Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Damn That Tree Pollen

Well, winter seems to finally be loosening it's grip and spring is here. The bulbs are up, the birds are singing, and the trees have started to dump pollen into the air. I know I can feel it, that itchy sensation in the back of my throat. Unfortunately, the dogs can feel it as well.

Atopy, or an allergic reaction to environtmental pollens, is a big problem here in the Northeast. While we humans get respiratory signs, you know, runny nose, itchy eyes, and sinus infections, our canine companions get itchy skin. The most commonly affected areas are the feet, face, and armpits. We also see a load of ear infections and anal gland problems with dogs suffering from allergies.

Diagnosis of environmental allergies can usually be made on physical examination (yes you need to have your pet seen by a veterinarian), and history. Sometimes, the diagnosis is complicated by be several factors, concurrent skin infections, yeast infections, and otgher systemic diseaess, that mimic allergies all need to be treated or ruled out. Then there are those, non seasonal allergies that also throw a monkey wrench into the diagnostic mix. Hose dust mites, mold spores, and food allergies are all non-seasonal allergies that will present with similar clinical signs as pollen allergies but will last all year long.

We like to do some base line testing to aid our diagnosis. Fungal cultures to rule out ringworm (no it's not a worm rather a fungus similar to athletes foot), skin scrapes to rule out mites, and impression smears to check for yeast a bacteria. Rarely do we start with allergy testing right off the bat as it can be expensive and not always yield information that will help us with our diagnosis.

Once we have our diagnosis, there are several treatment options depending on the severity of the lesions, the length of the season, and the owner's willingness or ability to treat their pet. I think I'll leave that discussion for another post. Maybe next week, and maybe I'll be able to figure out how to add photos by that time, so I can show you all what I am talking about.

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