A Treatise on Allergies

First and foremost, we’re on Facebook now!  Lets see if this link works:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Plano-TX/Animal-Medical-Center-of-Plano/83020511462?ref=nf  come be a fan!  I think you have to log in to FB first to get to the link OR, log in as  yourself and search for Animal Medical Center of Plano.  The site is run by me, and I’m going to try and keep it updated with clinic photos, events, cool cases/patients, etc. 

Most of what I’ve been seeing over the last day or so are annual exams.  However, the vast majority of them have allergy issues.  The few sickies I’m seeing right now have allergies too.  www.pollen.com is my source for info on what is causing my nose to run and my patients to chew their feet.

Viv’s Definition of Allergies :  An abnormal immunologic reaction to foreign antigens causing varying symptoms.  Or, said another way, your immune system is over reacting to stuff it shouldn’t react too.  The branch of the immune system that causes allergies is supposed to fight parasites.  (this is my theory).  With few parasites to go after, the immune system looks for something else to do, so it goes after stuff like pollen, dust, mold, animal dander, food antigens, etc. etc.  

In humans, allergies manifest as runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headaches etc.  There is a subset of allergic reactions known as atopic dermatitis, or eczema (human docs correct me if I’m wrong, this is what I’ve been told) that seems to be more closely related to what dogs and cats experience.  They most often get itchy skin.  Usually in the groin, armpits, legs, feet, ears and variable other parts.  This is manifested by the usual itching, but also rubbing of the face on the carpet/bed/couch etc, chewing/licking of feet, itchy rear ends (sometime “scooting” or “butt surfing” gets blamed on anal glands or parasites, but turns out to be allergies), head shaking, etc.   Flea allergies are a whole ‘nother issue I’ll cover another time (almost 100% of the time the itchy area is just above the tail on what would be equivalent to our lower back). 

First comes the itching, then the scratching, then the secondary invaders.  Yeast and Bacteria love irritated skin.  They are already hanging out in the area, but when it gets all moist and swollen, they get together and have little yeast/bacteria parties that result in infections (acute moist dermatitis or “hot spots”, or more generalized pyodermas, etc), which then make the dog even itchier…which then keeps you up all night, which then leads to the $200+ dollar vet trip. 

Explaining allergies to people who don’t have allergies is a never ending source of frustration for me.  I grew up with them, they are as much a part of me as my glasses.   I’ve been tested, I know what I’m allergic to (everything, including animals), so I just manage it with shots, antihistamines, and steroids.   There are days every year when my nose runs non stop and I go around the house with kleenex stuffed in both nostrils (my husband loves this). 

1. “There is a cure”.  Nope.  No way, no how. If you know of one, please tell me.  You can manage it…   Often it’s not cheap. Sometimes it is.  The only over-the-counter antihistamines that seem to help dogs are Benadryl, Chlortrimetron and maybe Tavist (depends on who you read; ask your vet for the dosage).  If that helps your dog, awesome.  If not, and he’s coming in to the clinic two-three-five times a year with skin problems…at $200+ a pop, more work needs to be done.  Usually allergy testing and shots, or a drug called Atopica to control symptoms.  Sometimes we’ll do a food trial to see if food allergy is a cause.  There is NO easy solution.  According to some lectures I’ve been to , only 10% of the dog population  suffers from allergies (atopy), but if feels like it’s 75% of the cases I see (just thought I’d throw that little factoid out there).

2. “But my dog barely goes outside”.  Unless you live in a bubble with recycled air that is filtered and no outside air gets into your house at all….pollen will get inside the house.  It’s invisible, floating in the air all over the place (I have this vision of that scene from the movie “The Hot Zone” where the guy sneezes in the movie theater and the virus particles swirl all around him and all over the place….pollen does that too)  Even with the fancey schmancy $20/apiece 3M filters for your air ducts, you will at some point open the front door and the pollen will rush in.  It’s just a fact of life.  Furthermore, it may not be the pollen the dog is reacting to, it could be house dust or dust mite, it could be your cat, it could be YOU (I cannot WAIT ’til I encounter the first dog that’s allergic to his human, but they are now testing for it!).  Furthermore, I’m guessing your 75 pound Lab has to pee and poop somewhere….

So, as a civilized society with cleanliness and closed sewers and good health care, we might be trading parasites for allergies (I’m not sure that there’s any proof of this, but it makes sense to me. I once heard that allergies were a disease of affluent societies).  Thus, we have to live with the annoyances allergies give us. 

Guess I’ll take that over a nasty Hookworm infection any day. 

By the way, there is a comment section at the bottom of the blog area, feel free to ask questions, make comments etc.  I get to approve them so if you’re mean, I may not print it 😉 

By the way, the predominant pollens in the Plano area today are grass, Osage Orange and Oak, and we’re at medium-high overall.  So if you are snotty or your dog is chewing his feet, that may be why.


3 thoughts on “A Treatise on Allergies

  1. Hi Dr. C,

    At what point should I bring in Barley to have his paw looked at? It’s red from where he’s been licking/chewing/messing with it, but we are watching it and it hasn’t gotten bad yet.

    1. For sure if he’s limping, if the paw is REALLY red, bleeding, etc. Have you tried Benadryl and rinsing the feet? Call me if you need the dose or some more info…

  2. If you weren’t such a great vet, I’d say you missed your calling. You’re quickly becoming one of my favorite blog writers! Keep it up. 🙂

    — Carmen’s Mom

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