It’s the Dog Days of Summer and if it’s anything like last year, they could be with us well into October.
So you may not be the only one in the family who’s suffering from allergies and insect bites along with the sweltering heat and humidity. Your four-legged companion might be itching as well.
Generally speaking, summertime in Middle Tennessee is not peak season for pet allergies. But they do occur and, combined with flea and tick bites and wasp and bee stings, this can be a particularly uncomfortable time of year for domestic dogs and cats.
Dr. Todd Hurst of Harpeth Valley Animal Hospital has been treating pets in the Bellevue area since 2002. So he knows what to expect when pet owners call and describe the symptoms that are all so predictable.
“The best thing you can do to avoid allergies in your dog or outside cat is to keep flea and tick prevention going year-round,” says Hurst. “Both of those parasites are sneaky. Just a few fleas can take a ride to the inside of the house and set up residence, leaving large amounts of eggs in the carpet or floorboards and infesting the whole residence.”
Hurst points out that ticks emerge early in the season in cool temperatures and carry “nasty diseases” that are potentially life threatening. Fortunately, preventive medication is very effective and reasonably priced. Hurst recommends contacting your veterinarian if your pet is not already on one of these therapies.
Ear infections tend to increase with rising temperatures as well, as dogs typically enjoy a dip in the pool or wading in a stream as much as their masters.
“Feet chewing and rubbing their ears or butt on the ground are also pretty obvious signs (of allergies),” says Hurst. “Some dogs will pick a forelimb or foot and lick incessantly, causing a lick granuloma that can be hard to deal with.”
Wasp and bee stings pose threats to your pet that are not present during colder months. Allergic reactions to stings can be dangerous. “Dogs like to chase after and bite bees, wasps and other insects so a lot of the reactions we see are on the head or mouth,” says Hurst. “Swelling can occur quickly and anaphylaxis (a severe life-threatening reaction) is a possibility. Pets that get into that kind of trouble need to be seen quickly as the swelling can affect the throat and cause breathing problems.”
According to Dr. Hurst, certain breeds are more susceptible to allergies than others. Among those are westies, poodles, boxers, bulldogs and dachshunds. Labs are prone to moist pyoderma, commonly known ‘hot spots,’ that can quickly become large, infected wounds and require prompt veterinary attention.
The good news is that with proper diet, grooming and daily observation of your pet’s habits, most allergy issues can be treated effectively. Dr. Hurst is a proponent of antihistamines, many of which are available over the counter. Depending on the severity, your vet may prescribe any number of therapies from an injection of steroids to a prescription of immunotherapy injections. Dr. Hurst encourages pet owners to consult with their veterinarian before administering any medication.
It’s that kind of advice the can make the Dog Days a little more bearable for everyone in the family.
Harpeth Valley Animal Hospital is located at 8252 Collins Road at the entrance to Poplar Creek Estates. The hospital is open Monday-Friday until 5:30 p.m. and Saturday until 1 p.m. In addition to veterinary services, the hospital boasts a large boarding facility. For more information call 615.673.0100.