Uncovering the Cause of Pet Allergies

In the summer of one of the most turbulent economic periods in a lifetime, Americans are rediscovering simplicity and frugality.  These days, it’s not uncommon to see a small group playing an impromptu game of Frisbee, or a couple enjoying a nature hike through a local park, or an extended family spending an afternoon in the backyard barbecuing. 

The summer months provide ample opportunities for outdoor fun, whether your idea of open-air enjoyment is a power-walk with your dog or watching an afternoon storm roll in from the safety of a back porch with your cat.  These activities help us brush away the winter cobwebs, shedding new light on our daily life.  But sometimes, we make discoveries that are not altogether pleasant.  Too often, the thinner, summer coats of our pets can reveal what winter coats have hidden from plain view – reddened skin irritations, possibly the sign of a seasonal or chronic allergy. 

That’s right … just like humans, pets suffer from allergies.  Allergens can come from any number of sources, including grasses, trees, molds, dust mites and flea bites.  Even their food may contain allergens.  With all of these possible culprits, how can a pet parent learn what’s causing their pet’s allergy?

The first step for many of us is to hop online.  We know that information is plentiful on the internet, even if not all of it is trustworthy. That inclination, to try and uncover the reasons ourselves, especially when that impulse is coupled with hard economic times, can lead to a scenario where many pet parents will try to diagnose Fido’s or Fluffy’s allergies on their own, without veterinary assistance.  But the cause of allergies is notoriously difficult to pin down because it so hard to isolate one possible cause from another.

If you want to determine whether or not your four-footer is truly suffering from an environmental or food-related allergy, you should have your vet do an evaluation.  They will use either a blood test or a skin test, or perhaps both, to assess what allergens are producing the symptoms.

When animals experience allergic reactions, their bodies alter normal hormone production.  Some of the resultant chemical reactions can lead to cellular inflammation, the process bodies use to remove the allergens.  To understand this process, consider the following example:  the common flea bite. Commonly, after a flea bite, there may be swelling and possible irritation (usually itchiness).  But if your dog or cat has a flea allergy, the reaction is a much larger rash with severe itching. This is the body attempting to eliminate the allergen; in this case, flea saliva.

So, what’s the best way to nip allergies in the bud? Leading holistic practitioners and natural-care veterinarians have long endorsed foods and supplements rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially those coming from fish oil, which help inhibit the body’s inflammatory response.  And the amazing properties of omega-3’s don’t end there.  When coupled with omega-6’s derived from a source like flaxseed, a balanced blend of these fatty acids are known to provide much-needed support by helping to strengthen the body’s natural response to allergens.  They do this by enhancing the functions of the immune system and by fortifying the walls of individual cells in the body.  At the same time, omega-3’s also help to protect neurological and blood systems.  If you encounter information disparaging the inclusion of fatty acids in the diets of companion animals – either from online sources, friends or even veterinarians – it may be based upon outdated beliefs about these nutrients.

If you are not already feeding your companion a diet rich in omega-3’s like Life’s Abundance, you might consider incorporating into your pet’s diet a supplemental source of omega-3’s, either in chewable tablet form (like Skin & Coat Formula) or in capsule form (many of our customers provide Sealogix for their pets).  Dr. Jane advises against feeding omega-3 supplements in the half-hour immediately before and after a meal, as the precise balance of fats can be thrown off, resulting in diminished absorption of those beneficial nutrients.  Under no circumstances should you add liquid fish oil to dry food.

If you believe that your favored feline or precious pup suffers from allergies, please schedule time with your trusted veterinarian to determine the appropriate treatment, and consider incorporating essential fatty acids in your pet’s diet.  By taking a proactive stance now, your pet might be able to avoid allergic reactions in the future.

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Posted: 07/25/2009 at 08:49 AM
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Posted: 07/25/2009 at 08:49 AM
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