Monday, March 26, 2012

Itchy and Scratchy...

If you have ever watched the Simpsons cartoon then you will surely know about “Itchy and Scratchy” the cat and mouse who entertain a very gore show that Bart loves to watch. What is the connection with what we are going to talk about today? None! Lool! Except that we are going to tackle some itchy and maybe scratchy stuff.

Upon recent public demand, I think that today we should talk a bit about dog allergic reactions...Yeap! Just like us humans, dogs do suffer from allergies...and the causes are just the about the same too; dust, pollen, molds, proteins in food, insect bites etc
So, what is an allergic reaction in fact? It is your body’s exaggerated reaction to a molecule that your immune system thinks it needs to fight off...and in so doing specific cells in your blood trigger the release Histamines. These work by increasing the permeability of your blood vessels and allow for your defence mechanism to "seep out" and tackle any allergen head on...but that is in ideal situations.
In an allergic set up, this reaction is exaggerated like ten-fold and results in the swelling, redness, itching sensations that we are all well familiar with. The face, lips, earlobes and eye regions are favourite swelling places for allergic reactions to develop (even if the animal has eaten an allergen or has been stung in the tail!!)

I have worked with and coached many vets and the first time they are presented with an allergic reaction, they always think of food as the source. While this might be the case in 15% of cases, a majority of allergies are cause by other things and the most common, in fact, is Flea bite allergy. The flea’s saliva is believed to cause the allergic reaction and the general “itchy and scratchy” episodes; with your dog sometimes biting itself to blood!
One commonly overlooked source of allergy for dogs is...cats in the same household. In fact, the allergen is not the cat itself but its saliva (again!). Whilst grooming itself, a cat leaves a significant amount of saliva on its fur that eventually dries up and scales off in the air...and hello sneezing, itching episodes in the doggy
The protein source of dog food is mostly derived from...plants; such as Soy, Wheat, Maize etc (yeah...not from meat as you would want to believe!) and some these cause allergies in certain types of dogs. Signs of such allergies include diarrhoea, vomiting and in chronic cases loss of fur and constant scratching.
In our tropical island, one other cause of allergies is fungus or molds.Animals living in constantly damp kennels, badly aerated and humid areas are most likely to develop allergies to molds. This is even complicated by the fact the the initial itching cause skin lesions that eventually get superinfested with other fungi. Skin becomes pink, has that typical yeasty strong smell and animal now spends his time licking that area (most common at its paws)
What about insect bites then? Huh! This one is of a more “violent” type and may even lead to death in some extreme cases. The body reacts quite rapidly to the “venom” or toxin and pour histamines in the animal’s system. This, in turn results in what we call in the vet jargon; Rubor, Calor, Dolor, Tumor.i.e. Redness, Heat, Pain and Swelling. If these inflammatory reactions occur in the face or on other parts of the body, it is manageable but if this happens in the airways, then your dog would be in serious respiratory distress and may die if not taken to the vet.

That brings us to the next question: What do I do in case of insect bite? First of all do not panic...because if you panic, your dog loses all his chances of getting proper immediate care. Just tell yourself: “ I have read Dr Sam’s blog and I know exactly what I should do!” Lool!
• Since you now know that blood vessels are dilating and becoming more permeable at inflammation site – apply cold compresses there
• Have some antihistaminic tablets (Piriton or Zyrtec)ready in your emergency pack. Phone your vet for the correct dose and give it to your dog
• Observe the breathing of your dog and note any difficulty in breathing, rales or wheezing sounds coming from his throat. If that is the case, it is a life-threatening situation and you should be rushing to the vet
• Take the animal to your vet for a consultation a.s.a.p; .as soon as animal is stabilised. He might need further injections for the pain and swelling to regress

While some reckon applying onions, lemons, vinegar or even toothpaste on the insect sting... this remain in the domain of folk remedies and moreover you might not be able to locate the initial stung area...and I doubt that your dog would like these smells too. The best chance for him is to have the above four points taken into consideration...and remember to phone your vet for dosages of antihistaminics because you do not want your dog to be dead of overdose now.

Alright, folks...enough for today...have a nice rainy evening!

Very BED weather since this morning...

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