If your pet has been licking their paws or scratching more than usual, they may be experiencing what many of us experience in the summer and fall: seasonal allergies. But because most humans experience seasonal alleriges as sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes, we sometimes miss the signs of allergies in our pets. To prevent discomfort in your pet due to allergies, here’s a quick guide on what to look for, and what you can do to help — just in time for August, aka “Itchy Pet Awareness Month!”
What Causes Seasonal Allergies?
Allergies are an immune system response that causes inflammatory symptoms in pets. For pets, the most common signs of allergies are itchiness and other skin issues that cause discomfort. Your pet might be allergic to fleas, the protein in their food, or environmental factors. Seasonal allergies typically occur when pets either inhale or come into contact with an allergen in the environment, such as pollen, molds, weeds, grasses, dust, and trees. Although most seasonal allergies begin seasonally and may be more severe in the warmer months, if left untreated, allergies can progress to a year-round problem for your pet.
Signs of Seasonal Allergies
Symptoms of seasonal allergies include:
- Head shaking
- Excessive scratching, licking, or biting of the skin, ears, or paws
- Rubbing face or body on the carpet or furniture
- Redness of skin or inside of ears
- A foul or yeasty odor from the ears
- Hair loss
- Hot spots (irritation and often open wound that develops from scratching)
Chronic ear infections are a sign of allergies as well, so if your pet suffers from reddened, waxy, or foul-smelling ears, schedule an appointment so we can diagnose the problem and help your pet feel better.
Other signs of allergies are more subtle, but make your pet generally feel miserable. You may notice them unable to get comfortable, and their appetite may be decreased. Some pets experience sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and itchy skin.
How to Help Your Itchy Pet
Understanding the causes and symptoms of your pet’s allergies is the first step to helping them to feel better, so a physical exam with your Westfield Veterinary Group veterinarian is in order. During an exam, we will likely recommend tests to pinpoint the exact allergens causing problems for your pet. Tests may include blood work, skin cytology, cultures, skin allergy testing, and blood antibody testing. Contrary to popular belief, most allergies are not caused by food but instead, environmental factors.
Some pets may be helped with supplements such as Omega-3 fatty acids and medications, such as steroids or antihistamines. In addition, antibiotics may be prescribed if there is a secondary skin or ear infection. After allergy testing, your veterinarian may also recommend allergen-specific immunotherapy (allergy shots). Many pets in our care also benefit from acupuncture to treat allergies.
In addition to veterinary treatment, you can make your pet more comfortable at home by reducing the allergens that cause them discomfort.
- Bathe your pet once a week using a hypoallergenic pet shampoo and conditioner.
- Launder pet bedding and blankets weekly.
- Vacuum carpets and furniture often.
- Wipe your pet’s feet or wash them in lukewarm water each time your pet comes in from outside.
- Use air filters inside your home and keep windows closed.
If we can answer any additional questions about seasonal allergies and your pet, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, contact us