By Dr. Laura Hady
New Mexico has an abundance of inhalant allergens, including ragweed, Chamisa, mulberry trees, golden rod, and aster. To top it off, the allergy season lasts anywhere from January to November, with December being a plus or minus in the equation. Humans with allergies wheeze and sneeze, while pets tend to lick, itch, and scratch. There are several ways to treat allergies. While antihistamines tend to be our go-to, over-the-counter remedies like Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Allegra don’t really work well on pets. Hydroxyzine is more specific for itching and scratching, but is only 10 percent effective.
Here are some recommendations that I make to owners during allergy season:
- Try adding an appropriate dose of omega-3 fatty acids to your pet’s diet.
- Short-term, low-dose steroids used for no more than a month at a time can help to relieve the inflammation and itch. Short-term side effects can include increased urination, stool, appetite, thirst, and panting. Long-term side effects can include hair loss, weight gain, yeast infections, increased blood glucose, which may lead to diabetes mellitus, as well as too much cortisol (stress hormone) in the body.
- A special shampoo for itching, bacteria, and/or yeast used once a week for a month and then twice a month during allergy season can also help.
- Try using hypoallergenic wipes to slough off any pollen and other particles from your dog’s fur after they have been outside.
- Apoquel (Zoetis) is an oral medication that blocks the inflammatory mediators such as cytokines in the body. Initially, it is given twice a day for two weeks, then once a day during allergy season. In New Mexico, some dogs stay on this drug year-round. Side effects are rare but may include soft stool, lumps in the skin, vomiting, and skin infections.
- Cytopoint is a monoclonal antibody injection that blocks the inflammatory substances (Interleukin-31) in the body. This drug stops itching and reduces skin lesions. Cytopoint injections typically last four to eight weeks and provide substantial relief. They usually cost $55-$200 depending on the size of your dog.
- Antibiotics and antifungal medications may also be prescribed for secondary skin infections.
- Dermatology for Animals in Albuquerque can perform skin testing and provide immunotherapy. It can also perform complete skin assessments.
Thank you again for all the warm welcomes from the Prime Time community. I look forward to writing next month about gardening with your pet in the high desert.