Renji, a four year old Boxer who came out in a rash all over his body.

One day during the Summer, Renji was having a normal day, sniffing around the garden, lounging around the home, and generally taking things easy. It was around 2pm that Ansa noticed that something was wrong: his eyes looked puffy. Renji has a long history of allergic reactions, so Ansa has experience of dealing with this type of problem. She waited for a while, to see if the swelling would go down by itself, but over the next few hours, the situation deteriorated. Renji’s face and neck became puffy, like a child with mumps, and his skin developed red, blotchy swollen areas. Ansa called the emergency vet, and Renji was given immediate medication to counteract the allergic reaction. He recovered from the worst of the signs rapidly, but the rash on his skin has only been improving slowly, and is still present a week later.

Allergic reactions like this are very common in pets, and they can be dangerous: if Renji had not been given the emergency drugs, he could have gone on to develop an even more serious allergic response that could have caused breathing difficulties and other complications.

Poor Renji has been blighted by allergic disease since he was a puppy. He was only five months old when he first visited the vet with itchy skin. His problem was investigated in depth: he was checked for fleas, mites and other parasites, he had blood samples to make sure that he had no hormonal abnormalities, and he was put onto a special diet to ensure that he wasn’t allergic to something that he was eating.

In the end, a series of specific allergy tests was done, and these identified that he was highly allergic to a number of the normal microscopic particles in the atmosphere, including dust mites and pollens. Every animal – and every human – is continually exposed to these floating particles, but most of the time, they don’t cause any sort of reaction. They’re just like dust, floating around, causing no problem at all. In a minority of animals, contact with the particles causes the skin to become red and itchy. This allergic condition is known as “atopy”, and it’s one of the most common causes of itchy skin in pets.

When atopy has been diagnosed, it can often be controlled successfully. Renji receives regular “immunotherapy”, being given an injection once a month of a tiny, measured dose of the dust mites and pollens that cause his allergy. These injections keep his immune system continually primed so that when his body encounters the substances in real life, he doesn’t usually suffer such an obvious reaction. Other medications are commonly used to control this type of allergy, including steroids, anti-histamines and other anti-inflammatory drugs. All of these therapies can be expensive, and it’s fortunate that Ansa was wise enough to take out pet insurance for Renji when he was a young puppy.

This type of allergy tends to be a lifelong problem, needing ongoing therapy, and even then, there can be episodes of allergic reaction, similar to that suffered by Renji.

The summer months are the most common time for these type of allergic incidents, because the air is filled with pollen’s from growing plants in the garden. It’s difficult to prevent such crises, and owners simply need to monitor their pets carefully. It’s much easier to nip allergic reactions in the bud with early treatment, rather than waiting until there are more dramatic signs that can be harder to control.

Tips

  • Allergic skin problems are common in dogs, especially in the summer
  • When a dog’s faces swells up, it should be treated as an emergency
  • A longer term treatment plan is the best way to control itchy skin caused by allergies

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