Spot Spring Allergies: Ask a Vet
Brooklyn Bark spoke with the medical director at Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group to answer your questions about spring allergies in your pets!
After several mood swings, Mother Nature has blessed New York with spring. The city packs away seasonal depression and winter jackets in favor of brighter colors, sunscreen, and time outdoors in this brief moment before NYC becomes unbearably adjacent to a sweaty trash pile outside of your favorite bodega. Along with all of spring’s best aspects comes one of our least favorites: allergy season.
Our pets are just as familiar with allergies as we are, but unless you know what to look for seasonal allergies or chronic allergies can be missed! To help you prep for all the spring flowers, B.B.Q.s, and park-lounges, we spoke with Dr. Katja Lang, DVM (@doctorkibble), the medical director of Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group (@heartofchelseanyc) about allergies in our furriest friends.
BBark: Do many dogs and cats develop allergies?
Dr. Lang: Allergies are common in dogs and cats.
BBark: I saw my dog scratching today, does she have allergies?
Dr. Lang, DVM: Allergies are chronic conditions meaning it is an ongoing problem. If your dog is chronically (typically several weeks +) scratching, then it may have allergies. Occasional scratching can be normal behavior.
BBark: Is sneezing or reverse sneezing indicative of allergies in pets?
Dr. Lang, DVM: Every animal reacts differently when they have allergies – some have gastrointestinal signs (vomiting, diarrhea, etc), skin conditions (infections or pruritus), or respiratory (asthma or rhinitis).
BBark: How do I know what my dog is allergic to?
Dr. Lang, DVM: The 3 most common types of allergies are adverse food reactions, flea allergies, or atopy (environmental allergy). If your dog has year-round allergies, your vet may recommend a food elimination trial where we select a novel or hydrolyzed (broken down) protein and feed exclusively for 2-3 months. We remove any other proteins, treats, flavored medications, human foods, bones, etc during this period. If your pet’s symptoms do not improve after a food elimination trial, the next step is to consider blood or skin allergy testing. This will help determine what molds, trees, mites, grasses, etc your pet is allergic to.
BBark: Is there a cure for allergies?
Dr. Lang, DVM: There is no cure for allergies. The gold standard for managing environmental allergies is immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is an individualized treatment plan available to dogs and cats that experience moderate to severe allergies. This entails determining which environmental allergens your pet is allergic to by performing a blood or skin allergy test, then creating a unique treatment for your pet. To treat, your pet is exposed to tiny amounts of those allergens until they build tolerance and stop creating the allergic response. It is a “retraining” of the immune system. The goal is to desensitize your pet to what they are allergic to over time, which can decrease the need for other medications. Immunotherapy is one of the safest and most effective ways to treat allergies long term. Your pet will require their current allergy medications until this immunotherapy starts to work.
BBark: What is a food trial?
Dr. Lang, DVM: See the answer above
BBark: What can I do at home if I think my pet has allergies?
Dr. Lang, DVM: Fish oil can help pets with mild allergies. You can also try bathing with a gentle oatmeal shampoo to help remove the allergens from their coat.
Brooklyn Bark would like to thank the Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group for partnering with us on our Ask a Vet series!
© Brooklyn Bark 2022
About Dr. Lang
Dr. Katja Lang grew up in the small town of Ardsley, New York, in Westchester County. Her love for all animals started at a young age, and she was always surrounded by all types of creatures big and small. Dr. Lang grew up next to a veterinary surgeon, who inspired her to follow her dreams of becoming a vet. Dr. Lang has always loved New Orleans and decided to enter Tulane University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology and sociology
Following her four years in New Orleans, Dr. Lang obtained her veterinary degree from Cornell University. She moved to New Jersey after her time was up in Ithaca and completed her internship in small animal medicine and surgery at Oradell Animal Hospital. She practiced in a small animal hospital in Brooklyn before joining the team at Heart Of Chelsea Veterinary Group. Her interests in veterinary medicine include surgery, cardiology, and internal medicine, but she loves seeing all types of interesting cases. She has two miniature dachshunds named Mardi and Lucy, and two turtles named Margie and Sheldon. In her free time, Dr. Lang enjoys traveling the world, cooking all types of cuisines, and hiking with her two pups!
Heart of Chelsea Veterinary Group is more than an animal hospital; we are your partner in giving your pet a lifetime of outstanding care. Our veterinarians and team members form lasting relationships with pet owners like you to create unique, personalized experiences for all. Heart of Chelsea was founded in 1999 to provide the community with a neighborhood veterinary practice that delivers thorough, compassionate medicine and unparalleled concierge client service.