The arrival of springtime was extended this year. We are finally seeing Mother Earth turn the corner. It is such a transformation from day to day as the dead becomes alive again. Along with this amazing time of year we also see pets start to itch. Allergies to the pollinating trees and flowers does not only affect people but our pets as well. During your pets lifetime, if you do not have to deal with allergies, you should count yourself blessed. They can be a source of constant frustration for the pet and the entire family.
It is crucial that if you suspect allergies in your pet that you seek veterinary care. We do need to make certain that your pet is reacting to environmental allergens verses external parasites (fleas, lice, mites) or food sensitivities. One flea will bite 50-70 times a day. That can be extremely irritating. Pets can develop Flea Bite Dermatitis where each bite causes an allergic reaction from the flea saliva making that pet miserable. This causes a number of pets that have just a few fleas to show a more intense reaction than other pets in the home. Both dogs and cats can be affected by this condition.
Bravecto, a 3 month flea and tick prevention, has been extremely effective in breaking this cycle. Any flea that feeds dies immediately and this decreases the allergic reaction. In the past many of our topical products had difficulty spreading over the skin of these allergic pets since their skin was damaged from their constant chewing and scratching. Therefore we had some pets who never seemed to get relief without the use of corticosteroids to reduce the itch. Corticosteroids caused all sorts of undesirable side effects like increased thirst and urination along with weight gain. We also had concerns about long term usage leading to a disease called Cushings Disease.
For the last 3 years we have been selling Bravecto. It has been interesting to see dogs that never had hair during the summer months now have a full coat because we have knocked the fleas dead with every bite the first time. The 3 month dosage removes the infestation from most homes and continual usage keeps it from returning. We have also seen a decline in fall allergy cases. Please, if you have a pet that seems to have “seasonal allergies” consider the use of a product like Bravecto to see if it can benefit your pet. We may be underestimating the number of flea bite dermatitis cases in our pets since fleas are hard to find.
Other external parasites like lice and mites can cause dogs to itch constantly. This past week I had a dog from California that was itching all over. They did not use flea and tick products since they lived in the desert. They did allow their dogs to run free when hiking or exploring new areas. Her pampered and protected fur babies had lice. She was shocked. We started prevention for external parasites and she took home shampoo to start bathing her dogs since they sleep with her. I informed her that dog lice do not like to live on people but she was taking no chances. Every pet, no matter how sheltered, should be on prevention for external parasites. This includes indoor only cats, especially if you have a dog that goes in and out.
Food allergies are a year round cause of skin issues in dogs and cats. I realize this does not seem logical. Why would a pet’s diet cause them to itch? It is related to the immune systems response to the ingredients in the pets food. Often times the itching will involve the face, ears, and neck. Dogs with ear issues only have responded to dietary changes. It is important that you visit with your veterinarian about your pets itching so you can have the best possible outcome.
If your dog does have seasonal or year round allergies not related to external parasites or diet, we have some new products that are revolutionizing these pets lives and their families. These two products can remove the itch without the side effects of products available in the past. The cost is based on the size of the dog but has successfully stopped the itch. Pet parents are sleeping better because their dogs are not scratching all night. The dogs no longer have hair loss or skin infection associated with the constant scratching and chewing. Many dog owners report that their pets appear happier overall because they no longer spend their days itching.
The first product that came available was Apoquel. This oral medication is given twice per day for the first 2 weeks, then goes to a once daily dosage for maintenance. We have some dogs that are on this year round and others that only need it for a season, like fall. As long as they get their medication the dogs are comfortable and not itching. Everyone is happy.
Last year a product called Cytopoint became available as an injectable product to help itching dogs. Initially they felt it would need to be given monthly to control the itch. As the product became more widely used, it was determined there was a longer duration of efficacy than originally thought. Many dogs were getting 8 weeks or more before the itching returned. We use the product and encourage the owner to help us determine how often the injection should be given based on the dogs symptoms.
These two products have truly changed the lives of allergic dogs and their owners. We, as veterinarians, are grateful to have products that we can use that are effective and do not have undesirable side effects. Make certain that you speak with your veterinarian about whether either of these products would be right for your dog. Since springtime has arrived officially, start your flea and tick medications today. We know those undesirable external parasites are waiting for your fur babies. Don’t let them have a chance at survival on your pet or in your home.