Allergies and Pets

Welcome to our first Hair of the Dog Blog! On this Blog, we will cover topics that you care about and have actually been discussed in our shop. We will strive to bring you the most helpful and up to date information we can get our hands on. So please stay tuned for more hot topic Blog postings.

One of the biggest concerns everyone seems to have lately is dogs with dry, itchy skin. We have our own theories but we wanted the opinion of a local Vet so we asked Dr. Dan Famini of Heritage Veterinary Hospital and a professor at SRJC of the Veterinary Technician program, what he thought was the cause of this shared problem among our customers and their pups.

Dr. Famini says the number one reason for allergies in dogs is fleas. A good indicator that your pet has a flea problem is when the itchiness is focused at the base of the tail where most dogs have hot spots or have been chewing and scratching. This is in fact where 99% of the itchiness is in the dogs we groom. It is unusual for other allergies to show symptoms in that area so from this fact alone provided by Dr. Famini, its safe to say fleas are the problem. We often dismiss fleas as the cause because we can’t find one flea on our pet. What we don’t realize is the fleas jump off the animals after a blood meal. They are only visible in a medium to severe infestation. Pets that are allergic to fleas will show more intense symptoms, often with even the slightest exposure to the insects. The best recommendation we can give you is to make sure your pet is on some kind of flea treatment plan.

Food allergies must also be considered for a dog with itchy skin. Unlike people, dogs can develop allergies to foods they have eaten all their lives. We’ve all heard about how bad grains can be for dogs but Dr. Famini says he see just as many dogs allergic to lamb and chicken as he does to corn and wheat. While some dogs become genuinely allergic to their dog food, more often the dog is allergic to human food. We may not intentionally give people food to our dogs but everyone else does like our kids slipping scraps and well-intentioned visiting friends and relatives. And then there’s the dog itself acting as the living vacuum cleaner hoovering the kitchen floor.

If your dog has a genuine food allergy, it’s important to eliminate that source from it’s diet. Dr. Famini advises us to consider how sensitive people with peanut allergies are: it’s not just a peanut but even eating foods made in the same factory can set off an allergic reaction. So even a tiny or infrequent treat can be the cause. If you choose strict dietary control – no treats, no people food, it often takes 3-4 weeks to to see results. Adding some supplements to your dog’s diet can be really beneficial for their skin and coat. Omega-3 fish oil is good but Dr. Famini says algae sourced DHA is now the gold standard.

In regards to environmental allergies, Dr. Famini says that while the environment can be a factor in skin irritation, it is much less common than fleas or food allergies. Environmental allergens are the source of only about 1 in 20 dogs he sees. Fortunately, air allergens are generally seasonal, and can be treated with Benadryl.

As far as bathing goes, when faced with a flea infestation, there are some things to consider. Giving your dog a bath after a flea treatment such as Advantage, Frontline and even Trifexis by using anything other than colloidal oatmeal shampoo, will remove some of the medicine from the skin if the bath isn’t right before the next flea treatment. Our house shampoo is colloidal oatmeal shampoo, so we’ve got you covered there.

Ultimately, it’s critical to pay attention to your pet and notice if he or she is scratching excessively or showing signs of skin irritation. The sooner you take action, the sooner your pet will be back to good health.