Archive | April 2012

Severe weather preparedness and our pets

Well it is spring time again in Oklahoma and that of course means severe weather.  Most everyone  should have a “tornado plan” for these spring storms as a tornado can form very quickly.  Of course with the advances in weather radars the forecasts are very good and we can get a very good idea of the likelihood of severe weather but having an advance plan in place for you and your pets will help in the event of an emergency to keep everyone safe.  I have been using the 2 News Weather app : , for my phone and absolutely love it!  Thanks Dan, George, Taft,and Andy!

First and foremost have a safe place that can accommodate all 4 legged and 2 legged creatures.  In the safe room keep pet carriers to place animals in.  This may be especially important for cats that tend to run and hide and may be difficult to keep in one spot during a time of stress and excitement.   There should be one carrier per pet and avoid “doubling up” as some animals that are normally easy-going may become aggressive under stress and hurt their friend.  These carriers should be marked with your name, cell phone number, and address in permanent ink in case you get separated.  The carriers should have some bedding (I.E.: old towels) as well.  Also while I am thinking of pet identification it is a good idea to have each pet microchipped as well as a metal tag with your number (we engrave the back of our rabies tags at Heritage Vet Hospital with the owner’s number).  Unfortunately, many of the animals recovered during the last tornado disasters could not be identified and they never reunited with their owner.

Further, make sure you have a flash light, battery operated radio, first aid kit, and plenty of water for everyone.  Some other items to consider would be dog/cat treats, canned food (and can opener, bowls, and spoon),  chew bones and dog/cat toys in case you have to be in the safe place for several hours.  Also pack a leash and harness, in case your dog needs to go out to eliminate (they should NOT be allowed to run free outside and need to go back to the safe room ASAP).  Important pet medications (I.E.: storm pills, insulin, heart meds, etc.) should also be kept with the storm supplies.  Again if it is a long night a litter box, scoop, and litter would be greatly appreciated by our feline friends!  Other things to consider are good shoes for you in case you have to leave and walk across broken glass and  heavy blankets to cover up if the house is hit to try to protect from flying debris. 

Hopefully everyone will have a safe spring and no severe weather will effect us.  BUT just in case it is always good to have a plan and supplies ready!  Another good link for more storm information is channel 2’s weather page:

Dr.  Joe


Allergies Getting Your Pet Down?

First of all, if you have a pet with allergic skin disease, please know that we feel your pain and understand how miserable it can make your pet and your family. Constant scratching is a huge source of discomfort and frankly, as an owner of an allergy dog myself, makes everyone in the vicinity of an itchy pet crazy. Late nights with your pet constantly scratching, licking and break dancing on the carpet are the perfect recipe for grumpy mornings.

Allergies are one of the most common complaints we see as veterinarians in this part of the country. There have been some days when itchy dogs and cats are literally the only cases I see all day. Some of the most important considerations with allergies are that the majority are environmental or food related and that THERE IS NO CURE. Luckily, there are many options available to keep your pet comfortable. Before we go into a few treatment options, lets discuss the basics of allergic skin disease.

Allergies (also known as atopy or atopic dermatitis) usually develop in early adulthood around 1-2 years old and are the body’s inappropriate immune response to normal environmental substances. Nearly anything can become a source of itchiness or “pruritus” to your pet if they have atopy. Pollens from weeds, grasses and trees are common sources of allergies but so are molds, dust and dust mites within the home and even insects. Our pets don’t typically respond to seasonal allergies the way we do. The classic “Hay Fever” signs with sneezing, runny noses and eyes can occur to some degree but are not the prominent manifestation of this disease. Allergens come in contact with your pet’s skin and a cascade of immune-mediated events occur which leads to progressively increased itchiness as well as skin and ear infections. Unfortunately, without allergy testing it is very difficult to determine the actual source of your pet’s allergies. 

Atopy is often further complicated by food allergies, otherwise known as ARF or adverse food reaction. In most cases, food allergies will develop after many years of being on the same food and then suddenly your pet develops chronic ear infections or very itchy skin that is, in many cases, unresponsive to medical therapy. To further confuse matters, most dogs with ARF also have atopy. The only way to diagnose a food allergy is with a feeding trial. Let me repeat that. The ONLY way to diagnose food allergies is with a feeding trial. There are blood tests available which will include a panel on common food allergens but these are not reliable in determining the true source of a food allergy. To quickly break this down, the most common source of sensitivity to a component of the food is in relation to the protein source first and the carbohydrate source second. Be very careful if you buy “grain-free” or “novel protein” over-the-counter foods to treat a presumptive food allergy as these will usually still include beef or chicken as the top ingredient which are the most common offenders for pets with ARF. Your veterinarian can go over a feeding trial and the recommended diets for the best response to therapy.

Well, what do we do about allergies? The best way to quickly squash the inflammation is with a short course of oral corticosteroids. Don’t fear steroids! In most cases, when the skin is on fire, the ears are filled with goo and the toes are constantly wet from licking, steroids are the only option to get it quickly managed. BUT, we don’t want to jump to steroids as the only treatment option as they come with their own set of negative side effects. Anyone experienced the suddenly incontinent dog while on prednisone? Steroids will often make your pet drink a lot more water than normal and that water needs to go somewhere:) Luckily, with a low enough dose of prednisone or another oral steroid that tapers over time, this and other frustrating side effects (like an increased appetite) will subside over the course of therapy. BUT, we need to decrease the dependency on steroids and the best way to do that is by initiating antihistamine therapy.

Antihistamines like Benadryl and Claritin are not great at decreasing symptoms when there is an acute flare up but the hope is that you can keep your pet maintained on them instead of steroids to prevent major flares in the future. I have mentioned a few of the most common ones but there are many available if one seems to not work as well or stops working as well as it used to. Call us and we can get you a more complete list and dosing information.

Another easy option to reduce exposure to outside substances is to wipe your pet down with hypoallergenic baby wipes when they come in from outdoors. Focus on the feet, legs, chest and belly or any area that routinely comes in contact with the grass. By removing the allergens topically, you decrease the exposure time and may reduce the severity of symptoms.

When antihistamines lose their effectiveness and steroids become the only option, there are other therapies to explore. Cyclosporine is a medication that tends to be a little expensive at first but is usually as effective as steroids and with fewer side effects. Thankfully it is tapered or decreased to the most effective dose which greatly impacts the cost.

The best possible treatment for atopy is hyposensitization therapy. Diagnostics similar to intradermal skin testing that you receive at your dermatologist’s office are performed by a veterinary dermatologist on your pet. Once the specific allergies have been determined, these substances are combined and given to your pet in small doses which gradually lessen the allergic symptoms. I’m sure many of you are wondering about the cost of this option and while it is not cheap, when you consider all of the money most clients typically spend on repeated office visits and steroid medications with little to no lasting effectiveness, the money spent on that visit becomes minimal in comparison.

One particularly simple way to lessen an acute flare of allergies is to always keep your pet on flea and tick prevention. Flea bites can cause an intense inflammatory response, especially in pets with atopy or any allergic skin condition.

It may not have seemed brief but I truly have only scratched the surface of allergic skin diseases. For any additional information, please feel free to call Heritage and speak with one of the doctors or make an appointment for your pet to be seen.  

Thanks for reading!

Dr. Jessica Zink