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Vet warns of possible allergies associated with the autumn season

By Staff Reporter

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Alison Laurie.
Alison Laurie.

Shona was a bearded collie who loved nothing more than rushing repeatedly through piles of leaves in the autumn. However, every year her owners noted she became intensely itchy and developed a nasty rash on her abdomen and would not stop biting at her paws.

She was brought in as the rash this year had become very painful and looked infected. Testing revealed she had atopic dermatitis.

This can be a debilitating skin condition triggered by an allergen sensitivity. There are an enormous number of potential allergens that a cat or dog can be exposed and allergic to, and each pet can be reactive to multiple allergens, so establishing the cause of the reaction can be extremely difficult.

As the weather cools, we see a break in the summer grass and flower pollen load, however the tree and weed pollen count still stays high. As tree foliage, leaves and flowers begin to fall, and winds pick up, the pollens start flying and as they increase, so does the incidence of atopic dermatitis. It is also suspected many of these animals are allergic to leaf moulds with spores reaching their peak in the wet autumn weather as leaves fall and start to decompose.

Symptoms tend to include itchy and/or inflamed skin, hair loss and repeat skin and ear infections. Leaf mould allergies can also cause itchy, inflamed eyes and runny eyes and noses. Affected pets will constantly scratch themselves and sometimes self-inflicted scratched skin lesions can then become infected and cause a secondary infection called a “pyoderma.” Dogs often will exhibit signs of allergy with a rash and itching on the underside of their tummy, under their fore limbs, in their groin and on the inside of their thighs and on their paws. Occasionally, these can extend to their neck, back, and head and ears. Cats can exhibit symptoms almost anywhere and affected pets will often scratch or lick incessantly. The self-trauma from this vigorous, constant scratching can cause more problems than the initial allergy symptoms.

Allergic flare-ups, and secondary infections, can be treated with medications to settle down the itch, along with regular bathing with a sensitive, medicated shampoo, topical skin products and oral skin supplements. Antihistamines may help a little. Anti-inflammatory medications may be required to reduce itching and inflammation, and antibiotics may be required if the skin becomes infected.

If your pet continues to succumb to recurrent seasonal allergies your vet may advise on further testing or in severe cases refer your pet to a consultant Veterinary Dermatologist.

A longer-term solution for chronic cases may be to build up a pet’s own immune system against known allergens.

Avoiding exposure to an allergen is always the best way to control an allergy, so, if possible, try to avoid your pet having any prolonged contact with rotting piles of leaves. Also wipe your pet down well after walks in the woods with his own flannel and plain water and rinse off his paws and clean his eyes, ears, and muzzle to reduce and clean off the allergens on his skin.

Shona’s allergies were clearly seasonal so with careful management before and during this time her skin lesions were kept under control.

n Alison Laurie-Chalmers is a senior consultant with Crown Vets in Inverness.

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