Hay Fever Treatment in Sunnyvale

Atopy is an allergic disease that is very common in dogs and somewhat common in cats. Atopy is also known as HAY FEVER! It is primarily expressed as itchiness and inflammation in specific areas. The cat can show problems with itchiness and waxiness in the ears. In the dog, the areas affected include the face, the ears (sometimes only one), the chest and armpits, legs and paws, and abdomen. The dog may lick at their legs and paws or nibble at them as if chasing fleas. The ear(s) may get bright red, waxy, and/or smelly as well as itchy or even painful. They can also get a thickened or grainy appearance to them. Sometimes the ear flap will blister, forming a hematoma. The eyes can get red, puffy, and have watery or pus-like discharge. Some dogs even sneeze or reverse sneeze! Atopy can also cause hot spots. It tends to be seasonal and can change daily in severity. The dog can get hay fever to anything humans get hay fever to, including grasses, pollens, molds, trees, dust, and dander.

Control of atopy can be accomplished in many different ways. Antihistamines can be used very safely for long periods of time. Their side effects include drowsiness and birth defects. You do have to give them two to three times a day to be effective. Essential fatty acid supplements help the antihistamines work and are very safe for the dog. They can cause diarrhea in some cases. This can be minimized by slowly increasing the dose over 4-10 days. Cortisones can be used instead of or in addition to antihistamines. Cortisones take away the itch and inflammation whereas antihistamines prevent the itch and inflammation from being as severe. Cortisones have various side effects of their own. These include increased water intake and food intake, the need to eliminate more frequently, sometimes incontinence, liver enzyme changes, muscle weakness, pituitary gland changes, adrenal gland changes, bone weakness, slow hair re-growth, increased the chance for bladder infections especially in females, kidney infections, and others. These side effects are dose-dependent meaning that they are more likely to show up at higher doses given at more frequent intervals, and/or if they are given for long periods of time (longer than one month). The good news is that generally, you do not have to use high doses for long periods and that you usually only have to give the pills on an every other morning basis. If your animal has to be on long-term cortisone therapy, it is advisable to have its blood checked periodically, such as every six months to look for any changes. Urine samples are also advised. A newer medication called Atopica is available as well. It is basically a drug that suppresses the immune system to try to relieve allergies. Vomiting and/or diarrhea are the most common side effects of this medication.

Another way to control hay fever is through specific allergen testing and desensitization. This is where the pet is either skin tested (still the best way but sometimes a hassle) or blood tested ( which is very simple but not quite as accurate as skin testing) to determine exactly what allergens cause a response in the pet. Once this is done, injections of the specific substances can be given (usually by you!) at specific days and amounts to make the pet less reactive to the allergens; i.e. less itchy! Desensitization, as this process is called, works slowly, over a two to six month period of time. It will eliminate the itch completely in about 50 to 60% of the dogs. It can reduce the itch, but not eliminate it in about 25% of the dogs, and about 15 to 25% of the dogs do not respond at all. There are a few side effects which include transient itchiness after the injections to the very rare anaphylactic reactions.

Costs for these treatments vary according to the size of the dog and the type of treatment selected. In general, cortisones are the least expensive but have the most potential for side effects. Antihistamines and essential fatty acid supplements are more expensive because you have to give more pills more frequently but they are much safer for long-term use. Atopica is a rather expensive drug initially because a high dose is usually needed in the beginning of treatment to control symptoms. The good news, however, is that it can often be tapered down to a low dose once the pet is more comfortable. The most expensive treatment option initially is desensitization. There is the testing involved as well as the injections but can control the itching without the use of drugs with their side effects. Therefore, the costs long term can be as low or lower than if pills are given on a year-round basis.

We usually recommend that for short-term control that cortisones be used unless the patient has shown a lack of tolerance for them. For longer term control, antihistamines and essential fatty acid supplements are worth the extra expense due to their lack of side effects. If the patient shows severe problems and/or has year-round problems, testing and desensitization is the way to go, as this method can be relatively cost-effective and avoid the side effects of the medication.

Sometimes there are secondary problems such as skin infections, flea bite allergies, food allergies (which produce signs and symptoms exactly like atopy except the itching is not seasonal), low thyroid levels (hypothyroidism), or other endocrine (hormonal) problems. These must be addressed as well or the treatment for the hay fever problems will only be partly successful or not successful at all.

Each patient and owner’s situation is different, and therefore each program must be custom-designed. A trial treatment program may be put in place to see if we are on the right track. If successful, it can be continued. If only partly successful, it can be modified or even changed completely. If no improvement is noted, the diagnosis must be questioned and the pet reevaluated.

Atopy is usually a very treatable and manageable disease. IT IS NOT CURABLE. But generally, it never gets so bad that euthanasia needs to be considered. Treatments can be found that will be reasonable in cost and effectiveness.

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If your pets are suffering from an allergic disease like Hay Fever, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Arroyo Animal Clinic. We’ve helped countless animals throughout Sunnyvale, CA, and the surrounding communities. For more information, give us a call today and, we will give you our expert advice!


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