It’sssss allergy season!
Pets can suffer from several types of allergies. Food allergies are perhaps the most talked about, but the most common type of pet allergy is actually environmental. Turns out our pets dread pollen, too! (And ragweed, and dust, and…)
What to Know About Seasonal Allergies
“Seasonal” allergies are just another way of describing environmental allergies, which are essentially a reaction to something in the immediate environment. Some of the most common environmental allergies include pollen and ragweed, mold, and dust. Many environmental allergens are seasonal in nature which is why some pets (and people) tend to suffer worst during certain times of the year.
Seasonal allergies are most likely to rear their ugly heads in fall and spring when particularly strong allergenic plants are in bloom, but they can happen anytime. This is especially true when you travel with your dog to a new environment, or if you live in a temperate climate (like ours here in California) where things are always blooming.
How to Tell if Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies
Allergy symptoms in pets can actually be pretty hard to discern. In dogs, they tend to affect the areas of the body that are also most prone to other health issues such as the skin, eyes, paws, and nose. In cats, it’s the paws and nasal passages that tend to be the most tell-tale areas of irritation. If you suspect your pet is allergic to something, it’s always best to work with a professional vet to confirm.
Signs of Seasonal Allergies in Pets:
- Incessant Scratching: Seasonal allergies are most likely to affect pets’ skin, particularly around “creased” areas such as in between toes, behind ears, and under the tail.
- Red, Irritated Skin: If your pet has “patches” of irritated skin, especially on the parts of his body that frequently come into contact with allergens (like grass or plants), he may have allergies. If untreated, these areas can turn into “hot spots” which are essentially just raw, infection-prone sores, and more common on dogs than cats.
- Licking/Face Rubbing: Pets with itchy skin will try anything to soothe the sensation including licking, chewing, rubbing, or even shaking their head violently from side-to-side.
- Inflamed Ears: Sometimes seasonal allergies present like an ear infection; red, funky-smelling, discharging ears are a tell-tale sign.
- Puffy Eyes: Just like in humans, pets’ eyes can swell and become red if they are affected by allergens. Cats’ eyes are especially vulnerable to the effects of allergens.
- Sneezes/Sniffles: Also like humans, allergic pets may sneeze or sniffle more than usual, particularly after coming into direct contact with allergens outdoors or in a dusty space.
What Can You Do If Your Pet Has Allergies?
First, be sure you talk to your vet about an official diagnosis. Sometimes symptoms that seem like allergies can actually be the result of a fungus or other treatable disease. In some cases, pets need to be tested intradermally (under the skin) to prove whether or not they’re allergy sufferers.
Your vet will make recommendations to you that might include more frequent bathing, less time outside, or even the use of an over-the-counter antihistamine. In more severe cases, your vet may recommend steroids and/or antibiotics to resolve some of the more serious effects of allergies.