Help your furry family member curb the itchy and scratchy show and allergic reactions
Looking for ways to ease your pet’s discomfort with allergies? Sniffling. Sneezing. Coughing. It’s a tricky time of year with spring and warmer weather around the corner, pollen in the air and allergies in full force. However, we’re not the only ones who struggle with allergies – your pet is at risk too.
When establishing your own allergy-fighting plan, don’t forget about your pet, explains Dr Guy Fyvie, nutritional advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “Environmental allergens pose an invisible but constant nuisance to many dogs and cats.”
More than 50% of dog allergies are caused by the world around them – pollens, moulds and house dust mites can be found anywhere and in any season. “The good news is that there are a number of small, simple changes you can introduce to help eliminate or reduce the signs and irritation of your pets’ allergies.”
Dr Fyvie says if you think you pet is suffering from allergies, there are certain pet behaviours you can look out for. “If you notice your dog scratching, itching, licking or rubbing more than normal, then there could be an underlying skin condition.”
When it comes to cats, however, picking up signs of a skin condition can be a bit trickier. If you’re a cat parent, you’ll know the effort your cat takes to keep clean – plus, cats are masters of disguise.
Some of the most common symptoms of skin problems in both dogs and cats (you’ll need to separate your cat’s well-groomed fur to find these) include:
- Red patches, spots or pimples
- Scabs, crusts or thickened skin
- Flaky or scaly patches
- Hair loss
- Bad skin odour
- Itching, scratching, licking or rubbing.
Dr Fyvie recommends taking the following steps to help minimise your pet’s allergies:
Consult your vet. The first thing you should consider if you suspect a skin problem in your pet, is to visit your vet. They can help determine the cause of a skin irritation and assist you in choosing the best course of remedy. If required, your vet may recommend further tests to identify the exact reason for your pet’s skin condition.
Wash your pet’s beds. Wash their beds every second week in a washing machine on the hottest programme, just be sure that it won’t damage them. If they don’t fit into your washing machine, a thorough handwash will work just as well. Make sure the beds are properly dried before your pet uses them. If you live in a drought-affected area, rather vacuum your pets’ beds twice a week.
Bath your dog in cold water. For acute cases, this is recommended three times a week. It will help to calm itchy, irritated skin and can reduce allergens in the coat. Again, if you are in a drought-stricken area, a sponge bath with a bottle of still mineral water will help. While plain water is often just fine if you are washing your dog, make sure you are using the right products. “There are a few pet-friendly hypoallergenic and gentle medicated shampoos available from your vet. Make use of these or if you use a parlour, make sure they are using the right soaps for your dog. You can also purchase dog-grooming wipes to remove loose hair, dirt and odour causing bacteria from your dog’s fur,” Dr Fyvie says.
Add moisture to the air. If your cat’s skin is dry and itchy, consider placing a humidifier in the room where they spend most of their time. The humidifier will help in the rejuvenation and moisturisation of your cat’s skin, which is sometimes caused by a lack of moisture in the home environment.
Nutrition. Even if the cause of your pet’s skin condition is not related to nutrition, they will benefit greatly from a high-quality food especially formulated for any skin sensitivity. Look for one containing high-quality protein, essential fatty acids and antioxidants – such as Hill’s range of Prescription Diet Food Sensitivities and Skin Care food— all are important nutrients that can help heal and protect your pet’s skin.
“Your pet’s skin health is vital to their overall health,” Dr Fyvie adds. Proper bathing, regular coat and skin examinations and annual vet check-ups are a great way to help prevent skin problems flaring up and to keep your pet happy and healthy – always.