Ragweed and your Itchy Dog


In October, ragweed is in full bloom and many humans suffer with hay fever, complete with sneezing, itchy eyes and even asthma. Allergies  are an exaggerated response of the immune system to a substance called an allergen. Although a small percentage of our pets respond to an allergen with sneezing, the majority of pets have the histamine receptors in their skin and their reaction to an allergen is different to humans.  The end result is itching, scratching, chewing at their paws, rubbing their face. intestinal upsets or flipping their ears.

The most common types of allergies that affect our pets are:

  • Fleas – One bite of one flea can cause a reaction in an allergic dog
  • Inhalant – Pollen, Mold, House Dust, Mites , etc.
  • Food – Wheat, Milk, Eggs, Chicken, Lamb, Rice, Beef, Pork, Turkey, Soybean, Fish and more.
  • Contact – Kapok, Wool, Sisal, Human Dander to name a few.
  • Bacterial Hypersensitivity – The pet can become sensitized to the secondary bacterial infections caused by the scratching and damaged skin.

Pets can be allergic to many things and once their immune system is fired up each time they are exposed to that allergen, they have a reaction. This then leads to developing allergies to more items and makes the condition harder to control. A clue to what they are allergic to can sometimes be linked to the area of the skin that is itching. As a general rule of thumb if the itching is around the base of the tail and back, it is usually due to an allergy to the saliva of a flea bite. If the pet is chewing at their feet, this is commonly an inhalant allergy such as pollens, molds, trees, and grasses. Food allergies can exhibit with itching on their face or intestinal upsets.

When the dog itches can also be a clue to what they are allergic to. In the spring time, it can be the pollen from the trees and grasses. In October, it is probably the ragweed. Seasonal allergies are more responsive to cortisone to relieve the itching until the blooming season is over, but many dogs that were once seasonal develop more allergies that then become year round. These dogs can develop allergies to inside allergens as well as all the outdoor allergens. If your dog suffers from allergies all year round, more aggressive treatments and diagnostics may have to be done because cortisone cannot be given everyday due to the side effects and anti-histamines, like Benadryl, do not relieve the itching as well as it does for us Humans.

Dogs with allergies suffer with the intense itching and also with secondary problems because of the damaged skin barrier. Bacteria and yeast that normally reside in harmony on your pet’s skin can now invade and infect the skin. The bacteria now produce by-products that can elicit more itching resulting in a vicious cycle. Antibiotics are an important component of allergy treatment in dogs with the secondary infection that results from the intense itching.

Ear infections are also a by-product of allergies. The ear is warm, dark and moist and if the dog has allergies, it may show up in the ears first with flipping of the ears and development of ear infections. Ruptured vessels in the ear flap can lead to an accumulation of blood and a hematoma that may require surgery to repair. Allergies can be a causative agent in chronic ear infections and unless the allergies are dealt with, the ears will continue to be problematic.

The goal to treating allergies includes:

  • Identifying the allergen with allergy testing
  • Treating the infections
  • Repairing the skin barrier
  • Alleviate the itching
  • De-sensitize the dog to allergens with immunotherapy
  • Adding dermal supplements such as Omega – 3 FA to promote healing and reduce inflammation
  • Keeping the ears clean with an ear cleanser to remove debris and dry the ear canal
  • Frequent bathing with medicated shampoos to help repair the skin and remove allergens
  • Blood testing to identify underlying problems such as hormonal imbalances
  • Flea and Parasite Control

Your veterinarian will assist you with a comprehensive, step-wise plan to help you and your pet cope with allergies.  Veterinarian specialists are also available to help tackle the most difficult cases. Valerie Fadok, DVM, PhD, DACVD has joined the staff at North Houston Veterinary Specialists and is one of the top veterinary dermatologists. We are lucky to have her serving the Houston area pets.




Be Sociable, Share!

Speak Your Mind