Many pets are allergic to pollen, and some are allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites. Also, just like in people, some pets have allergic reactions to bee stings and certain types of spider or insect bites.
Q: What can I do to help my dog’s allergies? She gets ear infections and hot spots, and once her face swelled up after a walk in the woods.
— Sarah H., Gloucester, Mass.
A: All the symptoms you describe can be due to allergies. Many pets are allergic to pollen, and some are allergic to indoor allergens such as dust mites.
Allergic symptoms in pets usually result in skin inflammation and itchiness because the exposure is mostly a contact allergy. When skin is inflamed, it doesn’t protect itself well, so bacteria and yeast have an easier time infecting inflamed skin. Hot spots are basically patches of infected skin, and ear infections result from overgrowth of yeast and/or bacteria down in the ear canal.
Also, just like in people, some pets have allergic reactions to bee stings and certain types of spider or insect bites. We often see dogs present with acute facial swelling or a sudden outbreak of hives (which is essentially a type of anaphylactic reaction).
It is important to know what your pet is allergic to and have a short- and long-term plan established with your vet. For pets with a history of acute anaphylactic reactions, it can be helpful to keep an antihistamine on hand (similar to when people carry around an epi-pen).
Just make sure not to give your pet any medication without reviewing it with your vet first. Pets don’t necessarily get the same drugs or doses that humans do to help with allergies, and treating hot spots or ear infections needs to be done carefully and under the guidance of your vet.
Finally, boosting your pet’s omega-3 fatty acid intake can have a very positive impact on their allergies. These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory for the skin and help the body in many other ways as well. Salmon-based pet foods are rich in omega-3’s, and there are variety of over-the-counter fatty acid supplements available for pets.
As always, talk to your vet before introducing a dietary supplement or changing your pet’s food. They can help you establish a tactical approach to the bothersome, seasonal allergies that affect many of our four-legged friends. They may even recommend allergy testing and allergy shots for long-term control.
Dr. Ray Cahill owns and operates SeaPort Veterinary Hospital in Gloucester, Mass.. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.