Help! I’m Allergic to My Pet!

If you are like many people, you may discover that you have animal allergies. Cat or dog allergy occurs in approximately 15% of the population. For those with asthma, the percentage jumps to 20-30%. In general, cats produce more severe allergic reactions than dogs.

The allergy is an immune reaction to a protein (an allergen) found in saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or urine of an animal. People are not allergic to the hair of an animal, as many may believe. Rather, the allergen gets carried in the air on very small, invisible particles. It then lands on the lining of the eyes (conjunctiva) and nose. It may also be inhaled directly into the lungs, which causes allergic symptoms. Allergen contact with an allergic person’s skin may also cause itching and hives. Usually symptoms will occur quickly (within minutes) after being exposed to an animal. For some people, the symptoms may build up over several hours and be most severe 12 hours after they have discontinued contact with the animal.

So, what do you do when you find your furry friend causes you to sneeze, wheeze and itch?

    1. Keep the offending pet out of the bedroom. Because so many hours each day are spent in the bedroom sleeping, just keeping the pet out of this room will reduce exposure dramatically.
    2. Bathing the animal weekly will reduce the amount of allergens that are given off into the environment. You should consult with your veterinarian for advice regarding care of your animal’s skin to prevent excessive dryness if you are washing your pet regularly.
    3. Have a non-allergic family member brush your pet outside. This will help remove loose hair and allergens from your pet and will keep down the amount that is shed indoors.
    4. Have a non-allergic family member clean out the animal’s litter box or cage. While it is thought that dander and saliva are the source of cat allergens, urine is the source of allergens in other pets, such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.
    5. Allergens accumulate in areas such as carpeting, mattresses, cushions, and even on vertical and other horizontal surfaces of a room. Since the allergen particles can go through fabrics, it is suggested that mattresses and cushions be encased in plastic with a zipper to prevent the release of allergens when squeezed.
    6. Vacuuming does not help with allergy problems because it does not clean the lower levels of the rug, and in fact, stirs up small allergen particles. Some of these particles can move right through the vacuum, but a vacuum filter may help prevent this release. Periodic steam cleaning of wall-to-wall carpeting may be somewhat beneficial. The best solution is to have a hardwood floor with scatter rugs that can be taken up and washed.
    7. Replace bedding and carpeting that has animal dander in it. It can take weeks or months for fabrics to come clean of allergens. In some homes, animal allergens may persist for a year or more after the animal has been removed.
    8. Studies have shown that immunotherapy will improve but not completely prevent allergic symptoms. Cat and dog allergen immunotherapy works better in cases where the patient has only occasional, unavoidable exposure, rather than in cases where the animal stays in the home all of the time.
    9. If your home is super-insulated, this may not be helping your allergies. Studies show that energy-saving homes (those built with triple-glazed windows, with all cracks carefully sealed) keep allergens as well as the heat in. One study found an allergen level 200% higher in a super-insulated home than in an ordinary home.
    10. Home air cleaners, which are designed to reduce airborne allergens in the indoor environment, may help to eliminate some of the pet dander and other allergens in your home.
  1. Medications can be taken to prevent symptoms if you are only exposed occasionally. These medications may include antihistamines, decongestants and asthma medications (for the allergic asthmatic).

Adapted from information provided by the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology (, August 1999).


Fear-Free Visits to the Vet


A routine visit to the vet can create the exact opposite of a routine day for owners and pets alike. Many owners report that their pets do not like coming to the vet. The preventative care your pet receives throughout its life is extremely important. Our goal is make it easier for you.  Here are a few things to help your pet feel more comfortable during their vet visit:

Pet Owner Relaxation:

Ever notice that you pets can take on your emotions? Using your usual voice, and not rushing the process of getting there is very beneficial in reducing apprehension.  Keep them hungry: Unless there is a medical reason, pet owners should bring hungry pets to appointments; this allows them to be fed treats by the staff and reduce the risk of an upset stomach on the trip in

Car Rides:

For many pets, car rides symbolize a trip to the veterinarian, or some other unwelcome change. Adding some enjoyable car rides between veterinary visits will make the trip feel more normal.  Try a car ride to visit a favorite place, a park, a friend and reward them for good behavior on the ride.  Also be sure to make the car comfortable for them.  Suit them with a harness (pet safety belt) and provide them with a soft place to lie on during the ride. Speak normally, and playing soft music encourages their sense of well being.

Pet Carrier Issues:

Much like car rides, pets also associate their carriers with vet visits. Clients should use pet carriers as cozy dog and cat retreats at home, which helps them associate it with a safe place to be.


There are wipes and sprays available that can be used to promote a sense of well being in your pet. For example, Adaptil for canines or Feliway for felines can be used on carriers, bedding or blankets. Simply spray or wipe 30 minutes or so before you place them in the carrier.

Use ThunderShirts:

With the calming effects of consistent, gentle pressure, many dogs and about 50% of cats will respond well to wearing a thundershirt while visiting their veterinarian.

Don’t Forget Training:

You have likely worked hard on training your pet for various situations whether you know it or not.  If you revert back to training and basic commands, it gives your pet something to focus on while in the waiting room.

Reward your Pet:

Throughout and after a successful pet visit, be sure to reward your pet.  Give them play time, a treat, bring them to their favorite place or provide a new toy.   This way, their experience is reinforced as a positive one.


Source: Toronto Vets, Pet Wellness Work

Testing for Patients with Diarrhea

A fecal series is a bundle of microscopic fecal exams, usually performed in combination with other tests to identify possible causes of diarrhea.

  • Ideally, the sample should be examined within 30 minutes of collection.
  • The doctor may also recommend an antigen “snap test” — a fecal test used to identify Giardia,a contagious protozoan parasite that causes diarrhea.  This protozoa is also contagious to humans.
  • A fecal cytology is a specially fixed and stained fecal smear, used to examine the cells within a fecal sample, such as bacteria or fungus.
  • A direct fecal exam is a thin layer of feces that is examined under a microscope to evaluate for cellular abnormalities.
  • A fecal floatation is a wet sample of feces mixed with a concentrated solution to evaluate for intestinal parasites.

What Is a Fecal Series?

A fecal series is set of a diagnostic tests that help identify possible causes of diarrhea in a cat or dog.

A direct fecal exam is a thin layer of feces that is examined under a microscope to evaluate for cellular abnormalities.

A fecal cytology is a fecal screening that employs heat-fixing and three stains (special “dyes” used for microscopic examination) to help identify additional organisms that may be or causing an imbalance or infection in the gastrointestinal tract.  Clostridium and Campylobacter are two types of bacteria that often cause diarrhea. Occasionally, fungal organisms may be identified. Cell abnormalities may help detect infection, hemorrhage, and in some cases, cancer.

Both tests are performed in conjunction with a fecal floatation to detect parasite eggs.

What Is a Fecal Floatation?

A fecal floatation is a diagnostic test that helps identify if the pet is infected with intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, whipworms, or coccidia.  The test  requires mixing a small piece of the sample with a special solution.  The sample is then “spun down” in a centrifuge to help separate any parasite eggs.  Some parasites & eggs do not show up on all tests because there are too few of them or because the parasite is not “shedding” at the time of testing.  If we think that your pet may have one of these parasites, we may ask for another sample so we can either send it to an outside laboratory or conduct further tests in the hospital.

How Is the Test Performed?

The key to a good fecal series is to start with as fresh a sample as possible. Ideally, a fecal series should be examined within 30 minutes of collection, before the organisms die or disappear.

If you are unable to obtain a fresh sample, your veterinarian can usually retrieve a specimen with a gloved finger or an instrument called a fecal loop. If you can’t bring your pet to the veterinarian right away, fecal samples should be stored in the refrigerator, until the sample can be delivered.


Why is dog grooming necessary?

A lot of pet owners do not realize that grooming their pet is not just about appearance, but is also important to the pet’s overall health. Good grooming includes regular nail trimming, brushing, bathing and tooth brushing. Professional grooming is also recommended for dogs with longer coats.

Nail trimming is an essential part of basic care for any pet, regardless of its size or breed. Nails that are left alone can get overgrown, causing the nails to get caught and torn off. Overgrown nails can also get so long that they grow into the pads on the bottom of the animal’s foot. This overgrowth can even lead to an abnormal formation of the foot or splaying of the toes. Many larger dogs, particularly dogs that are walked on rough surfaces, wear down their nails on their own. However, it is important to remember to trim the nails of the dewclaws that do not get this regular wear. Most small breed and indoor dogs and cats do not get this regular wear either, so it is essential that these pets’ nails are trimmed regularly. If you are not comfortable trimming your pet’s nails, you can always have them trimmed by your veterinarian or groomer.

Regularly brushing your dog’s coat is important. Longer fur can easily get matted if it is not brushed out. Matting will worsen over time and can eventually cause skin irritation, infections and even difficulty with regular movement. Mats can also hide skin problems, masses and parasites. If you have a dog with longer fur, it is important to take your pet to a professional groomer on occasion to keep the pet’s coat in the best shape. Professional groomers can also help brush out all of the excess undercoat. Additionally, regular grooming decreases the amount of fur the pet sheds, which is an added benefit for your clothes and your home.

Bathing and tooth brushing are two things pet owners often overlook. Bathing is important to keep your pet’s skin from getting too oily. This is particularly important in dogs that are prone to skin problems and allergies. For dogs with environmental allergies, regular bathing decreases the number of allergens that are on the fur. Pet owners should only bathe their pets once every 4-8 weeks, especially in our dry climate, because extra washings can dry out the pet’s skin.

Every pet owner should try to incorporate regular tooth brushing into their pet’s routine — daily, if possible — but at a minimum a few times per week. A good groomer will let you know when its time to see the vet about bad breath and tartar.  Many dogs, particularly small breeds, suffer from gingivitis and tartar. Regular brushing can help prevent these dental problems. Tooth brushing can also potentially decrease the frequency that your pet will need a dental cleaning, a procedure that requires full anesthesia.


Source:, Dr. Jennifer Broadhurst, 2008