Allergy - General in Dogs

  • Written by Submited by VCA Animal Hospitals

What is an allergy?

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins.

“... with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body. “

The allergen protein may be of insect, plant or animal origin. Exposure to the allergen, usually on multiple occasions, sensitizes the immune system, and a subsequent exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. Normally the immune response protects the dog against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body.

The immune reactions involved in allergies are quite complex. Most reactions involve an antibody in the blood called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). In an allergic reaction the allergen protein molecules combine with IgE antibody molecules and attach to a type of cell called a mast cell. Mast cells are found in many tissues throughout the body. When the antigen and antibody react with mast cells, the mast cells break up and release potent chemicals such as histamines that cause local inflammation (redness, swelling and itching). This inflammation causes the various signs associated with an allergic reaction.

What are the symptoms of allergies in dogs?

In the dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized (in one area) or generalized (all over the body). In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system with coughing, sneezing and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.

How common are allergies in dogs?

Unfortunately, allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age with the majority of affected dogs over age two.

Are allergies inherited?

Some allergies are inherited. The inherited trait is known as Atopy (see What is Inhalant Allergy or Atopy below).

What are the common allergy-causing substances (allergens)?

A very large number of substances can act as allergens. Most are proteins of insect, plant or animal origin, but small chemical molecules known as haptens can also cause allergy. Examples of common allergens are pollens, mold spores, dust mites, shed skin cells (similar to “pet allergies” in humans), insect proteins such as flea saliva and some medications.

What are the different types of allergy?

There are several ways of classifying allergies. Some examples of classifications include:

• Precipitating allergen - Flea Allergy

• Route the allergen takes into the body - Inhalant Allergy, Skin Contact Allergy or Food Allergy

• Time it takes for the immune reaction - Immediate-type Hypersensitivity, also called Anaphylaxis or Shock, and Delayed-type Hypersensitivity

• Type of immune reaction - Types I through IV Hypersensitivity

• Clinical Signs - Allergic Dermatitis or Allergic Bronchitis

• Inherited forms - Atopy or Seasonal Allergies

What is Contact Allergy?

Contact allergy is the least common type of allergy in dogs. It results from direct contact to allergens, such as pyrethrins found in flea collars, pesticides used on the lawn, grasses, materials such as wool or synthetics used in carpets or bedding, etc.

“...there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact...”

If the dog is allergic to these substances, there will be skin irritation and itching at the points of contact, usually the feet and stomach. Removal of the allergen (once it can be identified) often solves the problem.Caution:The symptoms of allergies can be confused with other disorders or occur concurrently with them. Do not attempt to diagnose your dog without veterinary professional assistance. Be prepared for your pet to receive a full diagnostic evaluation to rule out other causes. If an allergy is diagnosed, your whole family must follow your veterinarian’s advice very closely in order to successfully relieve your pet’s discomfort.

Helping your cat with osteoarthritis

  • Written by Sno-Wood Animal Hospital
A diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in your cat can feel devastating and even overwhelming. After all, we know that OA is a progressive, degenerative disease that will worsen over time. By most estimates, 90 percent of cats over age 10 are affected by OA, making it the most common chronic disease they face. Once a cat is diagnosed with OA, it is important to understand that our focus is management rather than cure. Success means maximizing your cat’s comfort and function while minimizing pain.

Successfully managing your cat’s OA means maximizing comfort and function while minimizing pain.

The good news is that there are many strategies, both big and small, to help cats live with their OA.

What is the first step I should take to help my cat with OA?

Create a true partnership with your veterinarian. This means scheduling regular evaluations to monitor the progression of OA and modify the treatment plan. Dedicate a journal or notebook to your cat’s ongoing health/medical issues and write down all your questions as you think of them. Take your notebook to all veterinary visits to record answers to your questions as well as to note the details of any updated veterinary recommendations. We only recall about 10 percent of what we hear, so it makes sense to write things down.

Can my cat’s weight make a difference in managing OA?

Yes, it can. If your cat is carrying extra weight, work with your veterinarian to plan a weight-loss strategy to get your cat lean and keep him or her that way. Your veterinarian will prescribe a specific diet that will provide joint support and help your cat lose weight. Ask for specific portion recommendations and schedule regular weigh-ins to monitor success. It is a myth that cats need to eat “at will.” They can easily learn to eat two measured meals a day, and this is a big step toward getting your cat back in shape.

Can exercise help?

With OA joints, we know that cats need to “use it or lose it.” Regular moderate exercise contributes to better joint health, even in the face of OA. Most cats can learn to use a harness and leash to take walks with human family members. Typically, they want to lead the way rather than “heel” like their canine counterparts. Chasing the light from a laser pointer or a feather toy on a casting rod and reel are two additional activities cats may enjoy.

Is there anything I should know about the pain medications/nutraceuticals/supplements my veterinarian has prescribed for my cat?

Use all products strictly as instructed/labeled. Do not modify delivery/dosing of prescription medications except under the direction of your veterinarian. Be sure to ask for a written summary of potential side effects and monitor your cat carefully. If you witness any adverse side effects from medications, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Are there any other veterinary management options I can look into?

You may want to explore physical medicine to complement medication, nutrition and nutraceuticals to help your cat with OA. Physical medicine options include physical rehabilitation, acupuncture, chiropractic and medical massage. You want to work with appropriately qualified and credentialed individuals, so seek your veterinarian’s guidance for a referral. Physical medicine may allow for decreased doses of medication over time by helping to restore more normal biomechanics, movement and strength in the cat’s body.

Physical medicine may help restore more normal biomechanics, movement, and strength in your cat’s body.

How can I modify my home environment to maximize my cat’s comfort and function?

There are some simple things you can do to make everyday living much more comfortable and fun for your cat with OA. Something as straightforward as providing raised food and water dishes can relieve low-back pain and make mealtimes more enjoyable. Dishes between your cat’s elbow and shoulder level are generally most convenient. Many cats like to sit in windowsills, so providing a stool or ottoman as a “step up” makes it easier for them to go vertical. Carpeted steps can also help cats climb onto beds and furniture.

In addition, keep your cat warm and dry. Outdoor living is, in general, not appropriate for these cats. Cats with OA cannot easily defend themselves from attack, nor can they evade other outdoor dangers. To make sleeping surfaces as comfortable as possible, consider providing your cat with an orthopedic or memory foam bed.

Finally, an often-overlooked yet very important environmental modification is slip-free flooring. In this age of hardwood, laminate, tile, and vinyl flooring, cats with OA lose out. We can help them by:

• Adding area rugs with non-skid backing.

• Laying down interlocking squares of lightly padded flooring (such as those used to create play surfaces for children). These squares work well for covering large floor surfaces because they can be custom-fitted to any room and easily removed for cleaning and entertaining company.

What is my takeaway message?

Work with your veterinarian to expand and fine-tune these options for your cat. With a bit of imagination and creative thought, you can help your cat with OA enjoy a long, happy, and comfortable life!

A Perfect Dog Sport!

  • Written by Positive Dog Training School

When even reactive dogs and a little corgi who walks with his  back legs attached to wheels since his hind quarters are paralyzed  can participate, you know this is the perfect sport for all dogs. All ages, all breeds and mixed breeds are welcome because all dogs have fabulous noses and that is the only requirement for the sport of  “Nose Work.”  If the dog’s owner wishes, the game can go as far as entering scenting trials. However, the greatest benefit is the   bonding  that occurs between the owner and the dog. All that is needed to start is a few cardboard boxes, good smelling yummy dog treats and any time of the day or night to “play” at home and to join a “nose work” class for instruction. For more information, visit the website of  National  Association of Canine Nose  or Positive Dog Training School. com in Woodinville.                                          .

Leptospirosis in Dogs

  • Written by Submitted by Sno-Wood Animal Hospital.

What is leptospirosis?

Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease of dogs and other mammals that primarily affects the liver or kidneys. Leptospires are known as “aquatic spirochetes.” The organism thrives in water and they have a helical or spiral shape with a characteristic hook on one or both ends. There are many species and serovars of leptospira, some of which cause disease in dogs. There is no evidence that Leptospirosis causes clinical disease in cats.

How common is leptospirosis?

Infections of dogs with L. icterohemorrhagiae and L. canicola are uncommon in areas where widespread vaccination of dogs is routine.

How are dogs infected?

Leptospira bacteria are carried mainly by rats and other rodents, but can also be carried by almost any mammalian species, including people. Infected or recovered “carrier” dogs may act as a source of the infection.

What are the signs of leptospirosis?

Many leptospira infections go undetected, but other cases can be life-threatening. There are three main forms of the disease:

1.  Hemorrhagic (bleeding)

2.  Icteric or jaundice (liver)

3.  Renal (kidney)

How is leptospirosis diagnosed?

Because the clinical signs are variable and easily confused with other diseases, definitive diagnosis can be difficult. There are no readily available rapid and definitive laboratory tests. Taking blood samples during infection and again in the recovery period and showing an increase in antibodies to leptospira in the blood serum (at least a four-fold increase in antibody titer) is supportive of the diagnosis.

What is the treatment?

Antibiotics such as penicillin, ampicillin and amoxicillin are reasonably effective if begun early. Most affected dogs require intensive care in the veterinary hospital.

How can leptospirosis be prevented?

The vaccine for lepto-spirosis is not always part of the routine vaccination program for all dogs. Your veterinarian will consider the risks and options for your pet.

NOTE: Leptospirosis can be transmitted to people, so owners of dogs that may have the disease should avoid contact between the owner’s bare skin and their dog’s urine, and wear rubber gloves when cleaning up any areas the dog may have soiled. The organism is readily killed by household disinfectants or a dilute bleach solution

Welcome a new pet into your home with these tips

  • Written by ARA


You’re a pet owner. Bringing a new pet home is an exciting experience but requires some preparation. That adorable ball of energy covered in fur will interact with just about every inch of living space and your life is about to be enriched in ways you’ve never dreamed possible.Prepping your house, wardrobe and routines ahead of time can help ease the transition for both you and your new family member. Here are some tips to welcome a new pet into your household and ensure a smooth transition for everyone:

Pet-proof your home. Just as you would baby-proof a house for an infant, make sure to pet-proof your house for your furry friend. Rearrange your living space by placing anything breakable at a higher level. Baby gates work well to prevent dogs from entering areas of the house that aren’t safe for them, or places you don’t want them to be. Remember, cats can jump extreme distances, so clean off the top of your cabinets and refrigerator in case your kitty decides those are his or her favorite places to play “hide and pounce.”

Manage pet hair on your clothing. There are many joys of owning a pet but many would agree, if they have a “pet peeve” about their four-legged friends, it’s the shedding. A surprising 57 percent of women are hesitant to wear black clothing around cats and dogs because of the lint and pet hair it attracts, according to a Procter & Gamble study conducted in August. However, you don’t need to change your wardrobe just to snuggle with your new pet. Use the Bounce Dryer Bar or Bounce dryer sheets when doing the laundry to help repel pet hair from your black clothing. Visit the Bounce Facebook page at for more information.

Prepare for pet odor. A dog or cat will introduce new smells to your house. You can help contain these pet smells with frequent vacuuming, disinfecting toys on a regular basis, and clumping and deodorizing litter. Regularly bathing your dog is an important part of keeping their skin and coats clean and odor-free. Also, brushing your dog or cat’s teeth can help keep his or her mouth healthy and help prevent bad breath.

Help your new pal adjust.  Place a cozy bed in several rooms where your pet will be allowed, giving him or her a comfortable place to snuggle and sleep. This will help encourage your pet to stay off the furniture. Keep in mind that your pet has a highly developed sense of smell, and a brand new bed from the store could contain strange odors to him. Rubbing a blanket or old towel on your pet’s bed can help make the smells of the bed more familiar and friendly.

You’ll enjoy spending time with your new four-legged friend as they become a part of your family. With your home and wardrobe prepped for his or her enthusiasm and fur, you won’t have to worry about much except making your pet feel welcome.