Sunday, September 12, 2010


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye are on the road this week...more on that in next week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats.

Back in June, Helpful Buckeye received a comment from "Holly" relating to a couple of topics we had discussed on allergies that cats have to their food.  These were Holly's words:  "I love cats; I'm allergic to them. Really allergic. And, as I've gotten older, it's the only allergy that has gotten worse with age. I always wanted to own a calico cat....sigh" 

Holly is the creator of the well-read blog, Your Mother Knows But Won't Tell You, which can be found at: .  Her blog covers many diverse topics, including her 2 Scotties, and is ALWAYS interesting.  She also happens to live in my small hometown in southwestern Pennsylvania, although we've never met except for the exchange of e-mails and blog comments.

Anyway, I asked Holly if she would be willing to put into words what it's like to go through the onset of an allergy to a cat.  Fortunately, most of us don't have to worry about this agony, but it surely helps us to better understand someone who does suffer from this type of allergy.  So, here is Holly's recounting of her experience with The Agony of an Allergy:

When I was a kid, I suffered from severe breathing issues, to the point that the medical doctors were concerned that I might have cystic fibrosis. It turns out that I didn’t have it, or I wouldn’t be writing this!

I suffered from many bouts of pneumonia and bronchitis. In the search to diagnosis the issue, I was put through scratch tests for allergies. Can we say, torture? Yeah, I don’t know what those tests are like now, but back in the day, they were pretty brutal.

What those tests revealed was an allergy to leaf mold, feathers, grass, and fur. They would have put breathing down as something I was allergic to as well, but that seemed excessive. I always wonder who isn’t allergic to those sorts of things?! But, I digress… So, growing up, I wasn’t allowed to have pets. I didn’t have my first dog until I was 17 when my father brought home a Cairn Terrier as his gift. The BEST present EVER.

So, here’s the thing: as I grew, my reaction to most of these things subsided. I even owned a cockatiel and a macaw for a time; no reaction to them at all. And, as long as I was around my various Cairn Terriers, and now my two Scotties, I had no issue. Turns out those dogs that have hair instead of fur are pretty good dogs for sensitive individuals.

Over time, even my sensitivity to all dogs pretty much dissolved. However, cats are a very different story. I am even worse now than I was when I was growing up; it’s the only allergy that has grown worse.

I love cats so it’s hard for me not to touch them. And, it’s true what they say about cats knowing when someone is trying to avoid them; they do seem to make a pest of themselves rubbing against you and sitting close to you in order to ‘win’!
What I learned is that, if I don’t touch a cat, I can be around them for a couple of hours. If I make a mistake and pet one? All bets are off and I can survive it about an hour.

The first symptom is my eyes beginning to itch and water. Then they feel puffy like when you’ve cried for a long time. The itch, if I am stupid enough to scratch, turns into a burning. They turn red.

My throat becomes, for lack of a better way to describe it, itchy; and I want to reach inside and scratch it. My lungs begin to tighten as they will with a chest cold. Then the wheezing starts….

Eventually, I become so uncomfortable that I have to leave.

If I take a Benadryl, it alleviates the symptoms even though it makes me sleepy. However, even taken in advance of going around cats, it only buys me a little more time. For a couple of days after an attack, I feel as though my lungs are raw, like when you’ve been swimming and playing in the ocean for hours.

I would love to own a cat. But, sadly my body seems to feel otherwise.

Wow, I'm thankful I never had to go through anything like that!  Many thanks to Holly for sharing her experience with us.

The folks at have put together a composite of helpful suggestions for those who do suffer from allergies to dogs and cats:

Allergic to Pets? Here's What You Can Do

You love animals but sadly, your eyes, nose, and lungs don't. (Or maybe it is your roommate who has trouble with your beloved animals.) An estimated one in 10 Americans may be allergic to pets, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). So what can you or your allergic roommates do to live with furry, slobbery animals while keeping symptoms such as sneezing, a dripping nose, itchy eyes, coughing, and difficulty breathing at bay? We have 10 tips to help you deal with your allergies without having to give up the joy of having a dog or cat.

1. Avoid the main pet allergy triggers. Humans are most sensitive to proteins found in the animal's saliva, dander and urine, so petting and snuggling with your pet can really set off your allergies. Depending on the severity of your condition, that may mean cuddle time to a minimum and making sure you wash your hands thoroughly when you're done.

2. Keep Fido or Fluffy away from the bedroom. Because pet dander can float in the air, collect in clothing and furniture fabric and stick to the walls long after a pet has vacated the room, Ricardo Tan, M.D. of California Allery & Asthma Medical Group recommends keeping them out of the rooms allergy sufferers spend the most amount of time in, especially the bedroom. According to the AAFA's website, humans spend from one-third to one-half of our time in this part of the house, so keep the door closed at all times. To further protect your place of rest, the American Academy of Family Physicians website suggests using allergen-resistant bedding.

3. Clear the air. Installing an air cleaner with HEPA filters (high efficiency particulate air) can help your breathing by removing allergens from the air, says Dr. Tan. Other options include using an air cleaner that has an "electrostatic filter which will remove particles the size of animal allergens from the air," according to the AAFA's website. Remember that even if you have been careful to keep pets in certain parts of the house, central air conditioning and heating vents can spread pet allergens from the rooms your pet can access to the ones it shouldn't. Consider covering the vents in pet-restricted rooms with a "dense filtering material like cheesecloth" to keep the new allergens from being blowing into the room and make sure to keep litter boxes out of the reach of vents that circulate air to the rest of the home.

4. Clean your house often. Because air filters can't remove pet allergens from the surface of walls, carpets and furniture, you'll have to do your household chores regularly. Dr. Tan recommends vacuuming twice a week. If the sufferer is doing the cleaning, he or she may want to wear a dust mask to vacuum since cleaning stirs up allergens, according to the AAFA's website.

5. Clean your pet occasionally. "Wash your pets every three to four weeks" to help reduce their allergy proteins, says Dr. Tan. More often than that, however, and you'll dry out the protective oil in their skin and cause dry skin, he warns.

6. Go carpet-free. The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology and the AAFA both recommend this as one of the best strategies for allergy sufferers. If you can't stand entirely bare floors, consider getting rugs that can be washed in hot water to stop the spread of offending pet dander, offers the AAFA.

7. Leave the real dirty work to someone else. The ACAAI advises sensitive cat owners to have someone else change the litter and allergy organizations across the board recommend that you get someone else to groom your pet.

8. Give medications a try. If you've kept a clean house and pet, and still you're experiencing reactions, you have a variety of medications to chose from, says Dr. Tan, including antihistamines, nasal sprays and decongestants, and appropriate asthma medications. Sometimes over-the-counter remedies are all it takes to keep the more annoying symptoms in check. It is important to consider that allergy sufferers with pets will probably have to take medications for life. "You can weigh the benefits of having the pet, which of course are enormous, against having to take medication for it," says Dr. Tan. The good news, according to Tan, is that, "Most allergy medications are relatively safe."

9. Get serious about treatment and find an allergist. "If your symptoms are increasing in terms of worsening nasal or eye irritation, or if you experience any shortness of breath around the animals," it's time to call a doctor, says Dr. Tan. The allergist can asses the severity of your symptoms and give more detailed advice about your situation.

10. Consider trying immunotherapy. This is a series of allergy shots that expose the patient to the dog or cat allergen to help them build a lifelong resistance to pet dander, saliva and urine and is the only reliable way to desensitize yourself to the allergens, says Dr. Tan. "As the dose increases, the patient becomes desensitized to whatever animal protein is in the shot," Dr. Tan explains. "These shots will be administered once a week in the beginning and once a month as time goes on. At the very least this procedure should be done for two years."

OK, now it's time to change gears and put on your thinking caps.  What do you think accounts for more than 1/3 of all homeowner liability claims?  Falls on your sidewalk or driveway?  Damage from falling limbs or trees?  Tripping on your stairs?  The answer to all 3 of these scenario questions is NO....

That's bites are the culprit.  In 2009, the average cost per dog bite was $24,840...with the number of claims rising 5% from the previous year.  Dog bites cost $412 million in homeowner-insurance liability claims paid in 2009, which was up 9% from 2008.  Do you have an umbrella type of homeowners insurance policy?  If not, perhaps you should consider one.  Read the rest of this very interesting article at: also offers these helpful tips for finding your lost dog or cat:

Finding a Lost Dog or Cat - 10 Ways To Improve Your Odds

One out of three pets will get lost at some point in their lives. This statistic strikes fear in all pet owners, but there are services and strategies to boost your odds of finding your dog or cat. From simple to high tech, here are 10 things you can do to help bring a missing pet home safely.

1. Collar and ID Tags. Only 2 percent of cats and 15 percent of dogs without tags or microchips will be reunited with their owners, states the American Humane Association. So make sure your cat or dog is wearing a collar and identification tag that bears your current contact information, including phone number.

2. Microchips. Many different companies manufacture pet microchips, which are read with scanners provided to veterinarians, animal control agencies and shelters, etc. According to the American Microchip Advisory Council for Animals, it is best to pick a microchip that operates at the American standard of 125 kilohertz. Be sure to register your contact information and keep the information up to date. Many microchip companies will now accept registration information for another manufacturer's microchip, so consider cross-registering you and your pet with several different microchip databases.

3. Use GPS to locate your pet. Satellite technology can be used to track your pet's movements inside and outside your house -- provided your cat or dog is wearing a special GPS-enabled collar. If your pet should go missing, products such as the SpotLight GPS Locater can locate your pet with "pinpoint accuracy" anywhere in the U.S. The RoamEO Pet Location System is another device that uses GPS to track pets.

4. Distribute "Lost Pet" fliers and posters. Nothing beats good old-fashioned footwork when it comes to finding a lost pet. Get outside and scour the neighborhood; knock on neighbors' doors and call your pet's name. Time is of the essence, so don't wait to see if your pet will return on its own. Make fliers and posters bearing a color photograph of your pet and include a description of your pet, when and where it was last seen, and your phone number and email address. Don't include your name or home address for safety reasons. Post them at local businesses and veterinary offices and give them to your local letter carriers who travel extensively through the neighborhood. According to pet detective Kat Albrecht, dogs are more likely to roam farther from home and be picked up by a Good Samaritan, while cats usually stay within the immediate area. Consider offering a reward, but beware of getting scammed.

5. Visit local animal control agencies and shelters. File a lost pet report with all animal shelters and animal control agencies within a 60-mile radius of where your pet was lost, recommends the Humane Society of the United States. If your town has no animal control agency, contact the local police department. It's also important to personally visit all shelters and animal control agencies within a 20-mile radius at least every other day, states Albrecht on her Missing Pet Partnership website."

6. Send out an animal Amber Alert. Thanks to clever technology, companies such as Pet Amber Alert and FindToto can instantly broadcast a personalized telephone message to homes and businesses in the area where your pet went missing. You can choose to broadcast the message to hundreds or thousands of your neighbors, depending on the plan you purchase. (Plans range from $79.95 for 300 neighbors to $875 for 10,000 neighbors.)

7. Broadcast it on the internet. Sounding the alarm via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites can work. Just ask Shane and Nicole Meide of Minnesota, who found their lost cat through Facebook.

8. Check "Found Pets" sites. Microchip maker, HomeAgain, has launched a free new iPhone/iPod/iPad application called "PetRescuers" that keeps a running database of lost pets that are reported by owners. Those who download the application are provided with alerts about lost pets that are geomapped to their local area within a 5, 10 or 25 mile-range. There are also numerous websites, such as, and LostPetUSA, where people can post and search for lost pets by zip code. (Also check the "Found Pets" section of your local newspaper.)

9. Set out a humane trap. You can also try luring your lost pet home using a humane trap that is filled with your pet's favorite food, treats or an item of clothing that smells like you and can capture the animal without harm. That's how Rue the Chihuahua was finally caught after 19 nerve-wracking days of being missing in a Florida swamp.

10. Hire a professional pet detective. You can always enlist professional help by hiring a licensed and certified pet detective. Albrecht's Missing Pet Partnership organization provides a national directory of reputable pet detectives who have undergone Missing Animal Response (MAR) training.

Finally, do not give up! That's the message Florida resident Tracie Steger posted on Craigslist after her cat Giggle-Blizzard crawled home on two broken legs after nearly two weeks of being missing. Be persistent -- and visible. "Posters and fliers are the number-one way animals get recovered," animal tracker, Laura Totis, told Paw Nation.

We'll be back with our regular format in 2 weeks....

 ~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~


  1. Hi Doc!
    I've been traveling for work, so haven't made my usual rounds and am getting here late in the week! How fun to see my name in lights even if it is on an itchy topic!

    One thing about the great article of improving odds to finding a lost animal? My step daughter who was a vet tech for a long time told me, after we had Fiona & Rory micro-chipped is that she wished more vets, etc, understood that the chips can migrate. So, if a lost animal is turned into a vet or shelter, the entire body should be scanned, not just the places where the chip is most likely to be. Thought that was a good bit of advice...especially since Rory's has moved! Have a great week!

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