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Dealing with Hot Spots – Pet Health

Has your pet ever experienced hot spots? Hot spots, otherwise known as acute moist dermatitis (AMD), are red, oozing lesions that may form on your pet’s skin…they’re kind of wet and scabby. The patches of irritation may start out as an unnoticeable bite, sting, pustule or other minor skin problem, but your dog’s natural instinct to lick, chew and scratch the area leads to a larger, more visible patch which progresses from a minor bump to hair loss, staining, flaking and possibly infection or permanent scars.  Hot spots can can be a problem any time of year, and for any dog, and if you’ve ever had a pet develop hot spots you can guess from seeing them how aggrivating and painful they must be to experience. Let’s discuss hot spots and how you can prevent, heal and otherwise deal with AMD.

What Causes Hot Spots?

Hot Spot FoamHot Spots have lots of causes, and they rear their ugly heads quickly, and sometimes without any warning. Some of the most common causes are flea or insect bites. Allergens or other irritants that come in contact with your pet’s skin are also a common cause. Small scratches or wounds can also begin an outbreak, particularly as your dog instinctively licks the area. Dogs that experience stress, anxiety or boredom can also scratch or chew, simply to occupy their minds. But the underlying blame falls on bacteria that infest these minor skin breaks, further inflaming an already irritated area. Any dog can develop a hot spot, but dogs who are not washed and brushed regularly, those with sensitive skin, and those with thick, long fur can be more prone to developing hot spots. Read More »

Home Remedies for Minor Pet Ailments

You’ve all heard the old addage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. Maybe you eat garlic to kill a cold, or gargle salt water to heal a sore throat. We’ve all tried home remedies to cure a minor ailment. I think I may have tried them all! There are also home remedies available for us to help our pets. Here are some simple home remedies you can use to help your pet cope with minor ailments like for skin irritations, coat issues, and digestive upset in the comfort of your own home.

Caution: Use your best judgment, if your pet is bleeding, having difficulty walking, is lethargic, or has been vomiting/experiencing diarrhea for a prolonged period of time get your pet to the vet right away! These remedies are only intended for minor irritations. Read More »

Recognizing and Treating Bee Stings on Pets

Eastern Yellow JacketInsect stings are probably not the first hazard you consider when you and your pet are enjoying the outdoors. While most stings are not life threatening, there are several factors that can mean the difference between an itchy lump and a trip to the emergency vet. Stings can occur anytime, though they are obviously more common during warmer months when insects are more active. It’s important to know how to recognize reactions and symptoms of stings so you know how to treat them and when to seek veterinary attention.

A Story

When I was a teenager, fall was the time for firewood collection in the wooded lot behind my family’s home. It seemed simple enough, we used a tractor and cart, collecting wood from fallen trees as my father sliced them into fireplace-sized logs to warm us through winter. Collection trips were family affairs: me, my parents, siblings and several of the family dogs who would romp through the underbrush and creek beds in search of wayward squirrels, muskrats and other wildlife to chase. The chill in the air that brought an end to humid summer days lulled the woods into a quiet dormancy, but not everything had quieted for the winter on one particular evening — and an unfortunate disturbance spurred a night to remember. Read More »

Controlling Allergies in Homes with Pets

Cold?Allergies. The very word causes many people to shudder. The itchy eyes, stuffy and runny nose aren’t fun to deal with, but a lot of us suffer from allergies; about 1 in every 4 Americans has an allergy of some sort. Some of the more common allergies are seasonal allergies (outdoor allergies) and pet allergies (indoor allergies). So, what are you supposed to do if you want a dog or a cat, but you are allergic to their dander? Depending on the severity of your symptoms there may be a way to reduce your symptoms if you decide to adopt a pet.

Tilly - IMGP3818There are many dogs and a few cats available today that are advertised as ‘hypoallergenic breeds’.  They are usually smaller companion dogs, such as Yorkies, Bichon Frises, and Maltese, or hairless breeds of cats and dogs. The truth is there is not a single breed that is hypoallergenic. All dogs and cats produce dander, excess hair and saliva that contain the allergens that cause our allergic symptoms. These smaller dogs and hairless breeds are often presented as hypoallergenic because they simply produce fewer allergens. These breeds have a slower shedding cycle and often require frequent haircuts and grooming to keep their hair a manageable length. The size of the dog is also relevant, as a larger dog will produce more dander and excess fur! Even with these benefits it is important to note that so-called hypoallergenic breeds produce allergens, and each pet is individual and can produce more allergens than its littermate.

What is a pet lover to do if a family member (or yourself) has an allergy? There are some options, though admittedly they are limited. If you are willing, there are many pharmaceuticals available both with a prescription and without to alleviate your allergy symptoms. Schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss your personal options, and any risks associated with medication.

You may also want to consider the size and coat-type of your pet. Choose a smaller pet (who produces fewer allergens) and one that doesn’t shed excessively. A German Shepherd or a Siberian Husky might not be best option for a household with allergies. No matter what breed you adopt you will want to adjust your cleaning regime.

CleaningReducing allergens in your home is possible, but can be costly depending on how resolute you are.  Some of the more manageable changes include vacuuming flooring and furniture daily, washing rugs and throws frequently, washing pet bedding and crates weekly, washing your clothing after a single wear, and washing your curtains, blinds and linens frequently. If you are purchasing a new vacuum cleaner, look for one designed for pet hair and one that contains a HEPA filter, which you should change every month or two.

If you have central air or forced heat in your home the ventilation system is spreading allergens throughout your home. Consider fitting your unit with a HEPA filter, or investing in a central air purifier which, when used at least 4 hours a day, can significantly reduce allergens in your home. If you plan to make major renovations to your home, consider opting for hard wood or linoleum flooring instead of carpeting, and limit your use of area rugs and throws.

JR in bedA lot of dog lovers, including myself, love to share the bed with pets. If you have allergies, you might want to think twice about snuggling up with Fido for 8 hours each night. You might sleep more peacefully, and feel better in the morning, if your bedroom is strictly pet-free. Set up your pets a warm, comfy bed in another room, or consider crate-training your pet at night and when you are away from the house.  Most pets can be conditioned to enjoy time in their crate if you take the time to train them properly. You should also invest in dust covers for your mattresses and pillows to keep any residual pet allergens at bay.

There are also some grooming habits that can reduce the number of allergens your pet spreads in your home. Consider bathing your pet or having them groomed once over week or two, as long as their skin doesn’t dry out or become itchy. In between baths, have a non-allergic member of your family wipe your pet’s fur with a bath wipe or baby wipe every day or two. To reduce even more allergies, have them do this outside of the home and immediately dispose of the wipes in the garbage.

Make it a habit to wash your hands after interacting or petting your animal, and don’t touch your eyes or face immediately after touching them. If you can’t find a non-allergic family member to do the cleaning or grooming while you are out of the house, arm yourself with a dust mask to reduce the number of allergens you are exposed to during these sometimes unpleasant, but necessary tasks. Always have an antihistamine on hand (such as Benadryl) in case of a sudden allergy attack.


buddiesIf you are or a family member is allergic to dogs, and you choose to try to manage that allergy and adopt a dog, be sure to have a solid back-up plan in case the allergies become unbearable. Allergies can build and develop over time, so after a few months living with your new pet, allergies might become more severe. Before bringing your pet home, develop a back-up plan to either co-exist with your pet and your allergies, and have an alternative home set up ahead of time with a reliable friend or family member who will care for the pet if you are unable to. After you adopt a pet, they become your responsibility to care for. It isn’t fair to your new pet to be put back into a shelter for something that they cannot control. We’re all pet lovers and advocates here, so I don’t think that won’t be a problem among our readers.

Owning a pet can be a rewarding experience that is second to none. Often the companionship and friendship that your furry friend will give you outweigh the hassle of allergy shots, excessive cleanliness, and expense that comes with managing allergies. Each person, pet, and their allergies/allergens are unique. Do plenty of research and prepare yourself well in advance of choosing a pet and you will be rewarded tenfold.



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