Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine: Warm weather means the potential for harsher skin allergy suffering among pets

Published: Jun 22, 2017
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Spring and summer bring on hot weather and humidity in the South, and along with those climate conditions is an increased potential for harsher skin allergies for susceptible pets.

"As the weather gets warmer and plants pollinate, we see our pets begin to scratch and show other signs of allergy suffering," said Dr. Amelia White, an assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Auburn University's College of Veterinary Medicine.

"In addition to excessive scratching, allergy-suffering pets may also show such symptoms as hair loss, infection in the ears or on the skin, runny eyes and noses and even difficulty breathing," said White, who is also a clinician with the Dermatology Service at the Wilford and Kate Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital.

She says while there is little a pet owner can do to prevent the onslaught of allergies, there are things owners can do to help ease their beloved friend's suffering. She recommends if a pet owner sees these symptoms, it is wise to see their veterinarian.

Other signs that a pet may be suffering from an allergy may include excessive licking, chewing and biting on themselves, head shaking, rubbing and over grooming–particularly with cats, throwing up hairballs and a pet's desire to be scratched more than usual, White says.

What causes these allergies and what can be done to ease the impact? According to White, the pet owner can really do a good bit to mitigate the problem.

"Household dust and dust mites are a common cause of pet allergies," White said. "The use of HEPA filters can help. Also, frequent changes of the pet's bedding and allergy modification medications–used under the guidance of a veterinarian–can help reduce and control allergy suffering."

Allergies are not contagious to humans or other pets, and owners can take precautions to reduce the recurrence of symptoms by reducing the pet's exposure to the causes of allergies.

While dogs and cats are subject to allergies, other animals may also suffer.

"Here at Auburn, we also see horses and exotic pets," White said. "We treat animals with recurring chronic skin infections, auto-immune skin diseases and even cancer."

"Generally, an initial exam takes two to three hours," White said. "Typical tests might include skin cytology and skin scraping, a skin biopsy or an intradermal, or skin, allergy test. Sometimes X-rays or CT scans might be necessary."

Allergies generally are not curable, according to White, but a well-developed treatment plan, along with follow-up rechecks, can significantly reduce a pet's suffering and improve the quality of life for the pet and the owner.

The College of Veterinary Medicine is the South's oldest and nation's seventh oldest veterinary medical program, celebrating 125 years. It prepares individuals for careers of excellence in veterinary medicine, including private and public practice, industrial medicine, academics, and research. The college provides programs of instruction, research, outreach, and service that are in the best interests of the citizens of the state of Alabama, the region, the nation, and the world.