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Paw prints

Q: My dog is scratching himself all night long and it’s keeping me up! He is otherwise healthy and only seems to do this in the spring. What is his problem and what can I do about it?

A: Allergy season is upon us in Northern Arizona and it is not just the humans that are suffering; dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies as well.

Allergies in dogs can present in various forms such as ear infections, skin infections, itchy skin, scaly skin, and inflamed skin. Typically, allergies start to show up early in a dog’s life with most allergic dogs showing clinical signs by the age of 2. The symptoms can range from mild to severe and can occur seasonally or all year long.

These allergies can be attributed to two main triggers: food allergies and environmental allergies. Typically, if a dog is environmentally allergic, the symptoms will show up during the allergy seasons of spring, summer and fall. Seasonally allergic dogs usually do not have as many issues during the winter months.

If a dog is being affected by allergies all year long then it is because they have food allergies or they are both food and environmentally allergic. Unfortunately, as with human allergies, dog allergies cannot be cured; they can only be managed to reduce the symptoms.

The only way to treat food allergies is to put your dog on a hypoallergenic diet that restricts the consumption of the triggering ingredient(s). This can take time and effort as it is vital that everything that goes into your dog’s mouth is evaluated, and food trials can take upwards of 4-6 weeks before you start seeing any benefit.

Seasonal allergies alternatively have more options for treatment. The treatment is based on how your dog exhibits allergies and how severely your dog is affected. Treatment can consist of medications to treat the itch and infections, ear medications, shampoo, conditioner, and allergy testing.

Allergy testing is used to identify the triggers for the allergies and to pursue appropriate therapy. This is recommended for younger dogs that have moderate to severe allergies as it is the best way to potentially reduce the amount of medications they will need over the lifetime. With a blood test or skin test the triggers can be identified and then hyposensitization therapy is formulated.

This therapy can come in an injectable form or oral form. Over time you introduce the dog to low doses of the allergic triggers so that they become less reactive and the symptoms are greatly reduced. If your dog is exhibiting allergic symptoms, then it is vital that you schedule a consultation with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action for therapy.

Q: My cat has started to urinate in one specific spot on the carpet and it is driving me crazy! The only change in our household is that we just adopted a puppy. Could that be a cause of her behavior and how do I get her to stop doing this?

A: Any changes in a cat’s life can instigate a stress response that leads to inappropriate urinations.

First, it is important to determine if a medical condition might be causing your cat to urinate inappropriately.

Once that has been ruled out, here are some tips for redirecting the behavior. Depending on your cat’s age and personality, she may be intimidated by your puppy’s exuberance so it is important to make sure that she has a “safe space” where she can get away from the puppy.

It is also important to make sure that all the litter boxes are in places that the puppy cannot get to so that your cat feels safe using the litter box. Placing a litter box on top of the area where the cat is urinating to redirect the behavior back into the litter box can be helpful. Then lastly, using pheromone sprays or oral behavior modification medications can also help. Good luck!

Dr. Julianne Miller is a Flagstaff veterinarian. She can be reached at drmiller@canyonpet.com

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