Pets can have allergies too

Consult your vet about potential allergic issues with your pets

  • Aug. 27, 2014 7:00 a.m.

With the right diagnosis and treatment

Meet Buster, a four-year-old pitbull mix. We first learned of Buster when he strayed from home and was taken into the Quesnel SPCA last fall. He was in terrible shape, almost bald and covered with oozing scabs. When claimed, his owners were directed to provide veterinary care. But, just months later, Buster was again picked up as a stray. This time, his condition was worse.

There were more oozing scabs, his ears were swollen shut and his feet looked like cauliflower, making it very hard to walk. He was riddled with infection. All of this created such a wretched odour that people gagged when they got close. Buster had little energy and his soulful eyes begged for help.

Rescuers gave him daily medicated baths, special food, supplements and medications. With this, they witnessed great improvements. The cauliflower growths on his feet fell off like chunks of Feta cheese. His sores were healing and the pain was subsiding. Soon, Buster was feeling well enough to show his fun loving personality. His eyes sparkled and his hair shone. Buster was put on an elimination diet and eased off of the medications a few months ago.

All seemed fine until he started to lose hair again. Scabs and puss reappeared. Buster is sweet, gentle and well behaved.

All he wants to do is cuddle, but people are reluctant to touch him. What could Buster be allergic to?

Since no one understands what is causing these symptoms, the team at CLR reached out to the Victoria Humane Society (VHS.)

The VHS has arranged for Buster to see an Animal Dermal Specialist in Vancouver and has agreed to cover the costs. After that, a new Island home will be found for Buster.

Just like people, dogs can show allergic symptoms when their immune systems cannot handle normal, everyday substances. Even though the allergens are common and harmless to most animals, some dogs, like Buster, can have extreme reactions. The allergens might be inhaled, ingested or skin contacted. As the dog’s body tries to rid itself of these substances, a variety of skin, digestive or breathing symptoms might appear.  Some symptoms include:

• itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin with increased scratching;

• itchy, runny eyes, ears and ear infections;

• sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea;

• snoring that is caused by a swollen throat;

• swollen paws;

• constant licking;

• skin infections – which may cause hair loss, scabs or crusts on the skin.

Any dog can develop allergies at any time during its life, but allergic reactions seem to be especially common in terriers, setters, retrievers and flat-faced breeds such as pugs, bulldogs and Boston terriers.

A few common allergens include:

• tree, grass and weed pollens;

• mold spores;

• dust mites, dander;

• feathers;

• cigarette smoke;

• food ingredients such as beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy;

• prescription drugs;

• fleas and flea-control products;

• perfumes, shampoo and cleaning products;

• fabrics, rubber and plastic materials.

Dogs can also have allergies to foods that may show as itchy skin, ear infections or stomach problems. To isolate which foods cause problems for your pet, your vet will probably use an elimination diet, followed by a food challenge.  First, only one or two foods, such as ground turkey and rice, are fed to your pet. Once you know that your pet does not react to those foods, the food challenge is started. You gradually add in more items until you notice any allergic reaction. By keeping a record, you should be able to identify which foods cause reactions. When you know which diet is best for your pet, please include this information on your Pet Plan

and keep specific food in your grab and go bag.

If you think your pet has an allergy, please visit your veterinarian.

We’ll give you an update on Buster after his trip to Vancouver.  I wonder if he can hop on the Northern Health bus on its next trip south.

Photo thanks to Michelle Taylor at Faithful Friends Pet Photography.

Liz-Ann Eyford is a volunteer with Crooked Leg Ranch.

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