary. Watching for any pain or swelling is also critical, as lodged food/particles can cause acute pathophysiology such as “tooth root abscesses” due to trauma and inflammation, etc. If you have any specific questions, please do not hesitate to call or ask your veterinarian about your specific pet's needs and keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible! 

Be sure to check back soon for more blog posts containing education and tips/tricks on best practices for taking care of your pet!