Thursday, September 13, 2007
The Face of Fall Allergies
Poor Holly - she is miserable. Every year in late August, Hol starts to scratch. There is some plant(s) blooming now that she is allergic to, and when dogs have inhalant allergies (atopy) they don't react the same as we do. People sneeze, have runny eyes, sinus headaches, sometimes sore throats - it's all in our heads. Dogs itch. The most common areas to be affected are feet and faces. Holly uses her back foot to scratch her body (a lot) but this year, her face is more severely affected than ever before. I don't know if this is because of our dry weather (rain helps wash the pollen out of the air,) because of the high weeds I have let grow (which puts the pollen right in her face as she runs through the yard,) or if it is just because allergies tend to worsen each year.
Whatever the cause, she is a wreck. She scratches constantly. She always stops when I tell her to, but goes right back to it when I walk away. She has the hair off from around her eyes and the bridge of her nose, and little scabs all over her head from rubbing her face. My poor baby!
I started her on antihistamines and extra fatty acids about mid-August, before the signs appeared, knowing what was coming. Omega 3 fatty acids (the "fish oils") are anti-inflammatory in their own right, and when you add them to antihistamines, there is a synergistic effect. (Which means that the two together are stronger than each one alone. I like to explain it by saying "1 + 1 = 3") But, that was not enough. I add in a touch of prednisone when I can, which helps, but Hol is very sensitive to the side effects of steroids (the cortisones, not anabolic steroids. She doesn't want weight-lifter arms.) She drinks a ton and can't control her urine if she gets too much pred. So, I can only use it on days when I'm off and I can take her out frequently. I have some topical sprays, but can't use them on her face - too close to her eyes.
I have just added a new allergy medication to her protocol, and it is too early to tell if it will help. Atopica is a veterinary-labeled form of cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant agent used for organ transplant patients. The goal is to decrease the reactivity of her immune system, thereby making her less itchy. I'm hoping I will see some improvement soon; I'll let you know.
Those of you whose dogs are itchy this time of year, there are medications and treatments available to help them. See your vet before you lose any more sleep listening to the "thump, thump, thump" and jingling tags of an allergic dog, scratching at night.