BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's hard enough on humans who suffer from allergies in south Louisiana and veterinarians say it's no different for pets, especially in the spring, but there are some safe and cheap ways to keep your dogs from itching.
When dog owners see their four-legged friends itching all the time, they know their pet is uncomfortable. But unfortunately, those pooches are also putting themselves at risk for some serious health issues.
On a nice spring day in Baton Rouge, you're bound to find plenty of folks out at dog parks like the one on City Park Avenue. Unfortunately, the pollen and fleas are out there, too.
"It is frustrating," said Jasmine Strout, a dog owner. "I think down here, especially, just a lot more allergies. I'm originally from Maine and I've had dogs up there and never any problems."
"If I leave him outside for a little bit, the grass actually starts to irritate him," added Kortney Tilman, another dog owner.
Dr. Andrea Anderson with the Garden District Animal Hospital said this is a busy time of year for her office.
"In Louisiana, things bloom more than four times a year, so it could be anything from pollen …" Anderson explained. "We had one dog that tested positive at LSU for a human dander allergy, which is pretty miserable."
Dog owners are fortunate to have dermatologists for animals at LSU. Those dermatologists work with vets in the area to get to the root of the problem for each pet. Dr. Cherie Pucheu-Haston said dogs that were fine over the winter are starting to visit LSU Vet School feeling miserable.
"I've seen dogs that have accidentally scratched their eye," Pucheu-Haston said. "I've seen them damage the flaps to their ears where they get a hematoma-swelling, so they can do a lot of damage to themselves."
Of course, the experts say the best solution is to work with them to determine your dog's specific allergy. It may cost a little more and take a little more time up front, but will help your pet and your wallet in the long run.
In the meantime, to simply stop the itching, many veterinarians have started prescribing a fairly new drug called Apoquel. It costs about $35 to $40 a month for small dogs and $130 a month for large dogs.
"It's not pennies, but it's not too horrible and it controls a lot of patients as well. The one thing that you have to be sure of is that it controls the symptoms. Meanwhile, the allergy itself is still ramping up," Pucheu-Haston explained.
Veterinarians said steroids are more expensive, yet effective options for some, but using them long-term can be dangerous. They added there's only one thing dog owners can really do to give their companion some relief at home without spending a dime.
"Frequent cool baths often help. They may not appreciate the process of the bath, but they like the way they feel when they're done. Good flea control, fortunately, is within reach of almost everybody and that can help. Even patients that are allergic to other things as well tend to do well with good flea control," Pucheu-Haston stated.
Whatever path people decide to take, acting sooner rather than later is the best option.
"Don't wait until it's a disaster. It will be much easier to control and a lot cheaper for them if they do," Pucheu-Haston added.
She also recommended dog owners take their animal to their veterinarian before setting up an appointment with the LSU Vet School.