Spring Has Sprung

Spring Health Tips for Keeping Your Dog Healthy

Since spring is almost here, we wanted to review a couple of relevant topics as warmer weather will (hopefully – this week not included!) come to the Roanoke valley.  Heartworm prevention in our area, because of the unpredictable and somewhat mild winters, should be given every month all year round.  However, there are still some owners who stop giving it in the winter.  If that is your choice, now is the time to get to your veterinarian, get a heartworm test, and get back on the preventative because the mosquitoes are certainly either here or coming soon. 

Flea season is just around the corner, so while you are at your veterinarian’s office, don’t forget to stock up on your flea and tick medication as well.  Ticks tend to become active earlier in the year while fleas follow closely behind.  You should stick to the flea and tick preventative that your vet suggests since the over-the-counter medications generally aren’t as effective and often are not as safe.  If you find some prescription flea and tick medication that you can buy over the counter, beware that this might not be the genuine product or may be a formulation that is not licensed in the United States.  The manufacturers on the label will not stand by medications that are bought over the counter without a prescription if you have an adverse event or the medication does not work. 

Spring is also a time for allergies to crop back up.  If you have a dog or cat that suffers from allergies, you know the routine, unfortunately.  If your pet didn’t have allergies last year, remember that they can develop allergies at any time in their lives.  Here is a quick review:

Allergies in pets usually manifest themselves as itchiness on the skin.  The hallmark sign of allergies is scratching and chewing of the paws.  There can be just redness between the toes or there can be hair loss and redness from the chewing.  Itching can be anywhere in the body, however.  If there is itching and hair loss above the tail head, then I would be highly suspicious of fleas, although I have seen allergies cause itching there as well. 

The allergy can be to just about anything: grasses, trees, pollen, mold, mildew, dust, and food to name a few, or often is a combination of things.  Generally allergies are responsive to medications such as prednisone, although anti-histamines may work in some cases.  Unfortunately, in my experience, anti-histamines aren’t very effective in dogs and cats.  When your pet starts itching and abrading the skin, often a bacterial infection can start because of the skin damage.  This is also an itchy condition that can just make things worse and create an endless cycle.  Skin infections are generally treated with antibiotics of the cephalosporin class, such as cephalexin and cefpodoxime.  Bathing can also help treat skin infections and can also help remove the allergens from the body’s surface, reducing the itch as well.  Food allergies do not tend to be as responsive to prednisone and other corticosteroids as are other allergies. 

Some pets only need short courses of corticosteroids like prednisone, and after the attack has been controlled can be maintained on anti-histamines.  Other, more severe, cases may need to have sporadic or even constant medication with prednisone or another steroid.  Some pets respond very well to allergy shots, just like people.  This requires a blood test to determine what your pet is most allergic to and then a serum can be created that will hopefully address the most serious allergens.