Does your pet have spring allergies? – How to know and what to do!
Springtime brings the wonderful bloom of flowers – but with this bloom comes the release of large amounts of pollen in the air. Many humans are acutely aware of this, as it means the advent of allergy season. But what many people don’t know is that pets can have seasonal allergies too, though they usually have different symptoms than the ones humans experience. In this article, you will learn the basics of how allergies affect a dog or cat, how to tell if your pet has seasonal allergies, and a few easy steps that you can take for your pet to ease the intense discomfort of Spring allergies!
The Basics of Spring Allergies
As incredible as the immune system is, it sometimes makes mistakes. Allergies are a result of a hyper-sensitive immune system. When an allergen (like pollen) is inhaled or absorbed through the skin, it stimulates histamine production. This causes inflammation, as the immune system mistakenly believes it is under attack. The resulting effort of the immune system to rid the body of the foreign invader is what causes those deeply uncomfortable symptoms in humans and pets. Humans typically experience respiratory symptoms (like sneezing and congestion), while pets are a bit more prone to skin symptoms (like excessive itching and hot spots).
On rarer occasions, weight gain can be caused by illnesses, such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism occurs when insufficient thyroid hormones are produced. Thyroid hormones help to regulate the metabolism. This is usually a readily treatable disease, but many pets suffer for a long time without treatment because their owners don’t realize there is an underlying medical condition to their excessive weight.
Symptoms of Spring Allergies
As we mentioned, Spring allergies typically cause more skin-related symptoms in pets than respiratory symptoms (though it’s not too uncommon for cats to have respiratory symptoms). This is because dogs and cats have many more histamine receptors in the skin than they do in the nose. When histamine is released, the pet experiences an itchy sensation, which typically makes them want to scratch the affected area. The scratching actually generates more histamine production, causing a vicious circle. This causes all sorts of secondary symptoms (even infection), and with it, intense discomfort. Unfortunately, allergic reactions tend to worsen as your pet ages.
Be on the lookout for any of these common symptoms of Spring allergies in your pet:
- Chewing at the feet
- Intense scratching
- Rubbing of the face
- Constant licking of the side or groin areas
- Inflamed ears with a foul odor
- Hot Spots (raw and bleeding skin) – most commonly in dogs
- Wheezing and sneezing – most commonly in cats
What to Do
First off, if you notice your pet is suffering from any of the symptoms above, we highly recommend giving us a call and scheduling an appointment so that we can help alleviate your pet’s suffering and guide you on ways you can help between appointments.
There are three different ways that you can help ease the suffering from your pet’s allergic reaction: removing the allergen (as much as possible), giving your pet medication and supplements to curb the symptoms, and administering allergy shots for your pet. Shots are typically reserved for pets with more severe reactions. We’ll go over each of those three now!
Removing the allergens
There are a few easy things that you can do right now to remove the sources of pollen that may be irritating your pet. We’ll list them below:
- Wipe your pet’s feet with a damp cloth when they come inside so that you remove the pollen they would otherwise track in.
- Wash or change your pet’s bedding at least once a week so that pollen doesn’t accumulate where they sleep.
- Bath your dog or cat once or twice a week to remove any allergens in their coat – we can even recommend a medicated shampoo to use on your next visit (different pets may require different medicated shampoos).
- Keep windows and doors shut when possible so that pollen doesn’t enter your home.
Medication and Supplements
Fortunately, there are helpful treatments and supplements that you can use to ease the discomfort your pet is feeling. For any medications (such as antihistamines), it is very important that you consult with us first so that we can tell you whether or not your dog or cat can take it, and instruct you on dosage. We will list different treatments that may be helpful below, but it is a very good idea to give us a call before starting these:
- Topical Therapies – such as anti-itch solutions and shampoos. These offer immediate but short term relief. If you are bathing your pet, talk to us about using hypoallergenic or oatmeal shampoos.
- Fatty Acids – New research has demonstrated that Omega-3 fatty acids can prove especially helpful at working with your pet’s immune system to decrease histamine production. Not every pet benefits from Omega-3’s, but some show quite an improvement. Call us for a recommendation on dosage and brand.
- Antihistamines – You have to be careful with these, because if done without proper veterinary guidance, they can have nasty (and even dangerous) side effects. However, when administered under proper veterinary guidance, antihistamines can prove very effective at curbing the symptoms of allergies. They are especially effective when used in conjunction with topical therapies, fatty acids, and the allergy removal strategies we shared above.
For some pets, it may be appropriate to administer long-term allergy shots. This is usually reserved for pets with severe allergic reactions. We would first perform an allergy test in order to determine what allergen is bothering your pet, and then set up a schedule of shots. It usually takes time for these to work, but they can prove to offer your pet long lasting relief!
Allergies can be a miserable experience for humans and pets alike. In this article, we have covered seasonal allergies from pollen, but pets can also be allergic to food or even flea bites! Please know that as your partner for your pet’s health, we are always here to help!