Tips Archive

Scratch, scratch, scratch … Lick, lick, lick

An up-close look at pet allergies

By Michelle Ganon


Does your pet relentlessly
chew a specific area of his or her body? Or scooch around the room, dragging
along the ground awkwardly using front legs only? Does your dog lick his or her
paws fastidiously or attack his or her ears? These behaviors can be the pet
equivalent of a human’s runny nose and frequent “ker-choo!” in signaling the possible presence of allergies. Judging
by the urgency with which animals sometimes scratch, allergies seem to be as
uncomfortable for animals as they can be for people.

Attempts to alleviate the itch can lead
to other problems, such as permanent skin conditions, fur falling out,
secondary infections, and more. “Owners who notice their pets have issues with
their ears or skin should be seen by their veterinarians quickly,” said Brett
Wildermuth, D.V.M., Diplomate A.C.V.D., from the Animal Dermatology Clinic in
San Diego. “Allergies that are diagnosed early tend to be much easier to

Identifying the causes of an animal’s
itching can require some detective work. Veterinarians may examine a pet’s
medical history for clues, ask owners to fill out a questionnaire to identify
when the problems began and if seasonality is an issue, note the distribution
of lesions, examine bumps and crusts on the skin, and possibly administer a
blood-allergy test to look for allergy antibodies.

Dermatology specialists, who tend to
see pets that don’t respond to standard treatments, can employ more sophisticated
tests, such as an intradermal allergy test. For this test, a specialist shaves
a small area to expose skin, injects up to 70 possible allergens, one at a
time, just under the surface, and watches for a dermal reaction.

Generally, allergies are caused by one
or more of four types of irritants: fleas, foods, atopic materials (airborne
substances, such as pollen, mites and mold), or contact with specific matter,
such as wool or plastic.

Of these, an allergy to fleas is the most
common. Pets with this allergy respond not to the bug itself, but to proteins
in the flea’s saliva that are left on the skin after the bite. A single flea
can bite your pet more than 400 times, so even a small population can have a
big impact.

“It’s hard to overestimate the
importance of regular flea control,” said Laura Stokking, D.V.M., Diplomate
A.C.V.D., at the Veterinary Specialist Hospital of San Diego. “They can be a
problem year round, so owners need to be vigilant.”

Fortunately, treatment and prevention
options have improved significantly from the “old days,” when options usually
included flea powders, collars, over-the-counter shampoos and regular
insecticide treatment of the home environment. Those options have been largely
supplanted by the new, more targeted, and sometimes safer products available

Topical treatments, available through
veterinarians, can effectively stop and prevent long-term infestations by
killing fleas at all stages of their life cycle and
preventing new problems from starting. An oral regimen also can be used to quickly control a
particularly heavy infestation.

An allergy to ingredients found in food
can emerge, seemingly out of nowhere, even with foods pets have happily eaten
for years. Typical culprits include beef, dairy products, chicken, wheat,
chicken eggs, corn and soy, but anything an animal ingests can be suspect.

“Pets can be allergic to many different
types of food. Some people think lamb is hypo-allergenic because it used to be
a common novel protein used for food tests,” said Dr. Stokking. “Now that pets
are eating more lamb, we’ve seen more allergies to it.”

When a food allergy is suspected,
veterinarians typically suggest a food trial. Animals are fed foods they have
not eaten before, one protein and one carbohydrate, such as a mix of kangaroo
and oats or duck and peas, for a prescribed period of time. If symptoms
decrease or disappear during the trial period, then recur when the original
diet is reintroduced, food allergies are diagnosed. Finding the specific
allergen requires reverting to the trial diet and reintroducing one new
ingredient a week. Food may need to be hand- prepared during this time.

Dr. Wildermuth recalls a case where a
pet helped with its own diagnosis. “A dog undergoing a food trial helped
himself to some potato chips,” he said. “The owner noticed the dog began to
itch again, so this pet is now on a long-term diet free of potato.”

2008_jul_sdpets_18paw Environmental irritants that can cause
allergies include dust mites, molds, and dander from other cats, dogs, or
humans. Ear infections, licking paws and chewing feet, and red, inflamed,
infected “hot spots” can signal an atopic allergy.

“Time of onset and seasonal outbreaks
can help us identify specific problems,” said Dr. Stokking. “In San Diego, our
‘seasons’ can be tied to the presence or absence of marine layers and Santa
Anas. Plants can pollinate multiple times here, so referring to spring or fall
is less meaningful here than it is elsewhere in the country.”

Basic treatments for environmental
allergies might include using antihistamines, bathing with special shampoos,
adding fatty acids in special proportions to food as directed by a
veterinarian, and sometimes using cortisone or steroids. Specially developed
allergy shots, given by owners, two to three times per month can be used to
desensitize a pet to an allergen.

Contact allergies are the least common
form of allergies in pets. Once identified, they can be fairly easy to manage,
as long as it is possible to eliminate or minimize contact with the irritant. A
pet with an allergy to plastic will feel better if plastic food dishes are
replaced with metal ones.

Though allergies can not be cured
completely, the symptoms can be treated, with the result that your pet may
become more inclined to lick your hand or sit quietly at your feet than to
frantically attempt to scratch a ceaseless itch.


— Michelle Ganon is a San Diego-based writer and proud
parent of two dogs.


Courtesy of sdPets — Lifestyles of the San Diego Pet, from
the Union-Tribune, with permission.


Resources, Rewards and Benevolence on the Side Welcome!

Choosing Pet Food, 101

How does nutrition affect health?
What we consume is more that just ‘fuel’. It is a source of many vital compounds
that can represent the difference between top health and disease. Food is a
major factor in our total wellbeing and while  investing in a good quality may seem costly
compared to many of the budget foods available on grocery store shelves, a
wholesome diet can  help to reduce or
eliminate many of the unnecessary vet bills that are incurred when nutrition is

Consider the needs of the individual
animal Age, activity level, breed and health history as well as food
intolerances or allergies, are all very important factors to consider when
selecting a diet for your pup. There are many rather gimmicky diets being
introduced to the market each year, designed for specific breeds, sizes, life
stages and so on – but in actual fact, the nutritional needs of a dog should be
based on his or her particular requirements for calories and other nutrients,
rather than a ‘category’ that he or she falls into.

What are the downsides of a poor
quality diet? There is a direct correlation between chronic diseases such as
cancer, kidney failure, or diabetes, and poor quality food. Of course other
factors like vaccines and genetics also predispose pets to disease, but the
incidence of these disorders has increased dramatically in the

United States

since the introduction of commercial, highly processed pet food in 1950’s.

The long term effects of feeding a
highly processed diet can also lead to hypersensitivity to the environment. Did
you know that when a pet who suddenly becomes terribly itchy, the cause might
be narrowed down to something like a new cleaning product being used in the
home or a seasonal allergy
but diet
plays a role too; poor quality food can actually deplete the immune system, making
the animal more susceptible to other health problems. Dogs who enjoy a high
quality, fresh and varied diet are often noted to be far less bothered by
seasonal allergies and fleas, than their junk-food fed counterparts.

Where does nutrition fit into
Holistic Care? Nutrition is a fundamental cornerstone to total health. But
simply feeding a natural, raw or home made diet, or adding supplements to your
pooch’s bowl does not constitute ‘holistic health care’ in the true sense of
the term. Other decisions like vaccinations, veterinary choices, environment
& lifestyle are also important to consider when giving your pup the best
chance at great health. Your holistic vet or practitioner should be able to
provide some useful guidance.

Want to Know More? We’re delighted
to announce that the long-awaited Third Edition of Ann Martin’s groundbreaking
book, Food Pets Die For
Shocking Facts About Pet Food, has
just been launched.

The book includes a fascinating
‘diary’ of various pet food recalls in recent years as well as a listing of only
eleven independent pet food companies in the US and Canada that Ann confidently
recommends to readers, based on objective and impartial selection through
meticulous research. One of them is The Honest Kitchen.


Find it here!

Beat the Heat


1. Car Heat: Avoid heat exhaustion and don’t leave your pet alone in the car. During warm weather, the inside of your car can reach 120° in a matter of minutes, even if you’re parked
in the shade.

2. Let the Fur Fly: Dogs with extremely thick or long fur should be trimmed during the hot summer months. Regular use of a FURminator Deshedding Tool can remove tremendous amounts of undercoat hair.       

3. Creative Cooling: Cooling
are great for dogs that are kept outside or if you do not have air conditioning in your home. Water filled cooling mats are safe and easy to use. Or try our Swamp CoolerT cooling vest for dogs.         

4. Water: Provide plenty of water and shade for your pets so they can stay cool. Be aware that water will vaporize on extremely hot days. Collapsible Water Bowls and Gulpy Water Bottles are convenient portable water sources for your pet.         

5. Exercise at Dusk & Dawn: Pets need exercise but on very hot days, limit exercise to early morning
    or evening hours. Keep in mind that asphalt gets very hot and can burn your pet’s paws. Protective
are a good way to protect paws from hot pavement.         

6. Avoid Sunburn: Pets can get sunburned too, and your pet may require sunscreen on his or her nose and ear tips. Especially pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion

Heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering
gait, vomiting, or a deep red or purple tongue.             

What to do: Move the animal into
the shade or an air-conditioned area. Apply ice packs or cold towels to her head, neck, and chest or immerse them in cool
(not cold) water. Let them drink small amounts of cool water or lick ice cubes. Take them directly to a veterinarian.


Tips to Ease Your Pets 4th of July Fear & Keep Them Safe

Tips To Ease Your Pets 4th of July Fear and Keep them Safe.
More dogs are lost on the Fourth of July than any other day of
the year and local shelters always feel the impact. Muttropolis can offer
helpful tips on keeping Fido safe on the fourth! We may enjoy the colorful,
loud explosions of Independence Day but our four-legged companions are
terrified of the hiss, pop and crackle of the fireworks. Dogs and cats have
been known to jump through glass windows, claw through screen doors, jump
over 10 foot fences or go right through locked windows or doors in their
panic to escape the frightening effects. Many end up lost, in shelters, or
get hit by cars.


1. No Fireworks
Resist taking your pet to the fireworks displays. Most animals don’t enjoy
the holiday’s noisy spectacles. Plus, animals can be hurt by sparklers,
cherry bombs and other fireworks set off in residential neighborhoods.

2. Keep Your Pet Inside
Never leave pets outside and unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a
chain. Animals may panic, escape and get lost, or get injured by becoming
entangled in their chain. They may injure themselves by chewing or choking
on their leashes. Make sure their environment is safe and secure so your pet

3. Comfort First
If your pet will be home alone during the festivities, turn on the radio or
TV to muffle the sounds or find them a friend! Cover a table with a blanket
or place his bed behind a sofa where he will feel safe, secure and
comfortable. A crate works well too, if the pet is already crat  e trained.
Close the curtains to reduce the
likelihood of flashes.

4. Create Distractions
Try leaving interactive toys and treat releasing toys around the house to
eliminate boredom and create distraction.

5. Encourage Rest
Feed and exercise your dog before the noise starts – to encourage them to
rest and digest, especially for large breeds. Ask your veterinarian about
administering sedatives or tranquilizers before the noise starts. Rescue
remedy and Happy Traveler are non-prescription alternatives to help relieve
anxiety in your pet when given half
an hour before festivities.

6. ID Tags
Ensure your dog is wearing current identification tags or a microchip so the
pet may be reunited with owners promptly if loud noises cause it to run
away, just in case of a successful escape attempt.

7. Host with the most?
If you are hosting the festivities this year, keep the doors closed. If you
have gues  ts going in and out of the house, make sure that your dog does not
have access to the door that keeps opening and closing. While it may seem
like a great idea to reward Rover with scraps from the grill, in reality
some festive foods and products can be potentially hazardous to your pets.

8. Avoid Autos
Don’t leave your pet in the car. In addition to the danger posed by pet
thieves, cars can heat up to a deadly temperature in minutes, even with
windows partially opened.

9. Stress Signs

How to identify signs of stress: shaking, trembling, drooling, excessive
barking and howling, scratching, chewing, loss of bowel and bladder control.

10. Aftermath
Pick up leftover sparklers and other sharp objects when the festivities are
over. After the Fourth of July, be aware of possible firework debris when
walking your dog.

Some specific products that can help: rescue remedy, a crate, patriotic
, apparel and bandanas. Muttropolis is happy to help pet
parents celebrate their Patriotic Pooch Pride. Prevent you pet from
becoming a statistic this Fourth of July.