PETS GET ASTHMA AND ALLERGIES, TOO.
Do you have a pet that licks himself a lot− in the paws, nails, back, belly or rear end? Does your pet have dry skin−mild skin flakes throughout his back? Does your pet have goopy eyes in the morning or a mild hacking cough or wheezing? Exercise intolerance? Ear infections? Rear end rubbing? Licking of the rear? Every day vets are presented with pets exhibiting these symptoms, and practically all are caused by one culprit−allergies. Like April showers bringing May flowers, the increased pollen brings a lot of allergic pets to the vet. Management for your pet is very similar to management of people with inhalant allergies and eczema. Speaking as a mom with an eczema child, I can truly relate.
WATER IS OUR SKIN’S FRIEND.
One of my biggest pet peeves (as a vet) is to hear clients tell me that they were told not to bathe their pet but once every two to three months. This needs to be debunked. Bathing is one of the most important treatments in the allergy suffering pet. Pets spend a lot of time outdoors. Allergic pets not only inhale their allergens but wear it, too − on their fur − when they are rolling around in the grass. Frequent bathing helps to wash off the allergens that may be making them itchy. It helps clean the skin and prevent a secondary skin infection resulting from constant scratching, licking or chewing.
Other allergy treatments include antihistamines, lotions and creams, antibiotics and antifungals for secondary skin infection and omega 3 fatty acids. Allergic bronchitis in our pets is quite common. It manifests as a dry gag/ cough that can change daily and usually lingers for a couple of weeks or longer. An x-ray of the chest is necessary to differentiate this from kennel cough. Pets (dogs and cats) with allergic bronchitis may have exercise intolerance, gain weight from lack of activity and appear to have labored breathing intermittently.
Veterinarians can give pets allergy tests to determine what (if anything) they are allergic to. Th e resulting treatment may be something simple like a change in diet, to something more complex such as allergy shots or use of rescue inhalers. Regardless of the complexity, veterinarians have had tremendous success in treating most allergies in pets. It is very rewarding to see how dramatically a pet can improve with the proper diagnosis and treatment.
Pets will eat the strangest things, and a good pet owner should pet-proof their home until they know what their four-legged friend is willing to chew on. Yorkshire terriers seem to especially enjoy plastic. Second only to spays and neuters, retrieving objects from a pets stomach is the most common surgical procedure that a vet may do. Pets (cats as well as dogs) may ingest clothing, small toys or objects which may have food on them, such as a spoon that may have been used to scoop wet pet food. Also, pets do not remember negative consequences of ingesting something they should not have. If your pet swallowed a toy and needed surgery to retrieve it, your pet is just as likely as before to try eating the exact same toy. It is not uncommon for us to have to do multiple foreignobject surgeries on the same pet. For example, one patient of ours has had four surgeries in just one year. If caught early enough, sometimes a vet can retrieve the object by using an endoscope, which is a long flexible hose with a camera and pincers on the end. If you suspect your pet may have eaten something, notify your vet as quickly as possible. An endoscopic procedure can be half the cost of surgery. And a pet with a foreign object stuck in its belly can be life-threatening. Not all animal hospitals have endoscopes, so you may want to ask your vet if a referral to a vet that has one is appropriate for your pet’s situation.
It is not normal for pets to vomit, i.e., blaming that darn hairball again. If you have a cat, you know about hairballs. If you have a dog, you know about regurgitated food. While these may seem like normal behaviors for pets, it could be indications of a need for a diet change or more severe medical problems. Even if your pet has always eaten the same food, over time your pet’s digestive system may become intolerant to what it normally eats. Your cat may need more oils in its diet to help pass hair it ingests. Your dog may have trouble chewing its food or swallowing due to soreness of its teeth caused by teeth cavities or fractures, resulting in your pet swallowing before the food is properly chewed. Almost 40% of dogs and cats have some sort of dental problem, including cracked teeth, gingivitis and/or tooth decay. Vomiting can also be signs of a larger problem with the esophagus or stomach, such as esophagitis, gastric ulcers, acid burn or laryngeal paralysis.
Frequent vomiting is also a common symptom of infl ammatory bowel disease. Let your veterinarian know if and how oft en your pet is vomiting. If you or a family member routinely vomited, wouldn’t you see a doctor? So how did it ever become acceptable to see our pets vomit and not be concerned?
WHAT YOUR PETS CAN GIVE YOU.
Research has shown that owning a pet has a causal eff ect of lowering their owner’s blood pressure. Pets can also provide companionship, and in rare instances actually save their owners lives (like barking during a fi re or protecting our homes.) However, a pet’s health is not completely independent of their owners. Th ere are some diseases that can be spread from pets to humans, and from humans to pets.
Rabies is a well-known condition that kills many humans as well as pets worldwide. Vaccinating your cats and dogs − even if they are indoor pets − is the law in many jurisdictions, and vets are oft en required to provide data to authorities concerning each pet’s rabies vaccine status. Due to the incredible risk of this deadly disease, a vet may refuse continuing care of an unvaccinated pet because of the risk posed to the staff . Being bitten or scratched by an unvaccinated pet may mean quarantining the pet for many weeks and precautionary shots for the veterinarian and their staff until the pet is shown to be rabies-free.
In addition to rabies, pets can also be carriers of leptosporosis, ringworm, scabies (mange), intestinal parasites (hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms), giardia and MRSA. In fact, MRSA, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria that plagues human hospitals, is growing in prevalence among pets. Pets may be carriers of MRSA, and can give as well as receive MRSA to and from humans. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that MRSA is the tenth leading cause of death in humans. As in human medicine, one of the ways to prevent the spread of MRSA is to make sure your pet takes all of its antibiotics when prescribed by a vet, and not stopping mid-treatment as symptoms improve since this leads to the bacteria mutating and ultimately becoming immune to the drugs. Properly managing wounds and cuts can also minimize secondary infection. Pets can reinfect their human owners who have been treated for MRSA, so anytime MRSA has been found among anyone living in a home (pet or human), MRSA should be tested among all members and treated together, since humans can re-infect pets, and pets can re-infect their owners.
Lastly, thle most common surprise among pet owners is two-fold. First, diagnosing a pet’s condition can be expensive. However, prevention and early diagnosis is much cheaper than waiting too long. Asking a vet to guess rather than take that x-ray or running the lab test is akin to playing the lottery rather than saving for retirement. And your vet takes risks by “guessing.” Your veterinarian must be able to justify to the health department and DEA all treatments made and prescriptions written, and your vet cannot justify before a board of veterinarians that they had to “guess” on a diagnosis. Writing prescriptions for medication without an exam, treatments without proper diagnosis − these are all prescriptions for your doctor to lose his or her license. Also, it should be obvious now that just treating symptoms such as itching, vomiting, and sneezing are going to be more expensive in the long-run than getting that initial diagnosis of allergies, swallowing a foreign object or having bad teeth corrected.
Veterinarians love challenges. It’s in our DNA as inquisitive pet lovers and doctors. We aim to make pet owners surprised at how well their pets do with routine care.