Vets are in for a busy summer of allergies

Is summer here? There are people coming into the practice in shorts and t­-shirts, vets are coming back from visits all hot and bothered and the ginger­-tinted vets are a little red in the face.

The animals are all hot and bothered too – there are lots of panting dogs, hot cats and budgies with ruffled feathers.

Summer is loved by the majority of the public, but it does cause problems for vets and pets.

Allergies, particularly to grass, are a massive problem for many dogs. They get sore ears, itchy feet and red skin. We have had so many owners into the surgery with red, itchy dogs, struggling to sleep and becoming a little twitchy.

Dogs, and cats, can be allergic to both food allergens and environmental allergens. Often the first step is to rule out other causes of scratching, for example fleas, other skin parasites and infection, then try to pinpoint what stimulates the allergy.

Often we do this by a food trial on a novel protein source. Specialist companies have made diets that we use or owners can create their own. It must be something that the dog has not eaten before, such as venison or duck.

This is extremely time consuming, costly and often difficult to achieve. Friends need to be warned to stop giving treats to the pet as any other food given in the eight-week trial period can affect the interpretation of the results.

Once we have ruled in or out food allergies, we have to do the same for environmental allergens. This is much more difficult as we are unable to remove pollen from the air.

In the case of a German Shepherd, we removed the cat from the household and he improved dramatically. Sadly the cat had to be rehomed with a family member. Oddly, I think the dog missed the cat as much as the owner, but it was less itchy.

Often a blood test is used or sometimes medication which reduces the body’s reactions and helps to reduce the irritation.

Owners and dogs become well known in the practice due to their regular visits and often develop a close relationship with the vets.

I fear that due to the high pollen count, we may be in for a long summer of itchy pets, but owners should not be disheartened. There is often lots we can do for a patient experiencing skin irritation.

Whilst those of us who don’t have hay fever can enjoy lying on the grass in the sunshine, it is worth remembering these itchy dogs and sneezy people that are seasonally affected.


Director and Senior Vet