Yes, dogs can have allergies! They just feel them in a different way than people. For humans, inhaled pollen and other antigens like dust and mold spores can wreak havoc on our respiratory system. Watery eyes, runny nose, sneezing and asthma are the most common forms of distress we feel. In our canine family members, allergies affect the skin, not the respiratory system. The primary sign of allergy for dogs is itching - especially on the feet, face and rear end. The skin tends to turn pink and become irritated in these regions. Secondary problems that can occur in dogs with allergies include a flaky or oily coat, hyperactive anal glands and increased risk for bacterial infections.

The most common medications for fighting allergies in dogs are antihistamines. Cortisone can also be effective in treating allergies, but because it affects the entire immune system, cortisone can have numerous unwanted side effects.

Apoquel™ is an exciting new therapy for dogs with itchy skin that works better than most antihistamines, without the side effects of cortisone. This drug neutralizes a specific enzyme in the cell that is responsible for the allergic response. It is an extremely popular new medication, but it currently has very limited availability.

Controlling allergies in a pet can involve different therapies and combinations of medications and bathing. Talk to a veterinarian to design the best course of treatment for helping your furrier family member stay allergy-free.

Dr. Donna Warren is a veterinarian with LakeCross Veterinary in Huntersville. The vets in the big yellow house have been treating pets like family for 20 years. For more information, go to www.LakeCrossVet.com or call 704-948-6300.