If you suffer from allergy symptoms in the spring or fall (or know someone who does), you know how awful they can make you feel. But did you know that cats and dogs can also suffer from seasonal allergies? Unfortunately, though, it’s easy to misinterpret their symptoms.
Here’s how to identify seasonal allergies in your pets and what you can do to make them more comfortable.
So, Animals Can Have Seasonal Allergies?
Yes, they can! Animals can develop seasonal allergies to some of the same environmental allergens that humans do, such as mold spores, grass, and pollens. Unfortunately for our beloved companions, domesticated animals are more prone to allergies than wild animals, probably because of the evolutionary “use-it-or-lose-it” imperative. Centuries of living indoors with humans (where there are fewer allergens) may have weakened their immune systems.
Though they may cough, sneeze, and wheeze, dog and cat allergies are most likely to show up as itchy skin (allergic dermatitis). Because most of their allergy symptoms can be symptoms of other health issues (like upper respiratory infections (URIs) or asthma), it can be hard to recognize allergy symptoms for what they are.
But it’s essential that we do. When they scratch their itchy places, cats and dogs create hot spots, shedding and balding that can develop into open sores and infections. Without treatment, they will only become more miserable.
Diagnosing Seasonal versus Other Allergies
Because our pets’ seasonal allergies manifest as itchy skin, they can be hard to tell apart from the two other types of skin allergies — food and flea bites — that also cause itching. For this reason, you should schedule a vet visit as soon as you notice symptoms.
Things your vet will look at might include a seasonal or cyclical pattern to your pet’s symptoms, the body area where the itching occurs, and any recent diet changes. They will also look for signs of flea bites and flea dirt. If your pet is a long-haired breed or has dark skin, these may be difficult to see yourself.
If they suspect seasonal allergies, your vet may do intradermal skin testing to determine the specific substance your pet is reacting to.
Treatment for Seasonal Allergies
If skin testing pinpoints a specific allergen, your vet may begin immunotherapy shots. They may prescribe antibiotics for infection or an antihistamine (such as Benadryl) for itching. Your vet may also suggest steroids, though these are typically prescribed only for severe cases because they can have serious side effects. Cats usually tolerate steroids better than dogs.
Please don’t give your pet Benadryl or any other medication on your own without consulting your vet. It doesn’t work in all cases and may do more harm than good for your fur baby.
Here are some measures you can take at home to make your itchy pet more comfortable.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Supplements like fish oil, flaxseed oil, and even hemp oil can help with inflammation from all kinds of allergies. Fatty acids offer many benefits to pets. They help to prevent joint issues, epilepsy, heart problems, and even cancer. Quality matters here, though, so ask your vet for a brand recommendation.
Avoidance: If you know what your pet is allergic to, take steps to avoid it. Keep an outside cat indoors or take a different route when you walk your dog. If you can’t avoid an outside allergen, wipe your pet down with a wet towel when you come in from outdoors. Pay special attention to their feet, especially if they’re allergic to grasses and pollen. Wiping will reduce the allergen contact and the licking and chewing of itchy paws.
Soothing Baths: Try giving your pets — dogs and cats — more frequent baths when they’re itchy. Use a pet shampoo for allergies or try a calming Epsom salt soak. Epsom salt is great for foot soaks, too.
Ear Cleaning: Because ear infections can be a complication of allergies, you should keep their ears free of allergens with frequent gentle wipes.
Flea Prevention: Many times, dogs and cats will have flea allergies in addition to seasonal allergies, which can add to their distress. It’s critical to keep them protected from fleas and ticks with a good-quality product. Many vets recommend year-round protection regardless of where you live.
Environmental Control: Keeping your dog’s living and sleeping areas free of dust and other indoor allergens will also be helpful to an allergic pet.
A Final Word
Many of us can’t wait for spring so we can get out more and romp with our pets. But the cabin fever of winter can morph into an itchy nightmare for pets with seasonal allergies. Luckily, with a little help from diligent pet parents, Fluffy and Fido can enjoy the magic of the seasons right along with us.