One of the most experienced veterinary specialists in India, Dr SB Mathur is running a successful practice in Lucknow
Q: I have two pet dogs. While my son stays fine around one dog, he starts to cough and develops an allergic reaction to the other—including rashes. Is it possible for him to be allergic to one and not to the other? Rashi Seth
Dog allergens (the particles that trigger allergies) include their fur, their dead skin flakes, their saliva and urine. Obviously, all dogs have these, but some breeds shed less than others; also, for unknown reasons, some breeds’ allergens do not trigger the same severe reactions as others. Keep in mind that individuals vary in their reaction to different allergens and even though certain breeds are termed ‘hypoallergenic’, there could well be some that trigger allergies in you or other family members. So, before reaching a decision, it would make sense to confirm your compatibility by spending some time with the specific animal you are planning to make part of your family.
Q: What are the signs of allergy in a dog and can it be genetic, and is there a cure? Ravi Singh
In a dog, the most common symptom associated with allergies is itching of the skin, either localized (in one area) or generalized (all over the body). In some cases, the symptoms involve the respiratory system, with coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be runny discharge from the eyes or nose. In other cases, the allergic symptoms affect the digestive system resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. Allergies are quite common in dogs of all breeds and backgrounds. Most allergies appear after the pet is six months of age, with the majority of affected dogs over age one or two. Most dogs that have inhalant allergy start showing signs between one and three years of age. Affected dogs will often react to several allergens and often experience concurrent flea or food allergies. If the offending allergens can be identified by skin testing or blood tests, the dog should be protected from exposure to them as much as possible. Because most of these allergens are environmental, this is difficult and recurrent bouts are likely. Symptoms can be controlled but a permanent cure is not usually possible. Treatment depends largely on the length of the specific allergy season. Wipe your pet’s coat and paws with a damp towel to remove pollen and dander several times a day. Give your pet a bath in a hypo-allergenic shampoo and leave-in conditioner. When you return home, wipe your dog’s body and paws with a moist cloth or hypoallergenic, fragrance-free grooming wipe. This will remove excess pollen and other environmental pollutants too. Apple cider vinegar can be used as a rinse for your dog’s paws which will take off some of the pollen and allergens that accumulate. Any bedding that your dog uses will need to be washed regularly.
Q: My pet dog tends to be aggressive if we try to prevent him from doing something, or if we try to touch him when he is eating—even if other people try to come near him with their pets. Can we teach him to be mellower? Rani Singh
Any signs of aggression in a dog should be dealt with straight away, to prevent him learning that growling and biting is acceptable. However, do not try and tackle this yourself. Any aggressive dog training should be supervised by a skilled professional. Otherwise you may get bitten, or your dog’s behaviour may get worse. Breed related aggression in dogs isn’t easy to manage, because that behaviour is hard-wired into them. Neutering can reduce any bad behaviour related to gender, and if your dog is hurting, then veterinary care is needed. Dogs with fear aggression need careful and gentle handling, to build their confidence and to teach them that people and other dogs are not a threat to them. Sometimes medication can help to reduce their anxiety while they learn new ways of interacting with others. Food aggression in dogs, and any other resource-guarding behaviour, is managed in a similar way. The most important part of preventing unwanted behaviours in dogs is to raise them properly from puppyhood. Teach them that it is okay for someone to pick up their food bowl or to take their favourite squeaky toy. When it comes to fear aggression, socialization is the best insurance against this. If he learns to relax in different situations and environments, then he will grow into a calm and adaptable adult.