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The juniper tree, also known as mountain cedar, is an evergreen coniferous plant in the cypress family. The male juniper tree releases significant amounts of highly allergenic pollen several times a year, which can aggravate seasonal allergies in affected people and animals. This pollen can drift over a sizable area, so it may be difficult to avoid completely. Canines with seasonal allergies can develop the same symptoms of sneezing and runny nose that humans do; however, they are also more susceptible to skin reactions from the allergens. Seasonal allergies in dogs will also cause itchy inflamed skin which tends to intensify over time.
Many juniper trees produce copious amounts of highly allergenic pollen that is likely to aggravate allergic reactions in animals affected by seasonal pollen allergies.
Dogs with pollen allergies, often referred to as seasonal allergies, may have the same respiratory symptoms that you see in humans, but the skin reactions are generally more noticeable in canines. Dogs who develop symptoms of seasonal allergies generally acquire them when they are between one and three years old.
Most juniper trees are dioecious, meaning that the tree will exhibit either the male cones or the female, but not both.
- This variety of juniper does not produce the pollen that most pets with seasonal allergies are sensitive to. The berries that are produced on the female plant can be toxic to the kidneys if eaten in large amounts, and can induce miscarriage in pregnant animals even in smaller numbers.
- Male juniper plants produce copious amounts of allergy-inducing pollen each spring to pollenate any nearby female plants. The pollen of the juniper tree is highly allergenic.
- Occasionally a juniper plant will have both male and female cones, which is known as being Monoecious. These plants will have both pollen and berries. Certain species of juniper trees are also known to change their sex from one year to another.
Pollen allergies are brought about in the canine body by the aggressive response of specialized immune cells to the pollen itself. These specialized cells are called mast cells, and they are designed to protect the body from invaders. When the immune system is stimulated by specific allergens, it produces a protein that causes these specialized mast cells to release histamine. Histamine has an inflammatory effect on the tissues it comes into contact with, which can result in the itchy and inflamed skin conditions characteristic of an allergic reaction in canines. When the cells in the sinuses and eyes are affected by the irritant the symptoms of a runny nose and sneezing are activated.
The skin condition will likely prompt your veterinarian to get a sample of the skin for cutaneous cytology along with the general tests to rule out disorders like chronic bacterial illness, hypothyroidism, or blood chemistry imbalances. Cutaneous cytology is the microscopic examination of the skin cells and the organisms found with them. This technique can be used to identify biological organisms that might be detrimental to your pet such as mites, fungi, or bacterial infections. The results of this test, combined with the seasonality of the symptoms, will suggest a preliminary diagnosis of seasonal allergy. At this point an intradermal skin test, also known as a patch test, is likely to be ordered. In this test, tiny amounts of the suspected antigens are injected in a particular pattern in order to induce a localized reaction. If the patch test is unable to be administered, due to skin damage or other special circumstances, blood may be drawn to check the reaction of the allergens directly to the blood.
Seasonal allergies in dogs have a tendency to get worse over time, eventually causing your pet to show signs of allergy year-round. Antihistamines are only effective for twenty to thirty percent of our canine companions initially, and they often develop a tolerance for them, causing their effectiveness to fade. Hydrocortisone shampoos and salves may be offered to relieve the skin discomfort, but efforts should be made to keep your pet from licking off the preparation. If these methods are not successful in alleviating the symptoms, then corticosteroid injections or oral tablets may be recommended. These medications are usually very effective in reducing the allergic signs, but they do have some serious side effects. In short-term therapy with corticosteroids the symptoms are mild, ranging from increased thirst to diarrhea. The long-term side-effects are dose dependent and can contribute serious disorders such as diabetes and liver dysfunction, so monitoring of the blood chemistry levels may be required in situations necessitating long-term use and the lowest effective dose should be employed.
Immunotherapy is another option for animals affected by unavoidable allergens, especially in reactions that present for at least four to six months of the year and are resistant to antihistamines. After an intradermal test to verify the active allergens an injection is prepared with altered antigens. This personalized formula is injected into the patient either weekly or monthly, desensitizing them to the allergen. This method of treatment is time consuming and expensive, however, it has a very high success rate, especially in younger dogs.
If you have a dog with seasonal allergies, pollen from the juniper tree is very likely to cause those allergies to be antagonized. There are some things that you can do at home during a flare up of seasonal allergies as would be caused by the juniper tree. Bathing your dog in cool water will remove any allergens that are on the coat and ease the discomfort of itchy swollen skin. Oatmeal baths are also especially soothing to the inflamed skin. Keeping the coat short and keeping your allergic dog indoors on high pollen days are also helpful. Many weather apps also give a pollen count forecast which can help you to determine which days are high and low pollen count days.
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