As a dog owner, there is nothing that ruins a night of sleep like my dog constantly itching, shaking his head, and shifting all night. These are all too common occurrences at every seasonal change for myself and many others. Dogs, like people, suffer from seasonal allergies and like people, these allergies can result in rashes, sneezing, and more aggressively, ear infections, hair loss, and skin infections. If not appropriately treated, these allergies can significantly affect the quality of life of your pet. The faster we can address these issues, the shorter and less drastic the treatment is. However, if we let these seasonal allergies plague our pets for a long while, often times, it’s a long road to full recovery. Owners often tell me that they noticed licking feet, shaking heads, scratching at ears or having more of a dull or greasy coat. Often these issues do not seem drastic or bothering their pet enough to seek out treatment. It is EXACTLY at that time that your pet should be evaluated. The sooner the better to avoid the following issues.
Ear Infection: Head shaking, ear scratching, face or ear rubbing, foul smells from your dog’s ear, and even ear discharge are all signs that your dog might have an ear infection! A dog’s ear anatomy is much different than that of a human. The external “floppy” or “pointy” part of the dog ear is called the pinnae. Though this is the visible aspect of the ear to you, this is not often the area of issue. The ear canal, which in a dog is made up of vertical and horizontal parts, is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. In more floppy ear dogs, we see infection more readily as moisture is trapped easier and there is less air and sun exposure. Ear infections or “Otitis Externa” are diagnosed after taking a small sample of “ear wax” from the dog’s ear canal then analyzed with special stain under a microscope. There it can be determined if there are bacteria, yeast, or both. This sample is vital information for yourveterinarian so that they can choose the perfect medication for your dog. Ear cleaners are an important part ofclearing up an ear infection but are used in conjuncture with antibiotics. Make sure to ask your veterinarian or veterinary technician to show you how to properly clean your dog’s ears.
Itching:Dogs itch themselves for numerous reasons, one in which could be seasonal allergies! If your vet has eliminated other causes such as food allergies, external parasites and contact allergies, your pet could be dealing with seasonal allergies. Ultimately, it is our goal to treat your dog for WHY he/she is itching, however, there are treatments in the meanwhile that can help decrease itching. Apoquel is adaily medication you can give your dog at home to help decrease itching. Cytopoint injections are another way to decrease itching overall for those finicky pill takers. Over the counter Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can sometimes help your pet. Before you ever give your pet over the counter medication, please contact your local vet to make sure what you are giving is safe and how much to give.
Rashes / Greasy Skin/ Hair Loss / Pimples: If your pet’s skin looks greasy, has bald spots from itching / licking or you start to see pimple like bumps, your pet is likely dealing with a skin manifestation of allergies! Baths, when done right, can be super helpful to your dog. “Is there a wrong way to bathe my dog?” YES!!!
- Make sure to let the shampoo sit on your dog’s skin for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off
- Fill your bathtub or bucket with a small amount of the shampoo so their paws can soak
- When lathering and scrubbing your pet, always go WITH the direction of the hair, never against as this can cause more issues
- When drying your dog, dry them as much as you can and always wipe them down with the direction of the hair
- Bathe your dog every 3-5 days until we start to see resolution of the skin issues
- Please ask your veterinarian about what type of medicated shampoos would be best for your pet
Ultimately skin allergies can be much more complex than this and sometime even require antibiotics,special cultures and advanced testing. There are some quick tips and information to help you keep your pet happy and healthy during seasonal changes!