A popular cartoon from the Simpsons and also a very common sight in pet owners homes in the Far North at this time of year!
Seasonal allergies are a massive problem for dogs and cats in the Far North. Quite often these episodes of itching and scratching are blamed on fleas. This is true for some cases but not all. From my experience Contact allergies are the most common form of allergic skin problems I see in clinic.
Causes of skin allergies include but are not limited to:
* Kikuyu grass
* Other grass pollens
* Plant seeds and pollens
* Dust mites
* Weeding & agricultural chemicals
* House cleaning chemicals etc.
Contact skin allergies are frustrating because finding out what the actual cause is can be very expensive requiring skin testing which is often limited to specialist practices.
Management of these cases either involves managing the environment by removing or avoiding access to items causing the problem – this is quite often too hard for most owners to comply with or management of the patient.
Managing the patient involves using corticosteroids to suppress the immune system thereby taking away the swelling and the desire to lick/scratch (most patient stop licking/scratching within 24 hours of the first tablet been given.
Steroids have their disadvantages:
* They suppress the immune system meaning animals could get infections.
* They cause excessive appetite and thirst meaning some patients gain weight and
* They put extra pressure on the liver and kidneys
* Stopping treatment suddenly when on a high dose can cause a life threatening Addisonians episode
This happens when we use HIGH doses of steroids for long periods of time. To counteract this we place animals on a tapering dose (starting high and reducing over a number of days) with the aim of getting on the LOWEST dose that is EFFECTIVE. Our aim in most cases is to have our patients on less
than 0.5mg/kg every second to third day – this dose rate very rarely leads to problems later in the patient’s life.
Given the potentials complications and the potential for humans to abuse the substance animals must by law have a consultation before they can be placed on Prednisone.
For patients who have the same problem year after year I recommend combining an annual health check or the animals vaccinations at the start of the problem time (i.e. early-mid Spring for most Kikuyu grass type cases) so that a yearlong script can be written so that the patient can get as many refills as they need in the 12 months and at the same time can get its shots thereby saving money on multiple costly visits. Annual checkups also allow for any potential complications to be identified and dealt with early.
For any questions about itchy skin flea treatment or allergies in your dog or cat please contact the Far North Vets clinic.