Spring Allergies in Cats and Dogs
Here in Arizona, we start spring earlier than many other areas of the country. However, the relatively moderate temperatures of spring make it a nice time to get outdoors and enjoy our sunny days.
During spring allergy season, many allergy sufferers begin to experience itchy eyes, sneezing, coughing, scratchy throats and runny noses. The human response to inhaling pollen results in allergic symptoms confined primarily to the respiratory tract. This is because human inhalant allergies result in the release of chemicals called histamines predominantly in and around the respiratory tract, resulting in the traditional allergy symptoms described above. Dogs and cats have inhalant allergies (atopy) just like we do. However, dogs and cats that are allergic to grass, weed, and tree pollens flourishing in the spring, release histamines in a more general way than we do. Therefore, they may have a more difficult time with allergy season than humans experience. They experience the same symptoms we do, but they may itch in other areas of the body, too.
Signs Of Allergies in Your Dog or Cat
Often your pet's primary reaction to inhalant allergies (atopy) may be generalized, sometimes severe itching. It is normal for this itching to cause your pet to chew or lick at his or her feet, ears, and belly. Sometimes you may even see red, irritated skin patches over the most itchy areas.
If your dog does any of the following, he or she may have an inhalant allergy:
~ Licks or chews at feet
~ Rubs face on the ground, carpet, etc.
~ Rubs face with paws
~ Has patches of hair loss
~ Has patches of red, irritated or infected skin
~ Scratches back or belly
~ Scratches at ears
~ Has recurrent ear infections
If you see these signs, make note of when these signs occur so that your dog's personal allergy season can be better narrowed down, and take your cat or dog to your veterinarian for relief. A thorough medical history will help narrow the causes. Your veterinarian can diagnose inhalant allergies based on symptoms and ruling out other potential causes of itching, such as flea allergy dermatitis or food allergies.
Your veterinarian may conduct allergy tests to provide a specific diagnosis. There are two primary methods of allergy testing: intra-dermal allergy testing and IgE allergy testing. Intra-dermal allergy testing consists of injecting a tiny amount of an allergen into the skin. If the body produces a response to the allergen, the cat or dog is allergic to that substance. IgE allergy testing consists of taking a blood sample and testing it for IgE antibodies against specific allergens. If it contains a high number of these IgE antibodies, the cat or dog is presumed to have an allergy to that substance.
Your pet doesn't have to suffer from spring allergies and constant itching. There are treatment options. Many pets can find relief by taking oral antihistamines, but some pets need more help. Topical steroid sprays may decrease skin inflammations and frequent bathing in hypoallergenic shampoos may sooth irritated skin. Ear infections can be treated with medications applied to the ear canal. Skin infections that often accompany allergies can be treated with antibiotics. Fatty acid supplements can be added to the diet to improve the overall quality of the pet's coat. Newer medications are available that target allergies and are safer than oral steroids. Also, some pets can receive desensitization therapy with a series of allergy injections. The desensitization treatment takes time and doesn't provide immediate relief; however it can provide a good long-term solution for some pets. For about half of the treated pets, the desensitization injections result in significantly reduced itching.
Consult with your veterinarian. He or she can help you choose the most effective treatment regimen for your pet's particular allergic condition.
Some Ways to Decrease Exposure to Allergens
Inhalant allergies mean that your cat or cat inhales the pollen. We can't prevent the inhalation of allergens but we can minimize exposure. Here are a few suggestions to help minimize your pet's contact with allergens:
~ Change air filters in your home regularly.
~ Wash your pet's bedding in hot water weekly.
~ Keep your pet inside when you mow the lawn.
~ Walk your dog early in the morning when dew is on the grass. Wet grass and trees release less pollen than dry ones.
~ Wipe your pet's feet before he or she comes inside. You won't remove all of the pollen, but it does help decrease the amount transported into the home. Some clients have reported that leaving a container of baby wipes by the door makes this easier.
~ Don't vacuum when your pet is in the room.
~ Brush your pet's coat more frequently and wash your pet brush and comb between brushings.
This information is not a replacement for a veterinary consultation.
Call us to set up an allergy consultation so that we can help your pet enjoy spring by keeping allergies in check (480) 893-0533.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your pet's health or care, please contact us.
For more information regarding allergies in pets, dog and cat health care and canine and feline medicine, please visit the following links to our corresponding pages: