You may not be the only one in your home suffering from seasonal allergies. Your dog or cat can also have reactions to pollen and other environmental allergens, making them uncomfortable and unhappy. As with people, animals’ immune systems can start to perceive pollen as a threat, causing a negative reaction.
Since your pet can’t exactly tell you how it’s feeling when pollen counts are high, it’s helpful to know the signs and symptoms of pet allergies, which are often different from what people experience. You might get itchy eyes, for instance, while your pet will suffer from itchy skin. Allergy treatment in pets should be different than what brings you relief, too. (Be cautious about giving people medicine to a pet! Always check with a vet before administering medication.)
Even pets who spend most of their time indoors can suffer from environmental allergies-in fact, they’re more likely to feel the effects than, say, a wild animal that is regularly exposed to pollen. You don’t have to open your windows wide to the elements, though, to help your pet feel better. Here are tips and advice from veterinarians that will help you identify and treat seasonal allergies in your dog or cat.
Symptoms of allergies in pets
The biggest symptom of seasonal allergies in pets is skin inflammation, says Andrew Rosenberg, DVM, of Animal Dermatology & Allergy Specialists in New Jersey. A dog may scoot her rump, lick her paws or groin, or shake a lot. Cats may over-groom or develop skin crusts.
Naturally, itchiness will make your pet scratch, and too much scratching can lead to infection, says Alexandra Gould, DVM, of the Dermatology Clinic for Animals in Tacoma, WA. Over time, dogs can develop hair loss, thickened skin, hyperpigmentation, hot spots, and ear irritation, so keep an eye out for those symptoms.
Cats often overgroom, leading to hair loss, especially on their sides or bellies. In both species, excess scratching can cause yeast and bacteria on the skin to multiply, setting off infections. Call the vet if you notice these signs of itchiness.
The best treatment for pets with allergies
Go to the vet
Some pet parents try local honey, raw diets, and coconut oil supplements to help treat allergies, Rosenberg says. But there’s no scientific basis to prove they’ll help. Instead, consult your vet for more effective treatments.
Studies show that antihistamines like Benadryl help only about 10 percent of dog allergy cases, Rosenberg says, and aren’t much more effective in cats. Instead, pets’ allergies are treated with prescription anti-itch medications, medicated shampoos, and, in severe cases, steroids, depending on the individual.
Gould also recommends allergy testing and desensitization for pets with environmental allergies. A vet will test for specific allergen sensitivities and routinely expose pets to them via either a daily serum under the tongue or a shot every one to two weeks. “The goal is that over three to 12 months, the animal’s immune system stops reacting as strongly and requires fewer medications,” she explains.
Pamper them at home
In addition to prescription treatment, itchy pets can get relief from cool baths once a week or so. “Bathing can rinse off allergens before they are absorbed into the skin, causing an allergic reaction,” Rosenberg says. Check with your vet first to rule out a secondary infection and ask for shampoo recommendations.
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