Do you suffer wheezing, sneezing, watery eyes and itchy eyes and arms around your cat? For me, these allergy symptoms are a small price to pay for the company of my cats – although some mornings when I wake with a heavy head and red eyes I wonder!
Cat allergies are not caused by cat hair as most of us assume. They are caused by a protein found in cat saliva, urine and skin cells, or dander. The immune systems of people with allergies mistake this harmless protein for a dangerous invader like a virus or bacteria and mount a full scale attack on it.
Here are some tips for minimising our allergy symptoms without giving up our cats.
- Make your bedroom a cat free zone
- Reduce the load of cat allergens in your bedroom by washing or replacing bedding, curtains and pillows. Then cover pillows and mattress with allergen-proof covers.
- Open windows wide at least once a day to air the house and dilute the allergen load
- Send your cat outside, preferably into an outdoor run, to disperse some of the dander
- Eliminate allergen traps such as carpet, rugs and upholstered furniture as you can. Carpet accumulates up to 100 times more allergens than vinyl or wood flooring. If you can’t take it up steam clean it regularly and vacuum with a high efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) filter or us and allergen-proof vacuum cleaner bag.
- Brush your cat outside and/or in an outside enclosure to minimise contamination of your home with dander
- Wipe the dander away with a moist cloth or wipe to remove saliva and dander.
- Spray the house with anti-allergen sprays
- Use a low dust cat litter and ask non-allergic family members to clean the litter box frequently
- Take the antihistamines, decongestants, eye drops and aerosol inhalers that your doctor suggests. Antioxidants such as Vitamins C and E also have anti-allergen effects.
Dogs scoot their bottoms along the ground when they have anal gland problems, tapeworms or allergies.
If you catch your dog rubbing along on the carpet, worm him with a good quality wormer such as Drontal or Milbemax that covers all worms, especially tapeworm.
If he still scoots or seems off colour then bring him in to the surgery. Many small dogs suffer from anal sac problems. The gland fills up with material too thick to empty through the small ducts near the anus. Usually we just express them and all is well.
Sometimes the material gets infected and the glands become swollen and painful. Your dog might have trouble defecating or lick the area a lot. The glands may break through the skin and discharge foul smelling fluid. At the surgery we clip and clean them as well as starting antibiotics and pain relief. If your dog has repeated anal gland infections we recommend surgery to remove them.
In spring and summer many allergic dogs rub, lick and scratch all over including their bottoms. Some dogs allergic to food proteins also rub their bottoms on the ground. Treatment for the allergies usually stops the rubbing and licking.
What is flea allergy?
Some dogs are allergic to fleas and react with non-stop scratching and biting. Normal dogs are only mildly irritated by fleas. The flea allergic dog is allergic to flea saliva. Just one flea bite causes intense and long lasting itchiness.
The dog chews, licks, or scratches over the rump, on the belly and down the legs. This causes hair loss and damage to the skin. Breaks in the skin allow bacteria in and infection to develop.
What is the proper treatment?
We must eliminate all fleas on the dog and in the environment.
Capstar or Comfortis kill the fleas and paralyse flea mouthparts preventing deposition of saliva.
Every month treat your dog with Advantage, Advocate, Advantix, Frontline, Revolution, or Comfortis to keep flea numbers as low as possible.
Fleas spend most of their life cycle off the dog as larvae and pupae in bedding, carpet, dirt and leaves. Wash bedding in hot water and dry in the sun. Vacuum carpets and furniture often. Rake up leaves in shady places and provide outside kennels or hidey holes off the ground. Call a professional to fumigate your house.
Flea control depends on knowing the life cycle of fleas.
Cortisone products like prednisolone block the allergic reaction and give relief from the intense itching.
If your dog develops a bacterial infection in the skin, your vet will prescribe antibiotics.