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Pets with allergies nothing to sneeze at

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
July 20, 2009
— Summer can be miserable for allergy sufferers.

And that includes pets.


"Seasonal allergies usually show mid- to end of July, worsen in August and September and resolve by late October," said Daniel Heder, a doctor of veterinary medicine at the Edgerton Veterinary Clinic.


Symptoms of allergies in pets include redness of the skin, hair loss and scabby lesions.


"The percentage of allergies in cats is low—2 or 3 percent—and a bit higher in dogs—between 5 and 10 percent," Heder said.


Although some breeds of dogs—Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels and poodles—are more susceptible to allergies, dogs of any breed can be affected, he said.


"Some animals brought to us simply can't sleep and are licking and chewing at night so much they keep their owners awake," he said.


Although the number of pets with allergies hasn't significantly changed, Heder said vets are getting better at recognizing pets with allergies.


"The idea that every itching pet has allergies is wrong," Heder said. "There are a large number of things that can cause itchiness outside of allergies."


Treatment can include cool baths, over-the-counter medications such as Claritin or Zyrtec, medicated creams and immunotherapy.


Heder treats the allergies in his 10-year-old Weimaraner, Daisy, with antihistamines and cortisone during the worst part of the allergy season.


"It's rare we can't get a handle on the patient and have excellent therapy now that was not available 15 to 20 years ago," he said.


In more severe cases of pet allergies, Heder will refer animals and their owners to the UW Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, Madison.


"If your dog didn't get or stay better," he said, "it may have a skin disease or something that is going to need to be treated for a very long time or for a lifetime."



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