Achoo! With the spring season, the grass begins to grow, and the flowers and trees begin to bloom. Many people begin to show signs of seasonal allergies, including sneezing, runny nose, coughing, watery and itchy eyes, hives, and asthma.
Allergies are basically a “case of mistaken identity” by the body’s immune system. Every day the body encounters many kinds of “foreign invaders,” some that may be dangerous, such as bacteria, viruses, toxins, and parasites, and some that are basically harmless, such as dust mites, plant pollen, and cat or dog dander. Occasionally the immune system overreacts. It mistakes a harmless substance as harmful and responds with a full-blown attack. The immune response is a complicated process involving the release of histamine and other chemicals that results in a cascade of inflammatory changes, and with these, the signs of allergies.
Did you know that your pet can also experience seasonal allergies? Seasonal (or environmental) allergies in pets is called atopy and may also be referred to as inhalant allergies. The signs of allergies in pets are not necessarily the same as those in people, but atopy can cause just as much discomfort to your pet.
While you may notice sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and watery eyes, signs of atopy more often include skin irritation, itchiness, and inflammation resulting in the following:
- scratching, especially the face, ears, armpits, groin, and the inside of the thighs
- rashes on the skin, open sores or “hot spots”
- persistent and recurring ear infections (especially in dogs)
- rubbing the face along the ground
- licking or chewing the paws (sometimes with staining of the hair)
- hair loss
Because some of these signs overlap with those seen with food, dust mite, and flea allergies, your veterinarian will need to determine the cause of your pet’s itchiness. To help figure out if your pet’s symptoms are due to seasonal allergens, such as tree or grass pollen, consider the following:
Do the signs come and go? Or are the signs the same all year long? If your pet’s signs change with the seasons, rather than remain the same all year long, chances are he has seasonal allergies.
Reducing the allergen “load” in your pet’s environment may seem challenging, but there are steps you can take. To reduce your pet’s exposure, do the following:
- Bathe your pet. This will remove the environmental allergens from the from the skin and coat.
- Wash your pet’s feet and remove your shoes when entering your home. This will reduce the number of allergens being tracked into your home.
- Vacuum and wash your floors regularly to reduce the allergens in your home.
- Keep your windows closed during high pollen count days.
If you notice signs of atopy in your pet, make an appointment to see your veterinarian who will come up with a plan to reduce the irritation, itchiness, and inflammation caused by seasonal allergies.