Yesterday was the first day of spring, and we could not have asked for a more beautiful, spring-like day to kick off the season!
As much as I love spring, it also brings with it the start of another allergy season. Although we can see sneezing and itchy eyes in our pets with allergies, dogs and cats usually manifest allergies as itchy skin. Here are a few things you can do at home to help combat those allergy symptoms in your four-legged family members.
- Antihistamines: My favorite antihistamines I use in dogs are Zyrtec and Benadryl. Usually, I will start with 5mg Zyrtec in a small dog (under 20 pounds) once a day, and 10mg Zyrtec once a day in medium-sized dogs (who weigh 20-60 pounds), and 10 mg twice a day in larger breed dogs (60+ pounds). Benadryl is dosed at 1mg per pound of body weight in dogs, two to three times a day, so a 75-pound dog may get three 25mg Benadryl tablets at a time, up to every 8 hours. I recommend experimenting with either medication to see which one helps your dog the best. Chlorpheniramine is my antihistamine of choice for cats and I usually start with 2mg twice a day. Make sure you do not get a medication with any decongestant in it, as this can be dangerous to dogs and cats.
- Bathing: Bathing your dog or cat in an oatmeal-based, hypoallergenic dog or cat shampoo can be soothing to the skin and help with itchiness. I would try not to bathe them more than once a week to keep from drying out their skin. Wiping the paws with a wet washcloth or baby wipes helps to get grasses or pollens off the feet and may help those allergic dogs who like to lick their paws.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Fish oil capsules have omega 3 fatty acids that are great for the skin of our pets (and it is great for joints too!). Dogs will often eat a fish oil capsule whole, or you can puncture the capsule and squirt the contents on their food.
- Flea/tick control: Many allergic dogs and cats are also allergic to fleas, and one or two flea bites can make an allergic animal miserable. We recommend keeping all itchy animals on a prescription flea/tick medication to control flea allergies as well.
These measures may help curb allergy symptoms in dogs and cats, but they may not be enough to provide relief in some of our more severely itchy animals. There are several prescription options we have that are more effective for itch and allergy relief such as prednisone, Apoquel, Atopica, and Cytopoint injections. Also, many times allergic dogs and cats may get a secondary skin infection that needs to be addressed. Often, we can try to treat these infections topically with antibacterial shampoos or topical antibacterial/steroid sprays or with oral antibiotics or antifungals. If your pet is still suffering from allergies and itchy skin, please call us to make an appointment to discuss which of these options would provide your pet with the best allergy relief so that they, too, can enjoy this beautiful spring season.