Dr. Joanna Bronson
Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to health problems due to their genetic makeup, however, many common health problems can be prevented or at least controlled through diligent preventive health care.
According to a top veterinary pet insurance company, the most common medical conditions that face dogs during their lifetimes are:
- Skin allergies / infections
- Periodontitis / dental disease
- Ear infections
- Diarrhea / intestinal upset
- Bladder or urinary tract infections
- Non-cancerous skin masses
- Soft tissue / bone trauma
This column will deal with skin allergies / infections and periodontal disease.
Skin allergies can be frustrating for both pets and their owners. Continual itching causes scratching which can lead to skin infections.
The most likely causes of allergies stem from flea and mite reactions, bacterial skin infections (often caused by scratching), fungal skin infections, and food and environmental allergies.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is very common, even if a dog doesn’t appear to have fleas. When a flea bites, it inserts an anticoagulant from its salvia to prevent the blood from clotting so it can drink the blood. One single flea bite can trigger an allergic reaction.
The good news is that there are preventive medicines that help prevent parasite infestation and can also prevent heartworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms. Starting a young dog on parasite prevention can help eliminate these types of allergies.
Atopy (chronic allergic reaction) or Allergic Inhaled Dermatitis is caused from exposure to an allergen. Ragweed, pollen, house dust mites, mold, animal dander, and feathers even found inside a home have all been connected to this form of dermatitis.
Atopy is mostly a seasonal problem but tends to become a progressive disease that has increasingly worse symptoms with each new season and can even become a year-round condition.
When outside, grasses, trees, and shrubs shed allergens that can be inhaled or passed through a dog’s pads on this his feet or even ingested and are mostly seasonal in nature. This type of allergen accounts for up to 90% of non-parasitic dermatitis conditions.
Genetics often contribute to allergies. Chronic allergic reactions usually appear between the ages of 1-3 years old, but can even appear as young as 3 months of age. Most dogs are first exposed to an allergen and develop sensitization in their first exposure to a pollen season. Any dog can become pollen sensitive. Treatments vary and most are effective when followed diligently.
Surprisingly food allergies are the least common cause of skin allergies. The vast number of food allergies stem from proteins found in food. Some of the most common protein allergens come from beef, pork, lamb, chicken, with dairy and beef proteins causing the main problems. To find the source of a protein allergen your veterinarian will conduct a structured food trial to eliminate possible allergens.
Some allergic reactions can become serious and turn into medical emergencies. Swelling of the eyelids and faces, hives and facial itching may occur up to 48 hours after exposure to an allergen. Report these symptoms to your veterinarian.
Vomiting, difficulty breathing, extreme weakness, or collapse, may be signs of anaphylaxis (shock) and can cause major organ failure and possible death. Immediate treatment is essential. This is a Red Alert for your veterinarian.
Some breeds are more prone to certain skin allergies. Due to their long, heavy ears, Spaniels tend to get ear and lip fold infections from yeast and bacterial growth. Poodles have a hereditary condition called Granulomatous Sebaceous Adenitis which affects the oil glands and can cause hair loss. Chinese Shar-Peis with their multiple skin folds are also prone to skin irritations and infections.
Bulldogs have a tendency to have allergies that are both food-related and environmental. Pit Bull Terriers are often affected with Demodex mites, although they may not show any symptoms. However, infestations can produce irritants that can lead to scratching and other secondary infections.
Doberman Pinchers are prone to Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) which can make their hair dry and flaky and can lead to secondary skin infections due to itching and scratching. Labrador Retrievers often suffer from allergies that stem from genetic and environmental factors.
Besides awareness of breed sensitivities, prevention of invasive skin conditions and infections includes good grooming, good nutrition, good preventive care (such as sometimes spacing out vaccinations for certain breeds), and in some cases, the addition of and immune stimulants.
There are many topical and systemic treatments for treating dogs with allergies. It’s essential to get a correct diagnosis to be able to treat the problem effectively
Dr. Joanna Bronson of Bronson Veterinary Services, located at 452 W. Central Road, Coldwater. Contact her at (517) 369-2161 or visit www.bronsonvetservices.vetstreet.com.