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Allergies also pet peeves

Posted: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: April 21, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Spring is in the air, and with it, pollens and other allergens that can prove uncomfortable not just for humans, but also for pets, too.

"We see a lot of allergies in dogs and some in cats," said Dr. Balpal Sandhu, veterinarian and owner of Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital. "This is the season when it starts. More than 25 percent of our visits are allergy-related."

Allergy symptoms can include itching, inflamed or watery eyes, mild sneezing and scratching, licking or biting at the skin. Oftentimes, like people, pets can be treated with antihistamine medication.

If symptoms persist, Sandhu will recommend allergy testing, which screens for reactions to food ingredients, environmental allergens, plants, flowers and insects.

"It's specific to Southern California. If you find out what types of allergies your pet has, you can keep them more indoors during certain times of the year," Sandhu said.

Allergies caused by pet food are a year-round problem, according to Sandhu.

"There's a lot of talk about corn or wheat being the main culprit, but your pet could be allergic to one of the protein ingredients, such as chicken, beef or lamb," he said.

To combat food allergies, Sandhu will subscribe a specific diet, such as a fish, venison, duck or rabbit food. It can take a few weeks before an improvement is noticeable or to determine if a different food needs to be introduced into the pet's diet.

As far as supplements, Sandhu finds omega 3 to be an effective antidote to allergies.

"It produces more body oil and bolsters the immune system," he said.

Since 1994, Valencia-based Designing Health Inc. has manufactured an omega 3-rich, plant-based supplement for pets called The Missing Link as a fresh alternative to traditional fish oils.

"Fish oil is a processed supplement, while The Missing Link provides omega 3 in a whole-food delivery system. The body knows exactly what to do with food, so you can't oversupplement. The body breaks it down and uses what is needed, nourishing the cells," said Nate Armstrong, vice president and chief operating officer of Designing Health.

Available at most pet stores, The Missing Link costs about 25 to 30 cents per serving and includes human-grade ingredients, such as flaxseed, sourced primarily from the United States. The supplement was designed to replace what was missing from commercial pet foods or to combat artificial preservatives.

"The biggest issue for our animals today is a degraded immune system and compromised digestive tract from taking in altered molecules from processed foods. Processing takes life out of the food. Vitamins are destroyed during processing, and pet food companies put in vitamins that are not whole-food based, so they may not be absorbed properly into the bloodstream," Armstrong said. "By providing The Missing Link, the system gets back into balance and promotes healing from the inside out."

In addition to proper nutrition, allergy-prone pets can benefit greatly from regular bathing and grooming. Sandhu suggested brushing dogs and cats twice a day and bathing twice a month.

"It really makes a difference. Make sure to get the right choice for shampoo, one that is medicated for allergies," Sandhu said. "Brushing helps remove dry, scaly hair follicles and dead hair."

Flea control is also imperative.

"Allergies to fleas are a big thing with dogs and cats. Fleas inject a probe into the pet's skin, which releases an excretion that can cause severe allergic dermatitis," Sandhu said. "Every pet should be on a flea medication, especially in Southern California, where it should be year-round."

Canyon Country Veterinary Hospital is located at 18840 Soledad Canyon Road, Canyon Country. For more information, call 661-424-9900. To learn more about The Missing Link, visit




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