As we move into spring, summer and then autumn, we tend to spend more time outdoors. Animal lovers migrate to the outdoors to take walks with their dogs. Sitting in a patio chair holding your cat and petting it may become a nighttime ritual. Pets are included in car rides, family vacations, and neighborhood outings. Pet owners love being with their pets.
Healthy cats and dogs are not itchy, smelly, flaky or constantly trying to scratch or bite at their fur. IgA is an immune substance that normally protects all systems in your pet’s body. It protects the Skin, eyes, ears, and digestive system and helps keep them all in balance. However, this symbiotic relationship can get out of balance if your pet is under more stress than what it can manage.
Indicative symptoms to watch for that reflect an out of balance system are skin problems such as: hot spots, rashes, yeast overgrowth and bacterial infections.
Skin infections and hotspots are usually caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. It is a normal inhabitant of the skin. If your pet’s skin is irritated and itchy there may not be enough immunoglobin IgA for skin protection which then allows the Staphylococcus bacteria to get out of balance. Over-utilization of IgA in the gut can be an underlying cause of why the skin is deficient. The usual reason for this imbalance in the gut is the pet’s gastrointestinal tract is not healthy and balanced.
Antibiotics, and other medications are the usual cause. They can decrease gastrointestinal permeability. If your pet has been on drugs or medication it may need to have a beneficial source of bacteria to “reseed” the intestinal tract and bolster GI defenses for balance restoration.
Yeast is a natural habitat of your pet’s skin, but it can rapidly multiply and cause skin and ear problems. Yeast overgrowth causes intense scratching and digging at ears. It is a common sign that there is a yeast problem. The yeast can grow in localized areas causing a creamy white accumulation between toes, in the ears, and throughout the body. Your pet may start smelling like a corn chip or cheese popcorn if there is a yeast problem. The yeast can be transmitted to pet owners.
Yeast overgrowth is a signal that your pet’s immune system is not functioning well. It is also an indication that your pet needs a good pro-biotic. There usually is a dietary connection with the yeast. Eliminating extra carbohydrates such as corn, wheat, rice, and soy from your pet’s diet will help. Yeast feeds on sugars as an energy source to allow it to grow and spread. Carbohydrates are the major sugar fuel for yeast to thrive.
Skin allergies cause a variety of symptoms in animals.
1. Fur may feel sticky
2. Lots of flakes on the skin despite the animal feeling sticky
3. Red spots with little white head which often have black areas around them
4. Red, inflamed skin covering large areas of the body
5. Your pet acting like its skin is crawling
Dogs might lick their legs or chew their pads. There can be inflamed spots between toes, in armpits and inner legs. Hot spots or localized moist skin infections can appear quickly and spread very fast. These oozing sores are extremely painful and easily become infected.
Frequent bathing can help reduce parasites, bacteria or viruses that can undermine the immune system and allow yeast overgrowth to occur. Keep your pet’s bedding clean. It is estimated that several million infections are passed between pets and people annually in the United States. The infections range from skin conditions, allergies, and life-threatening illnesses for pets and their owners. For this reason, it is not recommended that your pet sleep in your bed with you.
Kissing your pet, or being licked by the pet may transmit hookworms, ringworm, roundworm, cat scratch disease, and drug resistant staph infections to pet owners. Practicing good hygiene habits is important.
Washing your hands with soap and hot water after petting or handling your pet will help owners stay healthy. Puppies and kittens or any aged cat or dog are prone to diarrhea. These “high risk pets” are more likely to harbor an infection that could be passed to people. Immediately wash any area licked by a such a pet
Prevention is the best medicine. If the animal is an outdoor animal it should have weekly baths. Check routinely for fleas, ticks, and blood succors. Routinely de-worm your pet. Check with your veterinarian for your pet using protective collars and powders. Wash your pet’s bedding each time you give your pet a bath.
People with weakened immune systems who have allergies, autoimmune disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS are at greater risk for getting an infection from an animal. Children younger than five years of age and senior citizens are also at greater risk.
Bathing your pet frequently and providing a healthy diet and environment can go a long way towards having a healthy happy pet. There is conclusive evidence that pets can heal and soothe health complaints in humans. Heart attack victims who have healthy pets live longer. Watching a tank full of tropical fish may help lower blood pressure. Bringing a pet into a nursing home can improve people’s moods, desire and ability to interact socially.
Keeping your pet allergy and infection free, safe, clean, and well cared for can be a wonderful addition to life and forge lasting friendships when both you and your pet are healthy, happy, and safe.
Dr. Janeel Henderson