Dogs and cats can suffer from seasonal allergies, just like we do, but their symptoms tend to be different. This time of year in Kitchener-Waterloo and surrounding areas, we tend to see pets with allergies caused by pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds that bloom or peak during the late spring and into summer.
So what are the signs of allergies in dogs and cats, and what should you do if you think your pet has allergies?
To start with, 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, they generally need 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.
Seasonal allergies are a type of environmental allergy that often gets worse in the spring, summer, and 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 some mold spores.
In the spring and summer, seasonal allergies are typically caused by trees, weeds, and other plants that pollinate during this time of year, as well as some molds that tend to bloom inside or out. In and around the region of Waterloo, our pets may encounter pollen from oak, elm, maple, and mulberry trees as well as grasses like Bermuda, orchard, Timothy, and sweet vernal, all of which can cause allergic reactions. Later in the summer (usually in August), ragweed may be responsible for allergy symptoms in pets.
Signs and Symptoms of Pet Seasonal Allergies
Itching is often the main symptom of pet allergies, which is why allergic dogs and cats may:
- Rub against furniture
- Shake their head
- Spend a lot of time licking, chewing, biting, or grooming, sometimes to the point where they cause hair loss or hot spots (painful, raw, inflamed areas on the skin that may bleed)
In pets with seasonal allergies, chewing or licking the feet is a common sign, so affected pets may have red, swollen-looking paws. Their ears may also be inflamed or infected, and they may have anal gland issues. Seasonal allergies can cause nasal discharge and sneezing as well, although these are less common allergy 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 with allergies may 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 in 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 Westmount 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 testing and specialized allergy injections), 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. These can provide rapid and long-term relief.
We individually tailor therapy to each pet. After ruling out any other potential causes of your pet’s symptoms, we will work with you to come up with a plan to ease your pet’s allergies. Let us help your allergic pet get relief!