Just Moved Our Allergic Dog to a New State

Elsie - watching us pack up the truck.

After 15+ years of living in the Mid-Atlantic, we made a big, big move and picked up the family  – Elsie, the cats, my toddler son and husband and moved to Tampa, Florida. Although it was a major – and I mean major – change in our lives, we’re loving our new location. But, I will say I was a bit nervous about moving our Boxer Elsie.

After several years of sickness, vet visits, and expensive medication, we had finally found the right solution to treat Elsie’s allergy symptoms: Allergy shots. I’ve written all about our allergy testing experience and our success with her shots. Once we started Elsie on allergy shots, she and we finally had our lives back.

But, the thing about allergy shots is that they are customized for your geography. The grasses, trees and outdoor allergens in Washington, DC are much different from the allergens in California – or in our case, Florida. We knew that moving here would potentially put her at risk for returning to pink paws, hair loss, raw skin, upset stomach and all of the other unpleasant allergy symptoms she had to deal with for so long.

I called our veterinary dermatologist before our move and explained our situation. I asked if there was anything preemptive that we could do to possibly prevent any issues she may have adjusting to the new environment. Unfortunately, the answer was no. But, they did say that many dogs adjust very well to moves – and that their office ships allergy shots to dogs who have moved all over the country. It all depends on the dog.

The good news is that we have been in Florida now for 4 months and Elsie has been doing great. In fact, we just experienced a couple of really intense weeks of heavy pollen and so far no flare-ups.

My fingers are crossed that this new move will be fine for Elsie’s allergies. So far she is loving the warmer weather. She was never much for snow. I’ll keep you posted on how things are going.

Outdoor Molds on Fall Leaves Can Bring On Dog Allergies

The changing seasons usually bring on an allergy flare-up for our boxer Elsie. The Fall flare-up is most often brought on by increasing outdoor molds. Those pretty fall leaves pile up, get wet and breed molds. Even if we rake up every last leaf in our yard, it won’t prevent molds from other yards to bother her. I just make sure to wipe her feet when she comes in from outside and to give her regular baths. And, of course, her allergy shots keep the flare-ups from getting too problematic.

I found this cool mold map on Weather.com.  Here is what the mold spores situation looks like today in the U.S..  Visit the Weather.com mold spores map to see the latest update:
http://www.weather.com/maps/activity/allergies/usmoldspores_large.html

weather.com mold spores map
Mold Spores Map from Weather.com

Dog Allergy Stories. Gator the Lab Mix.

Gator - lab mix with dog allergies
Gator resting

Gator is a 13 year old Lab mix. When he was 6 months old, Gator was abandoned along a rural road in South Georgia.  When his owner Catherine rescued him, she noticed that he had severe skin problems.  She assumed that these skin issues were caused by fleas and ticks or that Gator suffered from mange, all common skin problem suffered by abandoned animals. 

After Gator was treated for his ticks and fleas, he was then checked and cleared for mange.  Yet, his skin problems continued. Gator had oozing rashes on his stomach, under his legs, in his groin area and on his muzzle.  He also developed frequent ear infections.  Catherine found that Gator would scratch at his skin until it became raw and bloody. 

Catherine and her family continued to look for other causes for Gator’s skin problems. They began to realize that he was likely suffering from allergies.  Catherine started trying different foods, but found that it had no affect on Gator. They also tried to limit the amount of time Gator spent outside and were careful to wipe him down when he came back indoors. Yet, none of these solutions helped with Gator’s skin condition.     

After about sixteen months of trial and error, Catherine was starting to narrow down the cause of Gator’s allergic reactions.  Catherine discovered that Gator’s allergies were very seasonal, and she believed they were caused by molds and pollen since his allergies are always worse in the Spring and Summer months.  Working with Gator’s vet, they found that the best treatment for Gator’s allergies was through a combination of medication and bathing

To treat Gator’s allergies on a daily basis, Catherine gives Gator a 2.5mg dose of Prednisone (steroid medication), a Claritin tablet and 250mg of milk thistle.  The milk thistle is given to protect Gator from potential liver damage problems which can be caused by continual dosages of Prednisone.  Gator is also given weekly baths.  If Gator is having a strong allergy flare up, Catherine will increase his Prednisone dose up to 10mg daily and his baths are increased to every three days.

Gator has allergies
Gator in his yard

Catherine and her family have found that regardless of where they live, Gator continues to have skin problems.  Their family has lived in Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Virginia, Maryland and Florida and has seen no change in Gator’s allergy problems. 

When asked what advice she would offer to other dog owners, Catherine suggests that owners never assume that their dog is allergic to just one thing.  If the dog has allergies, they are usually allergic to several different elements.  She also suggests that if dog owners decide to use Prednisone, they should go with the lowest dosage available and look into giving them milk thistle to prevent against liver damage.  Owners should be open to trying new medications and therapies and never give up.  It’s important to try everything they can to keep their pup as comfortable as possible. 

Catherine has certainly been keeping Gator comfortable. He is thirteen years old and going strong thanks to her efforts to keep his allergies under control.

Flea Prevention as a Way to Treat Dog Allergies.

Since flea allergy dermatitis is one of the most common skin allergies in dogs, it’s important to stick with a regular flea prevention routine.  Don’t wait until you see fleas – by then it’s too late.  Anyone who has dealt with a flea infestation in their home will tell you that it is much easier to maintain a regular flea prevention routine.

There are a wide range of flea treatment products on the market, including carpet powders, sprays and shampoos.  I’ve found that there is no better way to prevent fleas than by using Frontline® Plus, a topical flea and tick treatment.  Frontline is a liquid that is applied to the back of your dog or cat’s neck.  It includes an active ingredient called Fipronil, which is stored in the oil glands under your pet’s skin and is distributed to the skin and hair of your pet through its hair follicles.  Fipronil affects the nervous system of fleas and ticks by causing paralysis and then death. It is designed to kill all fleas or ticks within 24-48 hours.

Be sure to treat all cats and dogs in your home, even if they don’t go outside.  All of your pets can be carriers of fleas.  Although Frontline and other similar flea and tick medications are EPA approved for use on dogs and cats, it’s important for you to discuss this treatment with your veterinarian before starting.  Some pets are allergic to Fipronil and may have a negative reaction to this treatment.

Dog Allergy Treatments. Cut Your Grass Short & Avoid Fields.

If you have a large yard or live in a rural area, the grass in your area may be contributing to your dog’s allergies.  If your dog has allergies, be sure to mow your lawn regularly to ensure that grasses are kept short and not allowed to go to seed.  Grass seeds are the cause of many allergy cases.

Since you can’t control how others maintain their grass, it’s best to steer clear of open fields if you suspect your dog has allergies. Of course, this isn’t realistic for many dogs – particularly working and hunting breeds.

If your dog has allergies, but can’t avoid running through long grass, you’ll need to be extra vigilant about wiping down their paws and providing frequent baths to cut down on the allergens that cling to their skin.

Dog Allergy Causes. Pollen, Grass & Trees.

Dog in GrassPollen is the fertilizing element of flowering plants.  It is a fine powder which is released year round, although mainly in spring, from trees weeds and grasses.  This powder rides currents of air, with the goal to fertilize other plants.  This fertilization goal is not always achieved by each pollen grain.  Unfortunately, for the allergy sufferers of the world, many of these grains are inhaled by humans or pets and are the cause for seasonal allergies.

If you find that your dog shows allergy symptoms in the spring, chances are they are allergic to pollen. Your first instinct may be to rid your yard of any pollen-producing plants.  Don’t waste your time.  Since pollen is carried long distances, often many miles, it does little good to remove pollen-producing plants from your yard.  In fact, most allergic pollens come from plants like ragweed, which grows in open fields, and of which you have little control over.

Grasses and trees can also produce allergen-causing pollens.  The grass species that produce highly allergic pollens are Bermuda grass, Johnson grass, Kentucky bluegrass, Orchard grass, Redtop grass, Sweet vernal grass and Timothy grass.  Trees that produce allergic pollens are Ash, Box Elder, Elm, Hickory, Mountain Cedar, Oak, and Pecan. 

Unless you plan to remove all pollen producing plants, weeds, grasses and trees in your 30-mile radius (or more on windy days!), there is little you can do to control pollen.  However, there are some steps you can take to minimize your dog’s exposure to pollen. We’ll discuss this later when we review dog allergy treatments.