Cat Got Hot Ears? Here’s why…..

Cat Got Hot Ears?  Here’s why…..

By Melvin Pena as seen in Catster’s magazine

 

Ever thought something along the lines of, “My cat’s ears are hot — is he sick?” Anthropocentric creatures that we are, humans tend to assume, regardless of context, that our own baseline experience of the world is some kind of universal standard, and that any deviation from it is strange, problematic or worrisome. For example, in an idle moment of couch-sitting, you’re petting your beloved cat and start mindlessly fondling the cat’s ears. Suddenly, you’re thinking, “Man, my cat’s ears are hot!” You’ve never really noticed that before, and now those hot cat ears are all you can think about.

Cats are warm creatures. No cat owner or fan of cats would dare to deny it. A cat’s natural body temperature is several degrees hotter than any human’s. Anything up to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.2 degrees Celsius) is considered normal. When playing with cat ears, you are bound to make note of the contrast between what you consider normal and what is typical for the cat. So, if you’re sitting here wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — is it an issue?” let’s take a closer look.

Facts on cat ears and temperature

The first thing to know when thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot” — the temperatures of cat ears fluctuate based on the animal’s surroundings, which is perfectly normal. Unlike most of the surface area of a cat’s body, cat ears tend to be thin and exposed, protected by neither a great deal of fur nor by body fat. Their noses are also notoriously changeable.

During warmer times of the year, vasodilation increases blood flow to these areas, the better to release excess heat from the body. During colder periods, vasoconstriction does the opposite to conserve heat. You may think that indoor cats are subject only to the whims of the thermostat, but any cat perched near a window in the daytime is going experience a temporary hike in both ear and nose temperature.

If we look to colorpoint breeds like the Siamese, we can see that our baseline perception of warmth is very different to that of our cats. For these breeds especially, their experience of heat is written on the body. You may know that the unique coat markings of color-pointed cats are expressions of a form of partial albinism, and that all specimens of these breeds are born with white coats. The patches of color develop as these cats mature, and are darkest at the coolest parts of its body, typically the ears, nose and tail.

Do those warm cat ears mean your cat has a fever?

Some humans might immediately think, “My cat’s ears are hot — does my cat have a fever?” Are cat ears reliable gauges for a cat’s general health? In cats, even a standard fever, from 103.5 degrees Fahrenheit (39.7 degrees Celsius) and upwards, is usually nothing to worry about in the short term. The heat increase experienced during a fever is the body’s natural way of fighting infective agents, like viruses or bacteria, and kickstarts the immune system into action. A cat with a “normal” fever will seek to isolate herself in a cool place — unlikely to be your lap — and remain still with her body splayed out rather than curled up.

If a cat’s ear temperature is a source of concern, feel the stomach and underarms. If they, too, are hot to the touch, the cat may have a fever, since a cat with a true fever will experience increased temperature across the entire body. Seek veterinary attention if you observe extreme total body heat for more than two days consecutively. If this describes your cat’s current conditions, you’ll probably have noticed a number of related signs and symptoms, any of which will be more telling than ear temperature alone.

Related: 4 Cat Ear Problems and How to Treat Them

Most cat owners spend enough time with their cats to be familiar with their routines. Is the cat eating less, or not finishing her food with her normal alacrity? Does her heartbeat seem quicker than usual? Is she not only hot, but also shivering? Any combination of these symptoms points more conclusively to a potentially dangerous health issue.

Hot cat ears and fevers of unknown origin

Fevers caused by viral infections in cats may subside as quickly as they arise. Fevers caused by secondary bacterial infections are usually accompanied by wounds that you can easily observe or can be indicated by unnatural areas of swelling if they are internal.

If your cat has experienced feverish conditions four or more times over the course of two weeks, the cat may have what is referred to as a fever of unknown origin. Make careful note of any and all changes — behavioral, physical and otherwise, including the first time you noticed hot cat ears. That way your vet can begin the difficult process of identifying the problem.

Can temperature signal other cat ear problems?

Wondering, “My cat’s ears are hot — does he have any sort of ear problem?” Where cat ear health is concerned, there are always more obvious signs of disorder and disease than hot cat ears. The most common cat ear issue is otitis externa, or an infection of the outer ear. Cat ear infections are most frequently traced to two sources, ear mites and yeast infections, with mites being the problem in the majority of reported cases.

Ear infections may present with ears that are warmer than normal. But this can be attributed to the cat paying them more attention than usual. Abnormal amounts of scratching at an ear with paws, or intently rubbing them against furniture, will necessarily raise their temperature and cause reddening. Whether the source of the infection is mites or yeast, these microscopic organisms wreak havoc only when conditions are optimal.

Excessive buildup of ear wax reduces ventilation and raises the internal temperature of the ear canal. The pinna, or the outer part of the ear that you see and touch, may become warmer as well, but it is the heat inside that permits mites and fungi to flourish. Symptoms of an ear infection more alarming than warmth include dark-colored discharge and a strange, pungent smell.

Bottom line: Don’t be stressed if you’re thinking, “My cat’s ears are hot!”

Cat ears are fascinating organs. Heavily muscled in spite of their delicate appearance, each is capable of moving and turning independently of the other. Subject to the vicissitudes of their environment, the external temperature of the pinnae varies wildly. A cat can have warm ears one hour and cool ones the next.

If the heat emanating from one or both cat ears is a cause for concern, don’t panic. Look to the whole cat before you call the vet. Discoloration in and around the ear canal can alert you to serious issues, along with marked shifts in behavior and unusual odors.

 

Changes to Animal Communications/Healing and Bach Flower Essences

 

Attention: Clients of “For The Love of Animals” (Diane Weinmann)

To become in line with other animal communicator’s practices, I am changing how I perform my sessions and structure my fee schedule for Animal Communications, Distance Healing and Bach Flower Essences

 

Starting July 1, 2020 – All client communication/healing will be charged using the fee schedule below:

 

Animal Communications– performed 1 session of up to 5 questions, additional questions charged at $10 per question

With Email to Client on pet’s responses- $50

With Email on pet’s responses plus phone call to Client – $75

Distance Healing- performed 1 session

Energetic Assessment = free

Healing Touch for Animals Distance healing session with email to Client – $50

Healing Touch for Animals Distance healing session with email and phone call to Client -$75

Custom Bach Flower Essence – $30 includes shipping

Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Reviewed and updated on April 14, 2020 by Rania Gollakner, DVM as seen in PetMD

Lyme disease in dogs is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, but it only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. So some dogs may have it, but never show symptoms.

Transmission of Lyme disease has been reported in dogs throughout the United States and Europe, but it’s most prevalent in the upper Midwestern states, the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific coastal states.

However, the disease is spreading and becoming more common throughout the United States. Here’s some info about the causes and prevention of Lyme disease, as well as the symptoms you should look for and treatment options.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Here are some common and less common symptoms and complications of Lyme disease in dogs.

Most Common Symptoms

When infection leads to Lyme disease in dogs, the dominant symptoms are:

  • Recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints
  • Fever1
  • General feeling of malaise

Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have periodic lameness because their joints are inflamed. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only 3-4 days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or other legs.

This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.

Other Symptoms

In some cases, Lyme disease can also cause:  

  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes1
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stiff walk with an arched back
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing

Kidney Damage Caused by Lyme Disease

More serious complications, although uncommon, include:

  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Rarely, heart or nervous system disease (although this is not well documented)1,2

Lyme disease sometimes leads to glomerulonephritis—the inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli (a blood filter).

Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid buildups that can appear as swollen limbs.

How Lyme Disease Is Transmitted

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) of the Borrelia burgdorferi species. 

Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks (Ixodes spp.).

Infection typically occurs after the Borrelia-carrying tick has been attached to the dog for approximately 241 – 48 hours.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs

You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health to give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected.

Clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually confirmed with a positive blood test for Lyme along with the clinical signs associated with Lyme disease.

It’s important to note that tests can take 4-6 weeks to show up as positive after exposure, which is why veterinarians will use a combination of diagnostics to diagnose your dog: 

  • Blood chemistry tests
  • Complete blood cell count
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • X-rays and tests specific to diagnosing Lyme disease (e.g., serology)
  • Fluid from the affected joints may also be drawn for analysis

Arthritis Caused by Lyme Disease

There are many causes for arthritis, and your veterinarian will focus on differentiating arthritis initiated by Lyme disease from other inflammatory arthritic disorders, such as trauma and degenerative joint disease.

Immune-mediated diseases will also be considered as a possible cause of the symptoms. X-rays of the painful joints will allow your doctor to examine the bones for abnormalities.

Treating Dog Lyme Disease

If the diagnosis is Lyme disease, your dog will be treated as an outpatient unless their condition is unstable (e.g., severe kidney disease). Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic that is prescribed for Lyme disease, but other antibiotics are also effective.  

Treatment usually takes at least 4 weeks, and longer courses may be necessary in some cases. Your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory if your dog is especially uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate the infection from Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Symptoms may resolve but then return at a later date, and the development of kidney disease in the future is always a concern.

Administering the antibiotics properly to your dog reduces the likelihood of chronic consequences.

Improvement in sudden (acute) inflammation of the joints caused by Borrelia should be seen after 3-5 days of antibiotic treatment. If there is no improvement within 3-5 days, your veterinarian will want to reevaluate your dog.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

If possible, keep your dog away from tick-infested environments where Lyme disease is common.

Check your dog’s coat and skin daily to make sure you find any ticks hiding on your pet, and remove ticks by hand.

The most effective way to prevent Lyme disease and protect pets from other tick-borne diseases is to use flea and tick prevention.

Your veterinarian can prescribe a variety of prescription flea and tick options, including collars, topical solutions, and tablets and chews that kill and repel ticks. These products should be used under a veterinarian’s supervision and according to the label’s directions.

If you live in an area where ticks are abundant, Lyme vaccines are available. However, not all dogs are a good candidate for the vaccine. Talk to your veterinarian to see if the Lyme vaccination is right for your dog.

References:

1.        Lyme Disease. Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/lyme-disease/.

2.        Littman MP, Gerber B, Goldstein RE, Anna M, Michael L, George RL. ACVIM consensus update on Lyme borreliosis in dogs and cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2018;(January):887-903. doi:10.1111/jvim.15085

 

Cat Anxiety Meds

As seen in PetMD

 

Cats can suffer from anxiety disorders just as people and dogs can. They can experience generalized anxiety disorders or more specific anxiety issues caused by things like thunder or separation distress when their pet parents are not at home.

The first step to relieving your cat’s anxiety is to talk to your vet, and then you can discuss the need for cat anxiety medications. Here’s a list of the different types of cat anxiety medications and how they work.

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Cat’s Anxiety

What can you do to help your cat if they suffer from anxiety? First, your cat needs to be examined by your veterinarian to make sure there are no underlying medical problems.

Your veterinarian can discuss with you some medication options or refer to you an expert in the field—a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

No matter the direction you take, the use of anti-anxiety medication is just one part of the treatment plan. The other part involves management and behavior modification.

How Cat Anxiety Medications Work

Cat anxiety can manifest itself in a variety of ways, so there are both long-term and short-term anti-anxiety medications available.

Long-Term Anxiety Medications for Cats

Some cat anxiety medications are long-term maintenance medications, meaning they can take 4-6 weeks to take full effect. They also are meant to be taken daily.

If the medication is helping, the cat should be kept on it for a minimum of 2-3 months. Once your cat’s behavior is stable, they can be gradually weaned off the medication.

Some cats benefit from staying on anti-anxiety medications for 6-12 months or longer periods. These cats should get a yearly examination, bloodwork, and a behavior reevaluation to ensure that they are still on the best treatment plan for their needs.

Short-Term Anxiety Medications for Cats 

Other anti-anxiety medications are short-term; they take effect in a shorter period of time and only last for several hours.

They are intended to be used for certain situations where your cat experiences increased levels of anxiety and stress.

These medications typically do not require your cat to be weaned off them if they’re not used consistently.

Types of Cat Anxiety Medications

Please keep in mind that the use of all human medications to treat cats with anxiety disorders is off-label.

Here is a list of the most commonly prescribed anti-anxiety medications and their potential side effects. (A small percentage of cat patients may experience side effects while on a medication.)

Click to Jump to a specific section:

Fluoxetine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety); aggression directed towards people, cats or other animals; compulsive behavior; urine spraying; inappropriate urination; panic disorder; and fearful behavior.

Fluoxetine is classified as a selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). It blocks the receptors in the brain from taking up and removing serotonin, which allows for a higher serotonin level.

Serotonin helps modulate mood and behavior. Increased amounts of serotonin in the brain can help decrease anxiety and reduce reactivity and impulsive behavior.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect and must be given once daily.

It’s typically dispensed in tablet form and needs to be cut into the appropriate size for cats. It can be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored, chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased appetite

Most of the side effects improve after the first 1-2 weeks. If your cat’s appetite is affected, this medication should be discontinued and replaced by an alternative.

Paroxetine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety), aggression directed towards people or other cats, compulsive behavior, urine spraying, inappropriate urination, and fearful behavior.

Paroxetine is another SSRI that increases the amount of serotonin in the brain. It’s a good alternative for cats that become agitated or have decreased appetite on fluoxetine. It is less sedating compared to fluoxetine.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

This medication should be used with caution in cats with heart disease.

It’s typically dispensed in tablet form and needs to be cut to the appropriate size for cats. It can be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty urinating

Sertraline

Indications: Generalized anxiety (mild to moderate anxiety), inappropriate elimination, and fearful behavior.

This SSRI takes 4-6 weeks to take full effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

This medication typically needs to be compounded by specialty pharmacies into flavored chewable tablets, capsules, or flavored liquids.

The smallest tablet is too large even when cut into quarter tablets.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Agitation
  • Decreased appetite

However, this medication is less likely to cause side effects compared to the other SSRIs.

Clomipramine

Indications: Generalized anxiety (moderate to severe anxiety); aggression directed towards people, cats, or other animals; compulsive behavior; urine spraying; inappropriate urination; panic disorder; and fearful behavior.

Clompiramine is a tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) that modulates serotonin and norepinephrine receptors to reduce anxiety and aggressive behavior.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Lethargy
  • Dry mouth
  • Decreased appetite

This medication should be used with caution in cats with heart disease.

Buspirone

Indications: Generalized anxiety (mild to moderate anxiety), and fearful behavior.

Buspirone is classified as an azapirone, which works on the serotonin and dopamine receptors in the brain.

This medication takes 4-6 weeks to take effect. It must be given once daily and should not be abruptly discontinued.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation
  • Sedation
  • Increased affection towards the owner and increased confidence

Some cats that are picked on by other cats in the household may appear more confident and defend themselves instead of running away.

Alprazolam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

This medication is classified as a benzodiazepine, which promotes GABA activity in the brain.

This short-acting medication takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 8-12 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

Alprazolam must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior. It may reduce the cat’s inhibition, which might lead them to display more aggressive behavior.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

Lorazepam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

This is another benzodiazepine.

That means it’s a short-acting medication that takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 12 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

This medication must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior.

Oxazepam

Indications: Anxiety, phobias, panic disorder, and fear.

Oxazepam is another benzodiazepine, which means it’s a short-acting medication that takes effect in 30 minutes. It can be given every 24 hours. Tolerance and dependency may occur if this medication is given daily. Slow weaning off the medication is needed if the cat has been on this medication for a prolonged period of time.

This medication must be used with caution in cats with aggressive behavior.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Increased appetite
  • Paradoxical excitement
  • Disinhibition of aggressive behavior

Trazodone

Indications: Anxiety and aggression.

This medication is classified as a serotonin-2A antagonist reuptake inhibitor.

This is a short-acting medication that takes effect in 60-90 minutes and lasts about 8-12 hours.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Agitation

Gabapentin

Indications: Anxiety and aggression.

Gabapentin is classified as an anticonvulsant. It works on calcium ion channels in the brain to reduce excitement. Avoid the use of human oral solution since it contains xylitol.

This is a short-acting medication that takes effect in 60-90 minutes and lasts about 8-12 hours.

Some potential side effects include:

  • Lethargy
  • Sedation
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Agitation

By: Dr. Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB

 

Estrogen’s Effect on Tumors You Really Can Help Control

 

 

By Dr. Karen Becker

It’s generally accepted as fact that female dogs spayed at a young age have a reduced risk of developing mammary tumors — the equivalent of breast cancer in humans.

However, it’s certainly worth noting that the results of a 2012 study — a systematic review conducted by veterinary researchers in the U.K. — did not validate the theory that early spaying protects female dogs from mammary neoplasia.1

Unfortunately, this study, and the questions it raises, has received very little attention, but does highlight what emerging research is now discovering: canine mammary tumors have hormone interplays potentially as complex as human mammary cancers.

New Study Raises Questions About Spaying and Mammary Cancer

Since spaying involves the removal of the ovaries, it also removes most of the body’s ability to produce estrogen. For this reason, estrogen is widely assumed to play a role in the development of canine mammary tumors. But a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine suggests the effects of estrogen on cancer risk in dogs aren’t as clear-cut as originally thought.2

Interestingly, the study found that while spaying reduces dogs’ risk of developing mammary cancer, it may increase the risk of more aggressive cancers. In addition, the researchers discovered that in spayed dogs with mammary tumors, higher serum estrogen levels were actually protective in terms of delayed metastasis and improved survival times.

“Dogs that remain intact and have their ovaries develop many more mammary tumors than dogs that were spayed, so removing that source of estrogen does have a protective effect,” says Karin U. Sorenmo, a veterinary oncologist at Penn Vet and senior author on the study, in a Penn Today news release.

“Estrogen does seem to drive mammary cancer development. But what it does for progression to metastasis — that I think is more complicated.”3

Estrogen May Play Opposing Roles in Cancer

For the study, the Penn Vet research team evaluated 159 dogs with mammary cancer, 130 who were spayed for purposes of the study, and 29 who were left intact. The researchers removed the dogs’ tumors and gathered data on serum estrogen levels, tumor type, disease grade and stage, time to metastasis, and survival time.

They discovered that despite the link between estrogen and an elevated risk of developing mammary tumors, higher estrogen levels seemed to also help prevent some of the most dangerous aspects of the cancer. From the Penn Today news release:

“Unexpectedly, when dogs were spayed at the same time their tumors were removed, those with estrogen receptor-positive tumors that had higher serum estrogen took longer to develop metastatic disease and survived longer than dogs with lower estrogen levels, confirming that these tumors depended on estrogen for progression.”

Sorenmo’s theory is that in these instances, the effect of estrogen may be nuanced. “It drives the cancer, but it also seems to control or modulate it, reining it in,” she says, because most of the dogs with high estrogen levels had lower-grade and estrogen receptor-positive tumors, which made them susceptible to hormonal deprivation by spaying.

The researchers noted that the protective effect of estrogen was also pronounced in dogs with estrogen-receptor negative mammary tumors. These are higher risk cancers, and high estrogen levels were associated with delayed metastasis, or the absence of metastasis.

Additionally, after mammary tumor surgery, dogs with low estrogen levels had a significantly increased risk for other aggressive, fatal tumors that were not mammary related, such as hemangiosarcoma.

As Sorenmo notes, some of the findings in women with breast cancer are also contradictory. For example, while higher serum estrogen levels in survivors of breast cancer are linked to higher recurrence rates, many breast cancers develop immediately following menopause, when estrogen levels plummet. So, it’s possible estrogen plays a more complex role in human cancer risk as well.

“I think this study opens some really complicated questions,” Sorenmo says. “If we start dissecting exactly what estrogen is doing, what genes or immune cells it’s interacting with, maybe we could harness the power of estrogen to be more clever in our treatment strategies.”

 

Metabolization of Estrogen Is Key in Preventing Certain Cancers

In order to address why dogs develop mammary tumors, we must identify why their immune systems failed and allowed cancer cells to proliferate. It’s also critical to evaluate the estrogen-mimicking chemical load in their environment.

Even animals no longer producing their own estrogen after being spayed or neutered can be exposed to overwhelming amounts of xenoestrogens (estrogen mimicking chemicals) in the environment. I’ve seen many patients over the years with wildly unbalanced endocrine systems, including male dogs with estrogen levels higher than what is normal for intact females.

When I find mammary tumors in a dog, I immediately measure the sex hormone levels. If estrogen is elevated in desexed animals, after removing the tumors I institute a protocol including DIM (diindolymethane) and high-lignan flax hulls, which may help to naturally reduce estrogen levels.4

DIM and flax hulls (not flaxseeds or flaxseed oil) have been shown to promote beneficial estrogen metabolism in both males and females. The body’s ability to effectively metabolize estrogen is an important component in the prevention of certain cancers, in particular breast cancer.5

Dietary adjustments, including the elimination of all estrogenic foods (e.g., soy and yams) and highly processed foods created via the extrusion process (kibble) is important because the manufacture of kibble creates carcinogenic byproducts.

Feeding a fresh, ketogenic, high-fat, no-carb (starch-free), nutritionally balanced and species-appropriate diet is also part of the protocol, along with beneficial immune-support supplements.

Thankfully there are a growing number of integrative veterinary oncologists popping up around the globe who can work with veterinary surgeons and local integrative veterinarians to customize treatment plans to achieve maximum benefits with the fewest possible side effects.

Sources of Xenoestrogens

In my opinion, exposure to xenoestrogens — chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen —plays a significant role in elevated estrogen levels in dogs. Examples of xenoestrogens include:

Atrazine (weed killer) Heptachlor (restricted insecticide)
4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (found in sunscreen lotions) Lindane, hexachlorocyclohexane (restricted insecticide)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (food preservative) Methoxychlor (banned insecticide in U.S.)
Bisphenol A (used to make plastics) Nonylphenol and derivatives (laboratory detergents; pesticides)
Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDT) Pentachlorophenol (restricted biocide in U.S.; wood preservative)
Dieldrin (banned insecticide) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
DDT (banned insecticide in the U.S. but not other countries) Parabens (lotions)
Endosulfan (banned insecticide in U.S.) Phthalates (used to make plastics)
Erythrosine (FD&C Red No. 3) DEHP (found in PVC)
Ethinylestradiol (oral contraceptive) Propyl gallate (used to preserve oils and fats)

The problem with this list is that these chemicals often aren’t plainly labeled as such in many products found around the house. For instance, plug-ins, car fresheners, scented candles, room sprays and gel air fresheners are loaded with chemicals on this list, but manufacturers aren’t required to list them on product labels.

Endocrine disrupters, which damage your dog’s hormonal axis, including estrogen balance, are also found on many fabrics treated with flame-retardant chemicals (dog beds, carpets, couches, draperies).

Another endocrine disruptor is BPA, which is found in the lining of canned dog food containers and plastic food and water bowls, not to mention cleaning supplies that instruct you to call poison control if ingested. Always remember that any product used in your house has the potential to end up inside your pet.

It’s also important to keep in mind that pesticides and chemicals banned in the U.S. still show up on and in products imported from other countries.

12 Ways to Reduce Your Pet’s Exposure to Xenoestrogens

To reduce your dog’s exposure to these estrogen-mimicking compounds, and thereby potentially lower the risk of mammary cancer:

  1. Use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic food and water bowls
  2. Avoid plastic storage containers for pet food or water
  3. Don’t microwave pet food in plastic containers
  4. Don’t use nonstick cookware if you cook food for your pet
  5. Avoid using cling wrap that contains DEHA
  6. Avoid pet foods containing soy, the preservatives BHA and BHT, and the food dye FD&C Red No. #3
  7. Use natural pest control around your home and yard
  8. Use alternatives to chemical flea/tick repellents
  9. Use all-natural, nontoxic cleaning supplies inside your home
  10. Buy organic dog beds
  11. Remove fluoride and chlorine from drinking water
  12. Don’t buy canned food unless it’s labeled BPA-free

 

 

Is Your Cat’s Diarrhea a Cause for Concern?

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Generally speaking, when it comes to digestive upsets in pets, dogs tend to have lower gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and diarrhea, while cats are more prone to upper GI tract issues and vomiting. However, as anyone who has ever scooped unformed poop from a litterbox can attest — kitties can and do develop diarrhea sometimes.

Types of Diarrhea in Cats

When veterinarians set out to diagnose a feline patient with diarrhea, they generally put the problem into one of two categories based on where in the intestinal tract the loose stool is originating — either the small bowel or the large bowel.

If the problem is with the small bowel, the diarrhea is often large in volume, watery, and occurs with increased frequency. When a kitty’s diarrhea originates in the large bowel, it will more typically be small in volume, semi-formed, and may contain mucus. There’s often also increased frequency and straining to go.

Some feline diseases with diarrhea as a symptom involve both the small and large bowel, and in addition, a cat can start out with small bowel diarrhea that subsequently causes secondary irritation of the large bowel.

Blood in the stool can be a feature of both types of diarrhea. Dark, tarry stools indicate the presence of digested blood from the stomach or small intestine. Fresh streaks of blood in or on the stool are usually a sign of a large bowel problem. Vomiting along with diarrhea is more often seen in diseases of the small bowel but can also occur with a large bowel problem.

Causes of Diarrhea

The causes of loose stools in cats are numerous and varied, and include:

Dietary indiscretion; ingestion of foreign bodies Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) Pancreatitis
Sudden change in diet Giardia and other parasites Immune-mediated disease
Food allergies Viral and bacterial infections Megacolon
Stress colitis Hyperthyroidism Cancer

If your cat has a one-and-done bout of loose stools that resolves within a day or two, chances are she ate something that disagreed with her (or you gave her milk, which is a common culprit in feline digestive issues) and there’s nothing to worry about.

However, since there are many serious feline diseases that have diarrhea as a symptom, if your kitty is experiencing chronic or recurrent diarrhea, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

Dehydration is an immediate and potentially life-threatening concern, especially for kittens, petite adult cats, and kitties who are seniors or geriatric, or have a chronic illness. Also, if the diarrhea is accompanied by other signs of illness such as blood in the stool, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or fever, it’s definitely a sign your pet is ill, and you should seek veterinary care.

I recommend you collect a quarter-size bit of poop on, for example, a stiff piece of cardboard, and slip it into a plastic baggie. Otherwise, your veterinarian may have to manually extract a sample, which will make your already uncomfortable kitty that much more so.

Your vet will probably do bloodwork in addition to evaluating the stool to determine if there’s infection present. He or she should also treat your pet for dehydration if necessary, with IV (intravenous) or SQ (subcutaneous) fluids.

Two fecal tests should be performed. One checks for parasite antigens and/or eggs, and the other checks for bacterial or viral agents that cause diarrhea.

A Too-Fast Dietary Change Is Often the Culprit

In otherwise healthy cats, often it’s a sudden change in diet that triggers a bout of diarrhea, and this is especially true for kitties who eat the same food every day. If you feed your cat the same diet every day for months or years and then suddenly switch to a new food, a case of diarrhea is almost guaranteed.

There’s nothing wrong with the new food, it’s just that kitty’s gut is conditioned to expect only one type of food, which is not ideal, nutritionally or physiologically. Cats fed a varied diet have stronger, more resilient GI tracts and can typically eat different foods regularly without a problem.

After your pet’s stools have returned to normal (I’ll discuss treating diarrhea at home shortly), I recommend you begin varying his diet to include a range of foods with different nutrient contents. This will promote a diversified gut microbiome and make his digestive system strong and resilient.

However, you need to make the transition very slowly, as in, over a period of weeks to months. I recommend starting with 10% new food blended with 90% old food for several days. Watch your cat’s stool and if all seems well, move to 20% new/80% old. Keep watching for stool changes and if none occur, move to 30% new food and 70% old, and so on, until you’re feeding only the new diet.

The process should be slow enough that no bowel changes occur. During the transition period, it’s very important to insure your kitty is eating every day, as cats can’t go without food for long or they risk developing fatty liver disease.

For tips on how to make the transition (especially if kitty is giving you a hard time about the new food), take a look at my videos titled Getting Your Cat to Eat Healthier Food, part 1 and part 2.

Treating Diarrhea at Home

If your cat is otherwise healthy and his behavior is normal, my recommendation is to withhold food — not water, just food — for 12 hours. A short-term fast gives the GI tract a chance for some R&R. Tissues can only heal when they’re resting.

Follow the 12-hour food fast with a bland diet. I recommend cooked, fat-free ground turkey and 100% canned pumpkin. Try starting with an 85-90% turkey/10-15% pumpkin blend. If canned pumpkin isn’t available, you can use fresh, steamed pumpkin or cooked sweet potato. This diet can also be pureed and syringe-fed to kitties that may not feel like eating.

Skip the outdated advice to feed ground beef and rice and go with my recommendation instead. Even lean ground beef is high in fat, which can exacerbate kitty’s tummy troubles, and rice is a starchy, pro-inflammatory carbohydrate that often provides zero nutrition or calories for animals with digestive issues.

Canned 100% pumpkin provides about 80 calories and 7 grams of soluble fiber per cup, compared to 1.2 grams of fiber in a cup of cooked white rice. The soluble fiber in pumpkin coats and soothes the GI tract, and also delays gastric emptying.

When animals have diarrhea, they can lose important electrolytes, including potassium, which puts them at risk of dehydration. Hypokalemia, or low potassium levels, can result in cramping, fatigue, weakness and heart rate irregularities.

Pumpkin happens to be an excellent source of potassium, with 505 milligrams of naturally occurring potassium per cup. Pumpkin is also safer for diabetic pets than rice. And most animals love it, including cats. Feed the bland diet to your pet until the diarrhea resolves. If it doesn’t clear up in about three days, it’s time to call your veterinarian. If at any point your cat becomes lethargic or anorexic, seek medical care immediately.

I also recommend keeping some slippery elm on hand. Slippery elm is a neutral fiber source that works really well to ease episodes of diarrhea. I call it “nature’s Pepto-Bismol” because it reduces GI inflammation and acts as a non-irritating source of fiber to bulk up the stool and slow down GI transit time.

Give your cat about a half a teaspoon or a capsule for each 10 pounds of body weight with every bland meal. I also recommend adding in a good-quality probiotic once the stool starts to firm up.

In addition to slippery elm and probiotics, many pet owners have good luck with herbs such as peppermint, fennel or chamomile. These are especially helpful for the cramping and other uncomfortable GI symptoms that come with diarrhea. Activated charcoal can also help firm the stool if dietary indiscretion is suspected.

There are also several homeopathic remedies that can be very beneficial for intermittent diarrhea depending on your pet’s specific symptoms, including nux vomica, veratrum, podophyllum, arsenicum album and china.

 

 

Got a Velcro Dog that You’d like to Liberate?

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Some of you reading here today have dogs that are, shall we say, extremely bonded to you. They follow you from room to room all over the house. When you stand still or sit down, they immediately put their body in contact with yours. You’re never in the bathroom without an audience. The small ones are constantly, literally underfoot; the larger guys trot behind or next to you, an adoring look on their faces, as you move about.

“Velcro dog” behavior can be charming and lovable, but there are times when it can also be annoying or even dangerous. For example, a tiny dog at your feet trying to follow your every movement is a trip-and-fall accident waiting to happen.

Another potential issue is that clingy canine behavior can progress to or be a feature of separation anxiety, which in many dogs is a serious emotional and behavioral problem.

Most Velcro Dogs Are Made, Not Born

According to veterinarian Dr. Joanna Pendergrass in an article for PetMD, “Clinginess is often a learned dog behavior.”1 Needless to say, they learn it based on how we respond to them when they follow us about. If we reward them in some way (e.g., with a treat or a scratch behind the ears), the behavior will very quickly become imprinted.

“If we give puppies constant attention when they’re developing,” says Pendergrass, “they can become fearful of being alone and subsequently never want to leave our side. Dogs can also become clingy if we change their daily routine.”

Other reasons for clinginess can include the gradual loss of vision, hearing or cognition in older dogs, as well as illness or boredom in dogs of any age. Anxious dogs are often clingy, and because our canine companions are so attuned to our moods, they can also become clingy when they sense anxiety or stress in us.

“As if all of these reasons weren’t enough,” writes Pendergrass, “some dog breeds are prone to clinginess. For example, lapdogs, like Shih Tzus, tend be needy dogs. Also, working dogs, who are trained to be dependent, can become clingy.”

Clinginess Can Progress to Separation Anxiety in Some Dogs

While clingy dogs and those with separation anxiety share certain behavioral characteristics, the major difference between them is the way in which they handle being apart from their humans. In a nutshell, your Velcro dog wants to be as close as possible to you when you’re home but doesn’t have the canine version of panic attack when left home alone.

Separation anxiety is what triggers panic attacks in affected dogs, causing them to engage in behaviors that can be destructive and self-harming. It’s important to understand that dogs with true separation anxiety aren’t “acting out” because their owners are away — they’re feeling overwhelming panic they have no control over.

Unfortunately, clinginess can progress to separation anxiety in some dogs, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your Velcro pup for any signs of nervousness or panic when left alone. If you suspect your dog’s clingy behavior is moving in the direction of separation anxiety, it’s important to address the situation right away.

How to Discourage Your Dog’s Clinginess and Encourage Independence

The best approach to managing Velcro dogs is to help build confidence and encourage their independence while you’re at home with them, which will increase their ability to manage any anxiety they feel when you’re away. Pendergrass suggests increasing physical exercise and mental stimulation, creating a special space where they can hang out instead of trailing you around the house, and desensitization.

• Increase your dog’s daily exercise — Engage your dog in at least one rigorous exercise session daily. I can’t stress enough how beneficial intense exercise is for not only anxiety, but boredom and behavior problems as well.

If you’re concerned that your dog’s clinginess is heading into separation anxiety territory, go for a strenuous exercise (or ball playing) session before you leave the house. A tired dog gets into less physical and mental mischief when left alone.

• Stimulate her mind — Keeping your dog’s mind active is also critically important in preventing undesirable behaviors. Boredom is the breeding ground for all manner of “bad dog” behavior. In addition to daily activities to engage her brain, your dog should be continuously socialized throughout her life with frequent opportunities to interact with other dogs, cats, and people.

Regular training sessions are also a great way to keep her mind occupied and strengthen the bond you share with her. Nose work, which encourages her to use her natural hunting instincts and scenting abilities, can be a great way to keep her mentally stimulated. Even allowing your dog to have 10 minutes a day of sniff-time in a natural setting will enrich her senses and fulfill her need to experience the world through her nose.

And don’t overlook the value of treat-release and food puzzle toys, which not only challenge your dog’s mind, but also provide appropriate objects for her to chew. I find the Treat & Train Manners Minder a great tool for this purpose.

It’s also a good idea to rotate your dog’s toys regularly. If you leave all of them out in a big basket, she may lose interest in them quickly. A better idea is to leave out one or two and put the rest away. In a day or two, swap them out. Also be sure to play with your dog using her toys; rigorous, engaging play sessions several times a day are a great way to her pent-up energy and bond with her at the same time.

• Create a special dog-friendly space — This can be a crate (with the door left open) if your dog is crate trained (which I highly recommend), or a corner of the room outfitted with a comfy, nontoxic dog bed, perhaps an earthing mat or grounding pad, and a favorite toy.

Use positive reinforcement behavior training to teach your dog to respond reliably to a verbal cue such as “Go to your crate,” or “Go to your special space,” and give him the cue when you notice he’s obsessing over your every move.

• Desensitize your dog to your movements — If your dog is made of Velcro, she’s acutely aware of the movements you make as you prepare to leave the house, such as putting on your “outside” shoes, pulling on a coat/sweater/hat, grabbing your car keys, etc.

Pendergrass recommends “normalizing” these movements by performing them when you’re not planning to leave the house. Once these movements no longer signal to your dog that you’re leaving her, she’ll pay less attention to them.

Needless to say, the goal is always to prevent clinginess in the first place, which is best accomplished by asking a prospective breeder what socialization steps are taken with the litter as a part of your pre-purchase interview process. Good breeders know puppies should already have a month of focused, intentional, diversified socialization prior to going to their forever homes. Obviously, this is impossible if you rescue pups.

Once puppies reach their new homes, positive socialization must start immediately and include several opportunities for new experiences on a daily basis for the first year of life. Creating confident puppies that feel safe being alone is the best way to avoid this situation later on.

For adult dogs, if their extreme clinginess persists after you implement these suggestions, or you’re concerned it’s progressing to separation anxiety, it’s important to make an appointment with your integrative veterinarian and/or a veterinary behaviorist.

You might also find these articles on soothing an anxious dog and helping a dog with separation anxiety helpful.

 

Can your Dog smell Fear?

As seen in PetMD By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling fearful, your dog becomes more attentive and clingy?

Have you also noticed that your dog may behave differently around people who like dogs versus people who are afraid of dogs?

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but can they smell fear? And if so, how?

Is It True That Dogs Can Smell Fear?

The science is in, and the answer is a resounding YES—dogs can smell fear. Dogs have olfactory superpowers that can detect a human’s emotional state by the scent that a human emits. That’s right—you can’t hide fear from dogs. They’ve got your number!

Until recently, the idea that dogs can smell fear was only a theory, but a study called “Interspecies transmission of emotional information via chemosignals: from humans to dogs” actually proves that dogs (or at least Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) can smell human emotions and respond accordingly.

When a person gets scared, their sweat glands will start secreting moisture, especially in the armpits. This sweat contains chemical signals that dogs can pick up on.

Can Dogs Smell the Difference Between Fear and Happiness?

Researchers correctly postulated that dogs would respond differently to human odors that were emitted under different emotional states—namely, fear and happiness.

In the study, dogs were exposed to three stimuli—their owner, a stranger (the control) and an odor dispenser. Dogs were assigned to different odor conditions randomly.

They collected odors from humans in three different emotional states: fearful, happy and neutral (no sweat). The odors were collected from the armpits of random male donors who were not otherwise involved in the experiment procedures.

The dogs were then observed for responses, including behaviors directed at the three targets, stress behaviors and heart rate. Researchers found that when the dogs were exposed to “happy odors,” they interacted more with the stranger and had lower heart rates.

In contrast, when the dogs were exposed to the “fear odor,” they displayed more stress behaviors and had higher heart rates associated with the fight, flight or freeze response—a  bodily response of the autonomic nervous system that is essential for adaptation and survival.

The dogs also sought more reassurance from their owners and interacted with the stranger less than the dogs that were exposed to the “happy odor.”

Researchers concluded that chemosignals—odors that we emit in response to our emotional state—communicate across species to dogs. So, if we are scared, they can smell it and get scared, too.

What Your Dog’s Senses Can Tell You About Your Own Emotions

Dogs can help us recognize our own emotional states. Many people who have chronic anxiety may not even be aware that they are walking around in fight, flight or freeze mode.

A dog that’s in tune with how you exhibit stress or fear can help signal the onset of these emotions and help you better work through feelings of anxiety.

It’s also important to acknowledge that dogs can feed off of your energy. So, try to temper your mindset throughout tense situations—say, like at your next vet visit—to help keep your pet more at ease.

Your mental health and that of your pet are both important. If you take note of how your dog is behaving, you might learn more about your own mood and mental state than expected.

 

Fleas getting the best of your pet?

 

By Dr. Karen Becker

Fleas feed on the blood of companion animals and their bites can lead to irritation and skin allergies. Sometimes these pests are no more than a nasty nuisance, but they have the potential to cause serious problems. Fleas can transmit tapeworms, bartonella bacteria, and can cause severe anemia in young animals.

They can also trigger a condition in pets called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is characterized by a hypersensi­tivity reaction to flea bites. It’s important to note that it’s not the bite of a flea that makes your dog scratch; it’s the flea saliva, which can cause overwhelming irritation dispropor­tion­ate to the actual number of fleas on your canine companion.

Symptoms of Flea Allergy Dermatitis

Most pet parents assume if their pet isn’t covered with fleas, the itching can’t be caused by fleas. But if your dog has FAD, the saliva of just one or two fleas can make her miserably itchy and uncomfortable for weeks (long past the death of those two fleas).

The classic symptom of flea bite hypersensitivity is frequent or constant severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and hot spots. Secondary bacterial infections are a risk for dogs with open skin sores.

Most dogs with FAD have symptoms that worsen with age, and are often episodic, meaning they experience flare-ups in between periods of relative comfort. Sometimes they go on to develop neurodermatitis as a result of flea bite hypersensitivity. Neurodermatitis is a condition characterized by restless, anxious, irritated, or nervous behavior as a result of FAD.

Diagnosis and Treatment Options

There’s no specific diagnostic test for flea allergy dermatitis. To confirm your suspicions, the best approach is to simply have your dog stand or lie on a light-colored towel and use a flea comb to help reveal fleas and flea dirt. Flea dirt looks like real dirt, but when you drop it into a small amount of rubbing alcohol or water, it will release a red color (blood) as it dissolves.

Resolving your dog’s flea problem will depend to a large extent on whether he’s reacting to just a few fleas or an infestation. Either way, you’ll definitely want to use the flea comb at least once a day until you’re confident there are no more fleas on him or in his environment.

Dogs with a sensitivity to flea saliva should also be bathed frequently until the fleas are gone. Even if he hates it while it’s happening, his skin will feel better after a bath, and any fleas on his body will drop into the water. Another benefit: pests of all kinds are less attracted to clean animals.

An alternative to a full bath and shampoo is to simply dip your dog in a sink or tub of warm water, which will cause most of the fleas to fall off. Adding a cup of apple cider vinegar to a gallon of rinse water will help make him less appealing to fleas.

Before You Reach for a Chemical Flea Preventive

I strongly discourage pet parents from automatically applying potentially toxic chemical agents to their dogs or around their home to repel or kill pests. The use of spot-on products may cause skin irritation, paralysis, seizures and even death if used improperly, and there are effective natural alternatives that are far safer.

If, however, you live in a flea-endemic area and have a family member with FAD or an infestation that requires that you use these chemicals, follow these precautions:

  • Be very careful to follow dosing directions on the label, and if your pet is at the low end of a dosage range use the next lowest dosage. Be extremely cautious with small dogs, and do not under any circumstances apply dog product to your cat.
  • Monitor your dog for adverse reactions after you apply a chemical product — especially when using one for the first time.
  • Don’t depend exclusively on chemical treatments. Rotate natural preventives with chemicals, including diatomaceous earth, pet-friendly essential oil products and natural deterrent collars. An every-other-month rotation works well for many pet parents.
  • Since your dog’s liver will be tasked with processing the chemicals that make it into the bloodstream, it can be very beneficial to give her a supplement to help detoxify the liver. I recommend milk thistle, which is a detox agent and also helps to actually regenerate liver cells. Another product I recommend is chlorella, a super green food that is a very powerful detox agent.

Work with your integrative veterinarian to determine how much to give your dog depending on her age, weight and any medications she’s taking. I recommend one dose daily for seven days following any chemical flea, tick or heartworm preventive application, especially if dogs need regular pesticides applied to their bodies.

Safe, Nontoxic Alternatives to Chemicals

There are safe, nontoxic alternatives for flea control for dogs, and they don’t have side effects, unlike virtually all forms of chemical pesticides. Alternatives I recommend include:

A safe, natural pest deterrent (see recipe below)
Cedar oil (specifically manufactured for pet health)
Natural, food-grade diatomaceous earth, topically (not on the head)
Fresh garlic (¼ teaspoon of freshly chopped garlic per 15 pounds of body weight)
Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-appropriate fresh food diet
Bathe and brush your dog regularly and perform frequent full-body inspections to check for parasite activity
Use a flea comb daily during flea season to naturally exfoliate your dog’s skin while removing or exposing pests
Make sure both your indoor and outdoor environments are unfriendly to pests

All-Natural Homemade Pest Deterrent for Dogs

You can make an all-natural pest deterrent for your dog very easily at home. It will help him avoid a good percentage of the pests he encounters, though not all of them (as many of you know, not even the heavy duty chemicals prevent all parasites). The recipe: mix 8 ounces of pure water with 4 ounces of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar and 10 drops of neem oil.

Neem oil is not an essential oil. It’s expelled or pressed oil and is effective because fleas (and ticks) are repelled by it. It’s also great for pets who are very sensitive to odors. Catnip oil can also be used as a pest deterrent, since it has been proven to be as effective as diethyltoluamide (DEET), the mosquito and tick spray humans use that has a number of toxic side effects.

If you want to add some extra punch to your dog’s pest deterrent recipe, go with five drops of lemon, lemongrass, eucalyptus or geranium oil. I use geranium oil quite a bit because I find it very effective. In fact, I use it in my Dr. Mercola natural flea and tick products. If you have a dog who comes in contact with ticks, adding the extra punch of one of the essential oils I listed can be very beneficial.

You can store your homemade pest deterrent in the fridge, which is what I do. Before your dog goes outside mist him with it, being careful to avoid the eyes. The active ingredients, especially the oils in the recipe, dissipate in about four hours, so you may need to reapply it several times throughout the

 

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on February 13, 2020 by Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, PhD

 

Dog allergies are often caused by the allergens found in pollen, animal dander, plants, and insects, but dogs can also be allergic to food and medication as well.

 

These allergies can cause symptoms such as excessive itching, scratching, and grooming; rashes; sneezing; watery eyes; paw chewing; and skin inflammation.

 

When allergies cause skin disease, the condition is called atopic dermatitis (meaning itchy skin and inflammation).

 

Here’s everything you need to know about atopic dermatitis in dogs.

 

What Is Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

 

Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory, chronic skin disease associated with allergies. In fact, this is the second most common allergic skin disease in dogs, after flea allergy dermatitis.

 

Causes of Dog Dermatitis

 

These allergic reactions can be brought on by normally harmless substances like grass, mold spores, house dust mites, and other environmental allergens.

 

At What Age Can Dogs Get Dermatitis?

 

Dogs normally show signs of the disease between 1-6 years of age, though atopic dermatitis can be so mild the first year that it doesn’t become noticeable or consistent for several years.

 

Symptoms of Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

 

Symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis often get worse with time, though they may also be seasonal.

 

These are the most commonly affected areas in dogs:

 

·         Ears

·         Feet

·         Underbelly

·         Muzzle

·         Armpits

·         Groin

·         Base of the tail

·         Around the eyes

·         In between the toes

 

The symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis include:

 

·         Itching

·         Scratching

·         Rubbing

·         Licking

·         A yeasty smell

·         Greasy skin

·         Redness or tough skin

 

What Causes Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs?

 

Some breeds are more likely to develop allergies, including Golden Retrievers, Poodles (and hybrids), Shih Tzus, Cocker Spaniels, and Bulldogs. However, any dog can develop allergies.

 

While there’s no way to prevent your dog from developing allergies, there are several excellent treatment options available.

 

Can Dogs Get Tested for Allergies?

 

Prior to any treatment, your veterinarian will need a complete medical history to determine the pattern of your dog’s allergies. Some allergies are seasonal, such as mold, while others are year-round.

 

A complete physical examination is important in determining the best types of treatment. Your veterinarian will want to perform tests on skin samples from the affected areas.

 

Serologic allergy testing may be performed, which looks for antibodies in the blood, but the results are not always reliable. The quality of this kind of testing often depends on the laboratory that analyzes the results.

 

Intradermal testing may also be used to identify the cause of your pet’s allergic reaction. This is where small amounts of test allergens are injected into the skin and wheal (a red bump) response is measured.

 

Since these types of tests are very expensive, your veterinarian may recommend treatment instead of advanced allergy testing.

 

Treatment for Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs

 

The treatment will depend on what is causing your pet’s allergic reaction.

 

If the reaction is due to atopy, a genetic disposition to an allergic reaction, for example, hyposensitization therapy can be performed. Your veterinarian will give your pet injections of the allergens to which they are sensitive. This decreases itchiness in 60-80% of dogs, but may approximately take 6 months to a year to see an improvement.

 

Your veterinarian might recommend immunomodulatory medications. These are available either as a daily pill (Apoquel) or an injection given every 4-10 weeks (Cytopoint). Along with these, antibiotics or antifungal medicines are often required to treat the skin infections that result from allergies.

 

Additionally, regular bathing with medicated or prescription-strength shampoo can greatly improve your pet’s comfort and help skin infections resolve faster. Shampoo and other topical treatments can also be used as maintenance therapy to reduce the risk or severity of future skin infections.

 

Does Atopic Dermatitis Go Away?

 

Unfortunately, atopic dermatitis only rarely goes into remission or spontaneously resolves.

 

Once treatment has begun, your veterinarian must see your dog every 2-8 weeks to ascertain the effectiveness of the treatment and to check for drug interactions.

 

Then, as your pet’s itching becomes more controlled, they will need to be brought into the veterinarian’s office every 3-12 months for checkups. 

 

It’s very important to stay vigilant and make sure your dog gets treatment at the first sign of an itch.

 

If left untreated, allergies can change a dog’s personality—the constant itch and frustration can lead dogs to shy away from people or be aggressive when touched.

 

This is especially true for dogs with ear infections as part of their allergy symptoms. Chronic ear infections can also lead to deafness.

 

If your veterinarian should find the trigger for your pet’s allergies, he or she will advise you as to how to best avoid those type of allergens.