This past winter, we got so much rain even in Los Angeles. The scenery has been amazing- snow in the mountains, and the blooming of the wild flowers. All the sudden southern California became “green” in stead of the “yellow” that we are accustom to.
However, we also have been seeing so many more itchy pets compared to this time of the year in the past, because of the change of season, as well as the wild party those pollens are having this year.
It’s a well-accepted concept that our pets, are just like us, can suffer from allergies. Weather it’s seasonal allergies, food allergies, environmental allergies, contact allergies from chemicals, detergents, fertilizers, or allergies from insect bites such as fleas, ticks, spiders. The signs (symptoms) can be quite similar to humans. Itchy skin, rashes and bumps sometimes with crusts, itchy face and ears, watery eyes, sneezing, and the more severe ones can get secondary yeast or bacterial infections from non-stop scratching and licking. Just like in human medicine, most of the available medications address the signs by suppressing or tricking the immune system. You see, the reason for allergies is because for some reasons, the immune system overreacts to a stimulant which it doesn’t recognize, or it “thinks” that it doesn’t recognize. Just like our friend Fourthie, he barks ferociously and works himself up like the worst dog abuser is approaching, whenever there’s someone who is not his mom or a close friend walks up to their doorsteps. That someone can be legitimately a stranger, but most of the time, that person is an acquaintance that he has already met. Almost always, we tell Fourthie to stop by giving him firm verbal order, or distract him with a funky voice, a toy, or something else. That’s what we do in conventional medicine as well. We use medications to suppress, or to distract the immune system, so it won’t continue releasing cells and chemicals that trigger all the amplified responses, and drive the body crazy with rashes, pain, fever, severe itchiness, low appetite and energy, indigestion, and more.
It all seems to make sense, and it is important to help the overly reacting immune system to snap out of that intense and unnecessary status, with something that works quickly and effectively on the acute phase. However, just like Fourthie will bark at the next person coming up, the immune system will most likely to react when it encounter the next stimulus which it deems “bad.”
In other words, allergies are more “manageable” rather than “fixable.”
Once we address the acute phase where the pet is constantly bothered by itching, infections and sneezing, we should have a sustainable longterm plan to decrease the recurrent episodes of severe discomfort. Here are the options for the directions of pursuit:

  1. Nutrition-
    Please remember that each pet’s condition is different. Like the old saying, “One man’s medicine, another man’s poison.” Especially if your pet is already having some health issues, please always consult your veterinarians before changing the care regimen to ensure that it’s appropriate to do so.

    A. Supplements:
    Like we had mentioned a few times on previous articles, the right diet and/or supplements can help to calm down or prevent inflammation.
    The available supplements that are potentially helpful for the coat and skin conditions include omegas/fish oil, probiotic, Vitamin E, Zinc, and turmeric. Also coconut oil, flaxseed and other dietary supplements are commonly available too, just with less scientific studies being done on them to support the efficacies.

    B. Food:
    In Chinese medicine, skin irritation, redness, and itchiness are caused by “too much “heat” and “dryness” accumulated inside the body. Thus more “cooling” food such as fish, duck, rabbit, pork, cucumbers, greens will be more beneficial for the condition. Meanwhile, avoid “dry” and “hot” food such as grains, sugar, highly processed diet.
    ​Besides that, there’s actually a difference between “food sensitivity” versus “food allergy.” “Sensitivity” is more specific to the particular brand, mixtures of ingredients, ways of preparing. If Fluffy doesn’t do well with certain’s brand’s chicken formula kibbles, she might still do well with freshly prepped boiled chicken breast with veggies mixing with carbohydrates, and that’s “sensitivity.” If Fluffy doesn’t do well, developing soft stool, itchy skin, excessive gas consistently whenever there’s chicken or chicken byproducts in the food, she might have food allergy towards chicken protein.
    For more details, I’m attaching an article from Tufts University regarding food allergies and the standard food trial here.

  2. Immunotherapy-
    Yes, there’s immunotherapy available for pets to treat the itchy skin!! It’s basically training the immune system instead of repressing it, and thus it’s a relatively more gentle and natural process to help the animal “get along” with the stimuli in the environment. I’m attaching an article written by Dr. Wendy Brooks, who is a veterinary dermatologist here for more details.
    Please talk to your veterinarian for referral to a veterinary dermatologist if interested.
  3. Avoid and removal of the stimuli-
    ​Sometimes the simple solutions are the most frequently overlooked ones. Frequent bathing (every 7-10 days) and wipe the pet’s feet after coming back to the house from outside, booties, T-shirt, can all potentially help to decrease the chance of exposure. Keep in mind though, with frequent baths, it will be important to use gentle shampoo and supplementing with oral Omegas to prevent over drying of the skin and coat.

Written by Helen Chiu, DVM, CVA