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August 2014

Sneezy, Breezy & Beautiful!

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The summer is generally a very happy time for your pets–they get to play outside, go for long walks and bask in the sun. It can also be a very itchy time for your pets, though, all because of allergies!

What Are Allergies?

Allergies occur when the body is exposed to an allergen that causes an ‘overreaction’ in the immune system. When a dog has an allergy, their body will react in order to rid themselves of it (even though it may actually be a completely harmless substance!) The body becomes hypersensitive nonetheless, and in an attempt to shed themselves of the allergen, various unpleasant symptoms will occur.

What Are Common Allergies for Cats and Dogs?

In both cats and dogs, the flea allergy is the most common! It may not seem like fleas are there, but take a closer look! They are harder to spot than you think. If you want to learn more about fleas, visit this link. Following flea allergies, food allergies, and atopic dermatitis are the most common. If a food allergy is suspected, then it is common for a veterinarian to suggest feeding your pet a strict diet with only ingredients it has never eaten before. After a trial period, if the itching has stopped, then it is likely that a food ingredient caused the allergy! The original diet will be re-instituted, and if itching returns then it is confirmed. Atopic dermatitis is the term used for a reaction to the allergens that we most commonly envision when we think of allergies–i.e. dust mites and pollen. For this kind of allergy, various diagnostic tests can be taken to find the root of the issue, and a treatment plan will be created from there.

What are the Symptoms for Allergies in My Pets?

In humans, it is common to experience symptoms such as asthma, or a runny nose. For animals, though, it is more common to see skin problems. These can exist in the form of redness, infections, itching, hair loss and even increased sensitivity when coming in contact with their owners! Other symptoms include: sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, paw chewing and constant licking.

How Can I Treat Allergies in my Pets?

Unfortunately, allergies cannot be fully cured, and often are life-long ordeals. Many treatment options are available though for all animals depending on their specific allergy. Many symptoms can be improved, or eliminated if the allergy is diagnosed by your veterinarian, and the subsequent treatment plan is administered properly. This can take the form of oral medications, injections, creams and supplements.

In the meantime, it is a good idea to bathe your dog regularly, especially following walks. This can help to remove any pollen or other allergen that may have stuck to your pet! You can even purchase special prescription shampoos to help with itching. If dust is the problem, then cleaning your pet’s bedding and frequent vacuuming can help to reduce symptoms. Removal of the allergen altogether is the best way to keep your pet feeling comfortable!


Foil, C. S. (2007, July 9). Itching and allergy in dogs. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

(n.d.). Allergies in dogs. Retrieved from Web MD website:

Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury

If You Can’t Take The Heat–Spay Your Pet!

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Many pet owners know a few main things about spay surgeries–they are costly, common, and highly recommended. Do you really know what a spay surgery involves, though? Why is it important to have your pet spayed? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking as an informed pet owner!

What is a spay surgery?

A spay surgery (ovariohysterectomy surgery) is the procedure undergone to sterilize a pet by completely removing the uterus and ovaries from the abdomen. The pet will be put under anesthetic and will be asleep for the entire process! The procedure lasts about 45 minutes and is among the most common tasks performed by veterinarians.

Why should I have my pet spayed?

This seems like a simple question with a simple answer, right? “So my pet doesn’t get pregnant, of course!” Well yes, but that is arguably the most insignificant benefit to having a pet spayed. Sterilizing your pet before its first heat can save its life by reducing their risk of developing mammary cancer to almost ZERO. This form of cancer is very dangerous and can often be fatal, so spaying your pet before their first heat is the best way to keep your pet safe!

This will also eliminate the risk of acquiring pyometra. Pyometra is a fatal illness characterized by a swelling infection of the uterus most commonly seen in middle-aged dogs following their heat. This particular disease is unfortunately quite common in unspayed dogs–25% of dogs who reach age 10 will get it. The bright side? Spaying your pet will prevent it from ever happening!

What happens if I don’t spay my pet?

If your pet is not spayed, then its uterus, ovaries, and reproductive system is all intact. As a result, just as with the female human, they will have a menstrual cycle aka ‘going into heat‘. For dogs, around every 8 months they will experience a bloody vaginal discharge (which can have an unpleasant odour), and will need to wear a diaper. This cycle will last about 2-3 weeks but the occurrence and duration of cycles varies between breeds. For smaller dogs, it will be more frequent, and for larger dogs, it may be as infrequent as once every 12-18 months. For cats, it is quite different, and they will cycle frequently during their breeding season (which varies geographically). During the right season, their heat will last 1-7 days and then they will be out of heat every 1-2 weeks. Unlike dogs, discharge is not as common, but rather behavioural changes will be apparent. They will become more affectionate, attention-demanding, and vocal.

One commonly held belief is that if you wait to spay your pet until after they have their first heat, this will positively affect their personality, making them more affectionate. This is a MYTH! Spaying should be done as soon as possible, and the experience of going into heat or giving birth does not affect a pet’s personality. The female dog’s reproductive tract is dormant for most of the year therefore from a behavioral stand point, the female dog acts spayed most of the time.

Just like with any surgery, your pet will be fatigued for a few days following surgery. It is not uncommon for them to show signs of nausea, or to show a disinterest in their food for a day or two. Please let your veterinarian know if this happens. Pain medication may be administered to some animals if they are feeling discomfort, and physical activity should be restricted to allow for healing. In some cases where the pet continuously licks their stitches, they may require an Elizabethan collar to restrict access to the area. This is not a comfortable experience, but necessary if the incision is to heal properly!


Brooks, W. C. (2001, January 01). Canine spay faq. Retrieved from Veterinary Partner website:

Estrus cycles in cats. Retrieved from VCA Animal Hospitals website:

Estrus cycles in dogs. Retrieved from VCA Animal Hospitals website:

Content Supervisor: Dr. Sandy Drury