The daffodils are coming up, and the days are getting longer. Usually, this is a time of year that everyone looks forward to because we can get outside more with our pets.
But have you found yourself dreading Spring, because you know your pet turns into a hot, itchy mess?
Are you worried about the financial cost of keeping your pet itch-free or getting rid of those nasty ear infections that typically occur at this time of year?
Are you worried about what those medications are doing to your pet?
So what is a seasonal allergy and why are so many pets affected by this condition? Seasonal allergies, or atopy, are very similar to hay fever in people. Airborne pollens, molds, and dust particles are inhaled by the pet, but instead of causing sneezing and runny eyes, it turns into itchy skin and ears.
The conventional treatment for when these allergy flares occur has been to use steroids. One steroid injection and your pet is back to normal, right? NO! This is where the issues start to get worse even though your pet feels better. The problem with using steroids is that we are just suppressing the itch and inflammation, but have we actually done anything to make the immune system stronger? So here’s what usually happens…your pet feels better within the day of receiving steroids, but then you start noticing that your pet is ravenous and drinking A LOT of water and then your pet starts peeing A LOT. A lot of pets even have behavior changes and have urinary accidents in the house. But it’s ok, right? Because your pet is not itching anymore.
Steroids affect the whole body and not in a good way. They are actually going to adversely affect the immune system, long term put extra strain on the pancreas creating insulin resistance and even diabetes, and can make your pet more prone to infections. AVOID THEM WITH ALLERGIES!
There are newer medications that have much fewer side effects because they do not suppress as many pathways in the body as steroids do. Apoquel and Cytopoint are the newest drugs that are on the market. You will not see the side effects that you typically see with steroids, but did you know that you have to watch for new lumps and bumps on your pets while they are on these medications?! But it’s ok they are really, really safe, but they may cause cancer. Ok so all jokes aside, these drugs are better than steroids but we are not treating the inherent, root problem for why the allergy is there in the first place.
Ok, so at this point, you may be feeling really overwhelmed and like you are just trying to get to a point that is keeping your pet comfortable. Most people are not sleeping much because their dogs are up all night scratching, licking, and chewing, so no one is happy at this point. You may be willing to just put them on anything at this time to get some sleep. Right?!
However, now is the time to be proactive and start a few supplements, maybe make a diet change and use herbal medicine to reset the body and ultimately fix the root cause. The number one reason there is a problem is being the immune system has been ramped up due to an inappropriate amount of inflammation. The number one reason for the immune system is off in pets is their diet. Did you know that a kibble-based diet actually creates more inflammation and insulin resistance?! Kibble is not a species-appropriate diet. Yes, there are kibble diets that are better than others, but if your pet has allergies, we need to get them on a better diet that is more appropriate for them.
However, it is not as simple as just putting some veggies and meats into a bowl and feeding them, because we need to ensure it is a balanced diet. An unbalanced diet is even worse than feeding a kibble diet, so work with a veterinarian who agrees that a diet change is essential. Prescription foods can sometimes bring relief for pets, but there are so many pets who are sensitive to grains, gluten and other ingredients that the problem continues to rumble on with low-grade inflammation. Then if your pet is exposed to something like pollens or gets a flea, it kicks off another cascade of itchiness and may even lead to the need for antibiotics for skin infections and now the gut health is even worse off than before! One of the websites that is available is www.balanceIT.com. This website is great because you can create a balanced diet choosing which veggies and meats you would like to cook with for your pet. A veterinarian nutritionist formulates the diet and there are vitamins and minerals you can purchase directly from there to ensure the meals are balanced appropriately.
A few other steps you can take to help build up the gut health for your pet include starting them on a good probiotic if they are not already taking one. Proviable capsules are a great source along with Animal Essentials Plant Probiotics are a great combo. These two together provide broad-spectrum beneficial bacteria along with digestive enzymes to help digest food and create a happy and healthy environment in your pet’s gut.
A few other supplements that you can start your pet on include “nature’s Benadryl” and fish oil. Nature’s Benadryl is quercetin. Quercetin is a natural antihistamine and can help reduce the amount of circulating histamine in the body, which is the chemical mediator that is produced from the inflammatory cascade when the body is having an allergic reaction.
Histamine is the reason we get all puffy and red from insect bites or get itchy red eyes from allergies. Quercetin is also a natural anti-oxidant and is very helpful in the body mounting a healthy immune response and not a ramped-up response when it comes into contact with a foreign substance. It is important to work with your veterinarian though if your pet has any other health conditions to ensure it is safe for them to be on.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another great resource to help combat allergies. This supplement helps buildup the skin barrier and actually helps reduce inflammation too. I recommend using sustainable sources of fish oil though, so we are not depleting our oceans of this valuable resource. Using krill or sardine sources is recommended. Nordic Naturals is a great brand for pets, and you can use their dosing on the back of the bottle.
Some pets will actually react to fish oils, and if you are noticing any loose stool or flare-ups when you start this product, then you need to work with your veterinarian to diagnose a potential food sensitivity to fish.
Here’s a link to the supplements I recommend to help heal inflammation in the body: Natural Anti-inflammatory Support
One of the products I use to actually heal the body (along with everything above) is Chinese herbal medicine. This form of treatment has actually turned into my number one resource for keeping the pet from regressing and it helps the quickest when your pet is in a severe flare. I have seen pets who literally have lost all their hair, their skin is very red, itchy, and thickened from constant scratching, who actually stop scratching and return to NORMAL. No joke!! Nothing else worked for them, except herbs. They had been doing all of the above but their pet was still not responding until they used Chinese herbs.
However, using Chinese herbal medicine requires someone who knows what they are doing. I do NOT recommend jumping online googling the best herbs for skin disease and trying them. Chinese medicine is an individualized treatment which means that your pet’s needs are unique to them. The practitioner knows what questions to ask and how to differentiate which pattern of disease your pet is showing, and then they can decide what herbs are the best for them. Chinese herbal medicine is very involved but works so well.
Acupuncture is another treatment option for allergies, especially when combined with Chinese herbal medicine. Acupuncture helps modulate the immune system and can positively influence the inflammatory cascade to calm it down. Most pets tolerate acupuncture really well and actually enjoy it. The needles help the body relax by stimulating the brain to release endorphins. These are the chemicals released after you go for a run and help you feel good, so you want to do it again. These are both great tools a holistic practitioner can use if your pet is suffering from allergies.
We have many options available from holistic medicine, and I have only written about a few of them. I could go on for days about all the different nutraceuticals and supplements and different herbs that we can use to help rebalance the body. The good news for your pet is that we have options. Do not settle for the news that you are going to have to keep your pet on medications that have side effects for the rest of its life. Now you do not have to dread every spring. And now you can actually get some sleep, along with your pet, because the incessant licking and scratching noises will no longer be present, If you feel like your pet is suffering every Spring or other times with allergies, figure out the root cause today so you can help your pet thrive naturally.
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*Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian or doctor. The information contained in thenaturalpetdoctor.com is strictly for educational purposes. Therefore, if you wish to apply ideas contained in thenaturalpetdoctor.com, you are taking full responsibility for your actions. Please consult your veterinarian for medical advice for your own pets. Dr. Katie Woodley cannot answer specific questions about your pet’s medical issues or make medical recommendations for your pet without first establishing a veterinarian-client-patient relationship.