You may be all too familiar with the sneezes, sniffles and watery eyes associated with seasonal allergies, but many pet parents don’t realize that their fur babies might also suffer from these uncomfortable symptoms. Yep — pets have seasonal allergies, too! Today we’re shedding some light on what seasonal pet allergies are, helping you determine if your pet suffers from them, and giving you the 411 on how to curb and treat the issue.
“Cats, dogs and other mammals (including people) experience allergies, which come from a sensitivity to a substance and their body’s immune response,” says Rolan Tripp, a veterinarian and animal behaviorist. He adds that some animals, just like people, “are sensitive to what they breathe or touch,” so when they’re exposed to certain triggers, they exhibit symptoms.
When we talk about seasonal allergies, we’re referring to outdoor-related triggers such as pollen from flowers, hay/grass, bushes, and trees, as well as mold, dust, and even flea saliva. These all tend to peak during spring, summer, and early fall.
Some areas have a greater density of these triggers — particularly those with lots of blooms and grass. Additionally, certain breeds are more susceptible to developing seasonal allergies than others. Tripp says, “At one time, West Highland terriers, also known as westies, were most likely to develop a skin allergy. Also, Labrador retrievers, bulldogs, and golden retrievers commonly suffer from allergies.”
Your pet’s seasonal allergy symptoms can sometimes look pretty similar to the symptoms that humans experience, including watery eyes, upper respiratory congestion, a runny nose, sneezing, and wheezing. Pets can also experience additional symptoms that you may not recognize as a seasonal allergy.
“The most common sign of seasonal pet allergies is skin scratching, which is called ‘pruritus,’” says Tripp. “Your pet might also experience skin redness, hair loss (due to licking), swelling, [ear infections that exhibit as dirty or smelly ears], and moist weeping or bloody lesions.” Flaky skin “bumps” are another symptom, as Rescue Pop’s founder learned with her mixed breed rescue dog.
Just like us, our pets benefit greatly when allergies are diagnosed and treated promptly. Although we recognize it isn’t always possible or easy, avoidance of what causes your pet’s allergies is key in preventing symptoms. Frequent bathing — especially after exposure — can also help.
If your pet is already dealing with discomfort or pain, or if avoidance and bathing haven’t solved the problem, then it’s time to consult your veterinarian, who will complete a physical exam and ask questions to help determine if seasonal allergies are the cause of your pet’s symptoms. Your veterinarian might also choose to perform a blood test or an intradermal skin test, which involves injecting trace amounts of common allergens into the skin and assessing your pet’s immune reaction. Tests aren’t always necessary, but they can be insightful and help you better reduce exposure to your pet’s allergens in the future.
After a diagnosis has been made based, your veterinarian will most likely treat your pet’s current symptoms (and any infections) in order to bring some much-needed relief. They will also likely prescribe or recommend medications and treatments to help curb future outbreaks. Treatments might include over-the-counter allergy relief chews or tablets, supplements, topical flea control products, and in more severe cases prescription allergy medication.
Another option you might want to consider is immunotherapy. This treatment method involves giving your pet a series of allergy shots (or oral drops) over a period of time with the intended goal of reducing symptoms.
“This method of allergy control uses the patient’s own immune system rather than drugs to address the symptoms of allergy,” explains veterinarian Wendy Brooks in an article for Veterinary Partner. “It may seem odd that injecting someone with the very substances to which they are allergic helpful but, in fact, it works. All other therapies for airborne allergies basically aim to suppress the symptoms; allergen-specific immunotherapy is the only therapy that actually works against the immunological disease.”
Immunotherapy worked wonders for Rescue Pop’s mascot Pamplemousse, a mixed breed dog who suffered from skin lesions caused by seasonal allergies. It can be expensive, but also miraculously effective. The earlier you start, the better.
Please do not treat your pet with an over-the-counter antihistamine (such as Benadryl or Claritin) to treat seasonal pet allergies without first consulting your veterinarian. Some of these products contain ingredients — such as pseudoephedrine and decongestants — that aren’t safe for pets. It can also be tough to determine the appropriate dosage.
Diagnosing the cause of seasonal allergies can be challenging. It can take time, trial and error, and it requires patience. Rest assured, however, the results are definitely worth it, and your pet will appreciate the relief!
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