Spring Forward

dog in meadow

Spring is weeks away, and the schizophrenic Chicago weather is starting to settle on the easy months of warmth and sunshine, with occasional rainstorms thrown in for good measure. With the winter relief, though, comes additional burdens on pet owners in the form of allergies.

Often pet owners settle for what they view as unavoidable allergic reactions in the form of skin and ear irritation, respiratory difficulty, lethargy, weakness, gastrointestinal upset, etc. As dogs and cats start to lick, chew, and relieve their itching, we start to see them develop rashes, alopecia, anal sac irritation, and infections. Though April showers decrease the airborne pollen, they also will increase the subsequent pollen produced by plants as well as allow favorable environments for mold and fleas.

Sometimes these initial allergic breakouts can be avoided in anticipation of the season, or at first arrival of clinical signs. Often just simply starting antihistamines and a short course of antibiotics or anti-inflammatories can make a severely uncomfortable animal feel like a spring bunny.

So what can you do? We recommended the following:

  1. Make sure your dogs are on anti-flea and tick prevention. If your cats go outside or if you have dog housemates that go outside, they should also be on flea medication. Flea allergy dermatitis is a common cause for initiating allergic reactions, and ticks can not only initiate allergic reactions, but also tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease.
  2. Act quickly and let us see your cats and dogs before it gets bad. Quick responses make simpler and cheaper treatments. Often a quick exam can lead to immediate relief.
  3. Spring cleaning: Open the windows (keep the screens on) and air out the house, but keep the animals away when you dust and clean. An allergen storm erupting from your winter dust mite carpet cleaning is enough to cause an allergic landslide.
  4. Wash off the winter grime from your dog’s coat with an appropriate canine-specific shampoo. There are many types of shampoos to use and we can help you figure out what works best.
  5. Food allergies are common, but if your pet’s signs tend to come at specific times, like at the season’s change, or whenever it rains, it probably isn’t due to food. Before you spend money on new and sometimes expensive food, please let us know. There may be cheaper and easier ways to deal with this. There are many dogs and cats with actual food allergies, but it’s not always the first rule-out.
  6. I’m sure your dog loves to swim, even when Lake Michigan is still borderline torturously freezing, but post-lake-swimming ear infections are almost too predictable to not mention. Make sure you dry their ears out and potentially clean them after a nice day at the lake. We can show you how before they get infected.

As always, let us know if you have questions. Dental Month has been extended through March, so if you missed out, it’s not too late to take advantage of our discounted dentals.

Brett Grossman, DVM
Medical District Veterinary Clinic at Illinois