By Dr. Gary A. Borgman, DVM
In my recent article, “Endocrinology of Dogs and Cats” I promised to address the newer treatment options for pet allergies. This is an appropriate time of the year to discuss allergies because we are in the peak summer months for pet allergies. The primary symptoms/clinical signs of canine allergy are itching, hair loss, and secondary infections. In about 30% of these cases, food allergy is at least part of the cause but the primary causes are environmental factors. Summer months produce the most allergens including pollens, plant juices, external parasites and other outdoor hazards. So, we see a lot more allergies in the summer. Cats also are affected by food allergies and environmental factors but flea bite allergy remains the primary cause of skin allergies with cats.
Until recently, corticosteroid therapy was often needed for pet allergies, and as I indicated last issue, the continued long-term use of prednisone and prednisolone are not good for the patient’s long-term health. Fortunately, we now have Apoquel tablets for dogs. These tablets are usually very effective in reducing itching and preventing secondary skin infections. We usually begin with a twice daily dose for two weeks and then reduce to once daily administration. Alternatively, we now have an injection called Cytopoint which can give relief of itching for one to two months. Prednisolone remains our most effective anti-itch therapy for cats but fortunately cats are much better able to tolerate long term use.
The second summer time topic I will address is Canine Influenza Virus (CIV). There have been reports of CIV infection in Florida this summer but fortunately we have not diagnosed it in our practices as I write for this issue of OWM. Influenza is highly contagious, can be spread through the air for several feet and is most likely contracted in a kennel, groomer, dog show, or dog park situations. The symptoms of sneezing, coughing, lethargy and fever can persist for 2-4 weeks and the patient can be contagious to other dogs for even longer. About 20% of CIV cases can progress to pneumonia. We recommend vaccinations for all dogs at risk of exposure through the above-mentioned situations. The vaccination is given by injection and repeated in 2-4 weeks. Full immunity protection against the virus develops 1-2 weeks after the second immunization injection.
The third topic to emphasize as a “summer time concern” is avoiding situations which can create overheating of pets. Hyperthermia can quickly develop if a pet is left in a car in the sun with the windows up. In only a few minutes the inside temperature can become dangerously hot with fatal results. Another dangerous situation is vigorous exercise of pets during the hottest hours of the day. I recall one particular case which occurred about 3:00 pm. The owner had a habit of jogging at this time of day with his Pit Bull dog. The patient collapsed during this brief exercise and was carried into my office with a body temperature over 107 degrees. It was too late. Humans perspire to help keep cool. Dogs cannot perspire. There only means of keeping cool is to pant. The evaporation of moisture through this rapid respiration is not very efficient and dogs can quickly become overheated with exercise. It is not uncommon for an excited healthy and normal panting dog to present to our office on a hot day with a temperature of 103 to 104 degrees. Normal body temperature for dogs and cats is 101.5 to 102.5. A body temperature in excess of 103 is cause for concern and 104 or more is cause for alarm.
Cats can tolerate higher environmental temperatures better than dogs but a panting cat with open mouth breathing is an emergency situation. We do not see cats with hyperthermia from exercise because cats do not jog with their owners. Open mouth breathing of cats is usually a cardiac or pulmonary problem. We need x-ray examination to determine the cause of feline difficult breathing.
The veterinarians and staff of Kissimmee Animal Hospital (Tel 407-846-3912) and Poinciana Pet Clinic (Tel 407-518-0880) are available to answer your questions and concerns about any of these “summer time concerns” or any other pet health issues. We are here to help and to serve.