NAT­U­RAL PET

Ease spring­time al­ler­gies in your dog or cat

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - BY JU­LIA SZABO

Noth­ing to Sneeze At Pro­tect pets from sea­sonal al­ler­gies with these sim­ple, nat­u­ral strate­gies.

The ar­rival of spring brings warmer weather, greener grass, and longer days to get out­side and en­joy them. But with the rites of spring comes a dreaded wrong: hay fever, trig­gered by the pollen that blan­kets the great out­doors at this time of year. No mat­ter where you live— an ur­ban me­trop­o­lis or the ru­ral coun­try­side— pollen can make life mis­er­able.

Symp­toms of sea­sonal al­ler­gies in hu­mans in­clude runny nose, itchy skin and throat, and itchy runny eyes. But did you know that dogs and cats are also sus­cep­ti­ble, though their symp­toms are diff er­ent?

Spot the Signs

An­i­mals can’t tell us they’re suff er­ing, so we must learn to rec­og­nize their hay fever symp­toms— ex­ces­sive head­shak­ing; scratch­ing, and biting at their own mad­den­ingly itchy skin; and ir­ri­tated, infl amed skin, ears, and paws— and seek the help of a com­pas­sion­ate vet­eri­nar­ian be­fore these symp­toms de­velop into a life- threat­en­ing in­fec­tion. In peo­ple, hay fever man­i­fests in res­pi­ra­tory symp­toms, but pets ex­pe­ri­ence pollen al­lergy through disease of the body’s largest or­gan: the skin. “Skin prob­lems caused by al­ler­gies are a se­ri­ous med­i­cal is­sue that can dras­ti­cally di­min­ish a pet’s qual­ity of life,” says Heather Peikes, VMD, Dip. ACVD, a board- cer­tifi ed vet­eri­nary der­ma­tol­o­gist based in New Jer­sey.

Vet­eri­nary der­ma­tol­o­gists typ­i­cally treat se­condary skin and ear in­fec­tions with an­ti­his­tamines, and some­times omega- 3 sup­ple­ments are rec­om­mended. Cus­tom­ized vac­cines may be given based on the re­sults of skin test­ing. The vac­cine may be ad­min­is­tered as an in­jec­tion ev­ery one to three weeks, or as a sub­lin­gual pump ( drops given by mouth). If the an­i­mal does not re­spond to vac­cine therapy, there are med­i­ca­tions that can pro­vide re­lief. To lo­cate a vet­eri­nary der­ma­tol­o­gist near you, visit ACVD. org.

Rx Al­ter­na­tives

Pet par­ents can take sim­ple steps to pre­vent al­ler­gies from pro­gress­ing to the point where they re­quire pre­scrip­tion meds and a cus­tom­ized vac­cine. The fi rst and eas­i­est an­tial­lergy strat­egy is a dili­gent daily wipe- down. Ap­ply a clean, damp towel to dogs and cats after they spend time out­doors to re­move pollen; do this ev­ery time they come in­side. ( Yes, it’s a chore; to make it eas­ier, pre­pare stacks of tow­els and a jug of wa­ter right by the en­trance door to your home, so there’s no track­ing of al­ler­gens through­out the house.) Fo­cus es­pe­cially on pets’ paws and paw- pads, tak­ing care to wipe be­tween the toes, where pol­lens ac­cu­mu­late and cause enor­mous ir­ri­ta­tion. “Cats don’t love baths, but they do en­joy a thor­ough, full- body wipe- down,” says holis­tic vet­eri­nar­ian Michele Yas­son, DVM, who prac­tices in New Paltz, N. Y. “It’s how the mother cat grooms her kit­tens, and it’s a great op­por­tu­nity to bond with your cat.” As for dogs, if your dog loves to go swim­ming, now is the time to in­dulge— and al­ways fol­low up with a thor­ough tow­el­ing- off to re­move pollen residue, mak­ing sure to gently wipe in­side ears to pre­vent ear in­fec­tion.

Pounce on Pollen

Re­move shoes and out­er­wear when you en­ter your home so pol­lens aren’t tracked into the in­door en­vi­ron­ment you share with your pet. Grass cutting ex­ac­er­bates pollen al­ler­gies, so when it’s time to mow the lawn, be sure all win­dows and doors are closed, and if pos­si­ble, ask your neigh­bors to tell you their land­scap­ing sched­ule so you can be pre­pared to bat­ten the hatches be­fore you hear the rev of the lawn mower en­gine.

Laun­der pets’ bed­ding at least once a week. To sim­plify this chore, cover dog or cat beds with a sheet, so it’s easy to toss

the used sheet into the wash while you re- cover the pet bed with a clean sheet.

Bathe dogs once or twice weekly with a gen­tle emol­lient sham­poo. To min­i­mize dry­ness, which fur­ther ir­ri­tates infl amed skin, use an un­scented, soap- free pet sham­poo, ad­vises Peikes. Or try a soap- free sham­poo that con­tains neem oil, which is won­der­fully mois­tur­iz­ing. ( It’s easy to make your own neem- en­riched sham­poo by adding a few drops of straight neem oil to your fa­vorite un­scented pet sham­poo.)

At bath time, re­mem­ber that pets’ ears be­come ir­ri­tated and itchy as a re­sult of the al­ler­gic re­sponse. Yas­son pre­scribes this rem­edy: “Soak a cot­ton ball in witch hazel, and squeeze the liq­uid into the dog’s or cat’s ear; mas­sage the ear gently from the out­side, then let the an­i­mal shake the ex­cess out.” Talk to your vet­eri­nar­ian about the best ear cleanser to use if your pet’s ears are in­fected.

If Spot or Fluff y presents with red, puff y eyes, and/ or ex­ces­sive oc­u­lar dis­charge, gently wipe eyes us­ing a cot­ton ball soaked in sa­line so­lu­tion, or an over- the- counter herbal eye­wash or drops for ir­ri­tated eyes ( these of­ten con­tain eye­bright). It’s fi ne to share herbal eye­wash prod­ucts with pets: “Peo­ple, dogs, and cats are all mam­mals, and we all have mam­malian eyes,” says Yas­son. “So what works to re­lieve eye dis­com­fort for peo­ple also works great for pets.” The home­o­pathic rem­edy eye­bright ( Euphra­sia offi cinalis) off ers re­lief for pollen- ir­ri­tated eyes. For small dogs and cats, dis­solve a sin­gle pel­let in some wa­ter, then squirt into the mouth; for larger pets, use two pel­lets. For best ab­sorp­tion, Yas­son ad­min­is­ters home­o­pathic reme­dies be­tween meals. The herb mullein also re­lieves the eye ir­ri­ta­tion of hay fever; sim­ply add it to your pet’s food, in tinc­ture form, twice daily. The dosage scale works like this: for crit­ters un­der 25 pounds, Yas­son ad­vises giv­ing one- quar­ter the dose for an adult hu­man; for pets 25– 50 pounds, half the hu­man dose; and for larger an­i­mals, the full hu­man dose. A typ­i­cal hu­man dose is about four drops.

Al­lergy- fight­ing Foods

Lo­cal honey is a pop­u­lar nat­u­ral rem­edy for al­ler­gies in peo­ple, and Yas­son sug­gests treat­ing pets to a daily spoon­ful of the sweet stuff too. “It con­tains lo­cal pollen, so in­gest­ing it in small doses is very help­ful for pets cop­ing with pollen al­ler­gies,” she says. The rec­om­mended daily dosage is one- eighth tea­spoon for small crit­ters, one- quar­ter tea­spoon for mid­size pets, and half a tea­spoon for big dogs. How­ever, if your pet has di­a­betes, check with your vet be­fore giv­ing honey, as it does nat­u­rally con­tain large amounts of sugar.

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