Allergy and Asthma Awareness for your Pets

Allergy and Asthma Awareness for your Pets

Dog and cat playing in the grassIt’s that time of year again- when environmental allergens all come out to play and start wreaking havoc on sinuses and skin. Reacting to particles in the environment is not just for humans- animals can also have reactions to allergens in the environment. Allergens are predominately proteins from plants, insects, animals or foods. Dogs and cats in particular can have reactions to many air borne allergens, such as tree, grass and weed pollens; dust, mold, mildew and dust mites. Other common allergens are fleas and food allergies.

Inhalant allergies, also referred to as atopy, are an overreaction or hypersensitivity of the immune system to an airborne allergen that is inhaled. Exposure to the allergen, usually multiple times over a long periods of time, sensitizes the immune system to the allergen and subsequent exposures to the allergen can cause an over-reaction.

In humans, inhaled allergens cause respiratory problems such as asthma. The same thing can happen to dogs and cats. With dogs, asthma, or difficulty breathing, is typically referred to as allergic bronchitis, because for dogs this condition is almost always caused by something in the environment, most often something they have inhaled. Asthma- traditionally understood as it affects humans as a chronic inflammation of the airways- is not as common in dogs, although feline asthma is common and well documented. Smaller breeds of dogs are more susceptible to allergic bronchitis than larger breeds. In cats, the term” feline bronchitis” may also be used, to describe the coughing and wheezing they may experience when their lower airway is inflamed. The terms “asthma” and “bronchitis” may both be used with cats, and are considered two parts of the same syndrome affecting felines.

Clinical signs of allergic bronchitis in dogs almost always starts with a dry hacking, cough, which can some on slowly, or all at once. Respiratory distress, including difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, and open-mouth breathing, as well as pale mucous membranes (blueish gums) lethargy, exercise intolerance, lack of appetite, and weight loss are all signs of allergic bronchitis.

Cats with feline asthma or bronchitis may experience many of the same symptoms, such as coughing and respiratory distress, which are indicative of the condition because there are relatively few causes of coughing in cats. Coughing cats also may assume a squatting position with their neck extended when coughing.

The most common symptoms associated with inhalant allergies in both dogs and cats is itching the skin, either in one specific area or all over the body. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergy symptoms affect the digestive system, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea.

Common allergens that can trigger an asthma attack or allergic reaction include the dust from kitty litter, smoke, from either smoking tobacco, or from open- flame fireplaces, wood stoves or outdoor fires; household cleaners, deodorizers, and air fresheners; perfumes, hairspray, pollution, as well as dust, dust mites, tree, grass and weed pollens, molds and mildew.

If your dog or cat exhibits these symptoms, you should get them to the vet as soon as possible. Asthma in dogs is usually diagnosed with X-rays and treated with various medications. Allergy testing can be done via skin tests or blood tests to identify the specific allergens that cause reactions. Because the majority of these allergens are environmental, it can be difficult to totally protect your cat or dog from coming into contact with them. Symptoms of atopy can be controlled, but not permanently cured. Allergies are generally controlled with one or a combination of treatments, including Anti-inflammatory therapy (anti-inflammatory drugs, such as corticosteroids, or with antihistamines, will quickly block the allergic reaction), shampoo therapy (frequent bathing with hypoallergenic shampoo to sooth itchy, inflamed skin, as well as removing allergens in and on the coat that can be absorbed through the skin), and Hyposensitization or Desensitization therapy (“allergy shots” that introduce very small amounts of the antigen, injected weekly, with the objective of desensitizing the immune system to the particular allergen). For cats that have only occasional asthmatic symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe an inhaler, similar to the ones humans use.

Some ways to create a healthy living environment for you pet, if they are prone to environmental allergies or asthma that may help them avoid respiratory problems are to use electric fireplaces or candles instead of wood- burning fireplaces; use natural products like baking soda and vinegar to deodorize and clean your home instead of harsh chemicals and air fresheners; and consider installing an air-purifying unit in your home. Bathing your pet regularly, especially if they have recently spent a lot of time outside, can help to limit the amount of allergens that stay on their bodies, and are ingested during grooming.

Remember, animals are just like us, in that they can be sensitive to allergens in the environment that can cause a whole slew of uncomfortable and irritating reactions. If your dog is exhibiting symptoms you think may be caused by an allergic reaction, get them to the vet as soon as possible for a proper diagnosis, and don’t attempt to treat on your own. Make sure to follow your vet’s instructions closely to provide effective relief from allergens for your pet.

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Meet Our Team

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    Dr. Gross

    Lead Veterinarian

    Veterinarian in Yorktown VA Dr. Gross is a 1983 graduate of Auburn University where he obtained a BS degree in zoology and a D.V.M. degree from the School of Veterinary Medicine. Upon graduation, he moved into the Dare/Grafton area of York County. From 1983-1984, he was a full-time associate in a small animal practice in Newport News. From 1984-1986, he worked at a 24-hour veterinary hospital in Richmond, gaining experience in emergency as well as outpatient medical practice. From 1986-1994, he ...
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    Dr. Laura Neuhaus (Raiff)

    Veterinarian

    Dr. Laura Neuhaus is a graduate of the University of Missouri - College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, she completed an emergency and specialty medicine internship at VCA Emergency Animal Hospital and Referral Center in San Diego. She enjoys ophthalmology and has a special interest in avian medicine. Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, and spending time outdoors. She is the proud parent of a cat and 2 parrotlets.
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    Dr. Jennifer Moore

    Veterinarian

    Dr. Jennifer Moore is a graduate of Virginia Tech for Veterinary Medicine. Originally from Chesterfield, VA, she attended Old Dominion University and earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering prior to attending veterinary school. Dr. Moore has an interest in surgery as well as treating small exotic mammals and reptiles. In her free time, Dr. Moore enjoys being outside hiking, swimming, kayaking, and attempting to kiteboard. She also enjoys a variety of projects, especially ...
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    Caroline Parkhill

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    Caroline joined the GAH team in July 2018. Caroline grew up in Virginia but left home to explore the world; she has lived in Germany, Korea, Oklahoma, California, and Texas. She recently returned home to Virginia to be closer to her family. Caroline graduated from the University of Maryland and worked in the IT field for 15 years before following her passion and joining the veterinary field. She enjoys gardening and cooking in her spare time, as well as relaxing with her crew of senior dogs and ...
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    Beth

    Veterinary Technician

    Beth joined the GAH staff in April 2010. Originally from Maryland, she now lives in the Gloucester area. She has been working as a Licensed Veterinary Technician since graduating from Blue Ridge Community College in 1989. Away from work, she enjoys reading and working her dogs in obedience and agility classes. She has two dogs, three cats, four ferrets and three reptiles.
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    Bari

    Veterinary Assistant

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    Emily

    Veterinary Assistant

    Emily joined the Grafton Animal Hospital team in early 2015. Although new to the field, she has a strong passion for animals and wants to pursue a career as a licensed veterinary technician. She loves seeing the variety of beautiful animals at GAH from day to day. In her free time, Emily loves relaxing at home with her fiancé and two dogs and watching scary movies.
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    Amanda

    Veterinary Assistant

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    Katlyn

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    Carolyn

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    Carolyn has been with us as a groomer since 2001. Carolyn was born and raised in Upstate New York. She has a two-year certificate of completion in Computer Science from B.O.C.E.S. in Flint, NY. She also attended F.L.C.C. in Canandaigua, NY for Business Administration. Her main interests are her son, Matthew, and her daughter, Kelly. She really enjoys grooming pets, from the challenging ones to the cooperative ones…dogs and cats alike! Seeing how great they look and feel after a bath and clip is ...
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    Brian

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    Ricky

    Front Desk Supervisor

    Ricky came to Grafton Animal Hospital in April of 2011. He was a little shy at first, but once he became more comfortable with us, he became one of the team. Ricky is a Congo African Grey Parrot. We think he is around 10 years old, but no one is sure. He will sometimes put on a show of whistling, talking, singing and dancing, and imitating sounds like telephones and coughing. Visit our Facebook page for an opportunity to see Ricky in action.
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    Lucy

    Staff Meeting Coordinator

    Lucy joined the Grafton Animal Hospital reception team as the new Noisemaker bird in September 2016. After losing our long-time mascot, Croaker, earlier that year, we learned of a young Quaker parrot available for adoption at the Peninsula Regional Animal Shelter and decided she might be a good fit for the clinic. Lucy quickly made herself at home and before long, she was showing the staff who was really in charge. She is generally pretty friendly, so you will often see the staff holding her. ...
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    Daisy & Duke

    Staff Meeting Coordinators

    Daisy and Duke joined the GAH team in June of 2009. They were stray kittens that needed a home, and Squeaks was in need of a brother or sister. After some convincing, we were able to keep both. If you haven’t seen our kittens roaming the clinic, it’s because they are still learning their way around. For now, they are great morale boosters that keep us entertained during our staff meetings.
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