Surviving a Tough Allergy Season
What a winter - itchy pets all throughout... which means that the spring/summer 2015-2016 is going to be an even tougher season. So how can we all survive it with our sanity (and bank balances) intact.
We hope here to offer some practical solutions to surviving what is likely to be a tough season for itchy pets, with a focus on those who are allergic (although some suggestions may apply to pets who are itchy due to other causes).
To Bath or not to Bath....
As a general rule, you should only wash your pet when it is smelly or dirty. But this rule applies to those who don't have skin problems per se. We do know that those pets with allergy symptoms, frequent bathing in an appropriate shampoo will help wash away the contact pollens, and provides a protective barrier against further "attack of the pollens".
Shampoos are grouped into
-soap based or soap free
- with or without sulphates
-for dry, normal or greasy skin
So there are important things to consider when choosing the right shampoo. How frequently should you wash your pet? We are talking about allergy patients here, so the frequency could be as often as weekly or twice a week.
Washing your dog tips -
- also do a "spot check" of any new shampoo on your pet before your apply it.
- Dilute the required amount of shampoo into a container of water first
- Wet your pet first and then sponge on the shampoo mixture.
- Pay your dog well - lots of treats whilst shampooing.
- Rinse well - especially in the armpits, groin, and between toe areas.
- Use luke warm water - too hot or too cold is uncomfortable and can increase the itchiness felt after a bath.
Each range of shampoos have their recommendations depending on your pet's skin requirements.
To Condition or not...
Well, the "always do it rule" is that your should always use a conditioner AFTER you shampoo your pet. But the same thing applies for shampoos - not all conditioners are the same.
Conditioners are usually grouped into
- oatmeal based
- moisturiser based
- antibacterial based
I really like the leave in conditioners, and find them useful even applied between bathing on to a damp coat. An easy tip is to dilute the conditioner into a spray bottle, and actually spray it on.
For our dog, Piper (who is an allergic dog), we have found that QV bath oil diluted into a spray works well - why not ask us for the "recipe".
A common saying I get - "My pet is itchy, I don't use flea control as it doesn't have fleas." Well, you may be right about the flea scenario, but you may also be wrong. Pets who are itchy often don't have typical signs of flea infestations, as they are effective at grooming them out.
All itchy dogs need to be on good quality flea control. No ifs or buts. And it starts now.
But what if there are other parasites such as lice or mites? Revolution applied each two weeks for 3 doses should eliminate that problem.
You will be amazed at how much easier you will be able to control your pet's allergies to pollens and grasses, just by eliminating parasites.
Medication Support - Fish Oils -
Well, there is little science to support that they do help, but that is because it is well known fact that they do make a difference. Specific veterinary based Fish Oils are the best, as not all "oils" are the same - (I didn't think so either until I did the research) - whilst fish oil may seem like just fish oil, there are different grades of quality, and with that, comes effectiveness.
We need a product with both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, and the pet needs to be on them forever. They are effective in slowly working towards normal skin health.
Medication Support - Antihistamines -
All First Aid kits for pets should include antihistamines. We do have an antihistamine dose chart for your information. Antihistamines do help 30% of pets, but pets do need a much higher dose than people, and they need to be on it for a longer time frame - such as persistantly on it during the itchy season.
Which antihistamine is the right one for your pet? Well, we usually suggest choosing three antihistamines, and then doing three weekly trials of each one - then picking the one which you feel gave you the best response. That is the best advice that I can give you for your pet.
Antihistamines are not side effect free, so check your pet's health status first, but they are available over the counter at your local chemist.
Medication Support - Dermoscent Essential 6 ..
In my humble opinion, this product is essential in all itchy pets. It is designed to put back in what the itching, scratching, allergic disease has taken out. It is all natural, and available without a prescription.
Applied weekly for the first eight weeks, then fortnightly thereafter, I have seen dramatic improvements ranging from reduction of dandruff, hair shedding to a shiny glossy coat. And of course, a reduction in the itchiness too.
Skin Support Foods -
This should actually be at the top of the list, not near the bottom. If your pet has any history of Allergic skin disease (whether it be ears, feet, tummy, all over), then you need to take a good long hard look at what you feeding it.
I am not going to say that the most expensive commercial diets are the best, or that raw food is better. I always say the best food for your pet is the one which keeps it healthy, strong and happy.
But, I have seen dramatic improvement in many of my skin cases through diet modification alone - whether it be formulating a home made (balanced diet) or through using a commercial food.
My recommended commercial dog foods for allergic dogs include:
If the dog is otherwise well, but needs extra skin support
- Ivory Coat Hypoallergenic
- Royal Canin Skin Support
- Hills Sensitive Skin
If you suspect your dog has food allergies, then you need
- Royal Canin Anallergenic (this is the food our dog Piper is on)
- Royal Canin Hypoallergenic or Hills z/d Ultra
(both of these foods have hydrolysed protein - this masks the protein so the immune system isn't stimulated)
What about the stuff I left out that also needs to be done?
Well these are the things that you need to go to your vet for. And here, I am talking about allergy and hormonal testing, the options of immunotherapy, immune modifying drugs (such as cortisone, cyclosporine, and some of the newer ones). Oral antibiotics or antifungal tablets if needed. There are many ways that your vet can help if you just let them.
For our dog Piper, as soon as allergies were suspected, I performed skin tests (skin scraping, skin cytology) to rule out infections first. She had her flea control trial - and then off for intradermal skin testing as well as blood testing for allergies. She is now on a double allergy vaccine, as this is how we are managing her allergies (with food, antihistamines and judicious use of shampoos/conditioners and sprays).
Anyway, the purpose of this page was to help with non-veterinary consultation suggestions to help your pet survive what is going to be a tough season.
For general information on "Washing Itchy/Smelly pets" you can visit our Skin Management Page.