Is Your Dog or Cat Itching and Scratching? Your Pet Might Have Seasonal Allergies
If you have an itchy pet who can’t stop scratching, allergies might be to blame. This time of year at Bridle Trail Veterinary Clinic, we tend to see pets with environmental allergies caused by pollen from plants and weeds that bloom or peak during the late summer and autumn.
That’s right! Dogs and cats can suffer from seasonal allergies, just like we do, but their symptoms tend to be different. So what are the signs of allergies in pets, and what should you do if you think your cat or dog has allergies?
What Is An Allergy?
First, it helps to understand what an allergy is. An allergy results when the immune system overreacts or becomes hypersensitive to a harmless, often common, substance (called an allergen) that comes in contact with or enters the body. Essentially, the immune system thinks the substance is dangerous and tries to destroy it.
For a pet (or person) to become allergic, he or she generally has to have been exposed to the allergen more than once and typically multiple times over months or years. However, even young pets can get allergies.
Cats and dogs can have different types of allergies, including environmental, flea, and food allergies. For the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on seasonal allergies, a type of environmental allergy.
Seasonal allergies often get worse in the spring, summer, and/or fall. However, allergies in pets can last throughout the year, depending on the cause. That’s because pets can be allergic to more than one plant’s pollen or to other items in the environment that are around all year long, like dust mites or molds.
In the late summer and fall, seasonal allergies are typically caused by weeds and other plants that pollinate from the end of August until the first frost. Around Unionville, Markham, and surrounding areas in Ontario, our pets often encounter pollen from ragweed, which can cause allergic reactions.
Signs & Symptoms of Pet Allergies
Most pets with seasonal allergies have skin issues. Itching is often the main symptom, causing allergic pets to:
- Rub against furniture
- Shake their head
- Frequently lick, chew, bite, or groom themselves, sometimes to the point where they cause hair loss or hot spots (painful, raw, inflamed areas on the skin that may bleed)
Chewing or licking the feet is a common sign, and pets with seasonal allergies often have red, swollen-looking paws. Their ears may be inflamed or infected, and they may have anal gland issues as well. Seasonal allergies can also cause nasal discharge and sneezing, but these are less common symptoms in pets.
The ears and paws are commonly affected, but the groin, underarms, ankles, and areas around a pet’s eyes and muzzle may also show signs of allergies like irritation and hair loss.
Seasonal allergies may be to blame in a pet with a red, itchy belly who chews or licks the paws or nails excessively.
Some pets may also get bacterial or yeast infections from excessive scratching and overgrooming. These are referred to as “secondary infections.”
Getting Your Pet Relief From Allergies
We treat allergies in pets much the same way human doctors treat people with allergies. However, although some of the medications may be the same, pets process medications differently than people do, so it’s important to remember to NEVER give your pet human medication, unless your veterinarian has prescribed it. Only give your pet medications exactly as prescribed.
For seasonal and other environmental allergies:
- Bathing your pet with a pet shampoo after time spent outside can help remove pollen and other allergens. Ask us for recommendations!
- Washing your pet’s bedding frequently may also help minimize exposure to allergens.
- We can prescribe oral and/or topical medications to give your pet relief.
- Some pets might benefit from allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots), which desensitizes pets to specific allergens over time.
- Any secondary yeast or bacterial infections need to be treated as well, so we may run lab tests to make sure we’re targeting the right culprit and giving your pet the most effective treatment.
- There are also some newer treatment options to help itchy pets, which can provide rapid and long-term relief.
If your pet is showing signs of allergies or you’re concerned about your itchy pet, give us a call! At Bridle Trail, we individually tailor therapy to each pet. After ruling out any other potential causes of your pet’s symptoms, we’ll work with you to come up with a plan to ease your pet’s allergies.