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The Ruff Report: An all-natural substance that makes pets sick

This substance is non-toxic, smells nice and is even all natural, yet it can make your dog miserable and sometimes extremely ill. Virtually invisible, it hovers everywhere in the air during spring, summer and early autumn, and your dog could end up in a veterinary hospital if you fail to recognize its symptoms.

This seemingly harmless material is best known as pollen, and, like people, many dogs can have severe allergic reactions to it, animal welfare experts warn.

Rather than sneezing like people, a dog's symptoms from seasonal allergies involve its skin becoming itchy and inflamed - and the condition can become serious if left untreated, according to Dr. Louise Murray, a veterinarian with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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Dogs often get atopy, where they inhale allergens that cause excessively itchy skin, known as pruritis,” Dr. Murray states in a media release.

One and 10 dogs suffer from allergies, and some become so itchy that they scratch with their razor-sharp toenails and bite with their precision teeth until their skin swells, bleeds and becomes infected. Treatments can range from oral medications (like cortisone) to skin tests that pinpoint allergies in more severe cases.

Pet parents should keep their homes clean to help their dog cope with allergy symptons, Dr. Murray advises. Clean frequently by using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag,” she said. “An air purifier fitted with a HEPA filter can also make a big difference in removing allergens from the air, and remember to still let in some fresh air daily.”

Limiting fabrics in a home, such as rugs, drapes and upholstery, can also help because they collect allergens, Dr. Murray says. Homes that have some fabrics should steam-clean them regularly.

Dr. Murray also encourages pet parents to bathe their dogs to remove allergens that accumulate in fur. “Be careful, though, not to do this too often,” she says. “Frequent bathing can dry out your pet’s coat.”

Products formulated to prevent dander from building up and flaking off into the environment are also available, but pet parents should consult with a veterinarian to make sure they use one that is safe, Dr Murray said. Brushing or combing a pet frequently also helps to keep allergens at bay.

Dr. Murray reminds pet parents that animals can also suffer from non-seasonal allergies, such as allergies to house dust and certain proteins in their food.

The actions that pet parents take can help make the allergy season more tolerable for their dogs, ASPCA veterinarian Steven Hansen says. “By following a few simple steps, surviving the springtime allergy season with your furry friend can be a breeze,” he said.


The Ruff Report is a column that appears on, a blog written by Joseph A. Reppucci, a retired editor from The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, Massachusetts. Mr. Reppucci worked as a reporter and editor on major daily newspapers in the Boston area for more than 30 years. He is the author of the book, The Hunt of Her Life, a heartwarming story about his once-in-a-lifetime rescue dog. Find it on


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