According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, allergies are the sixth leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S., with over 50 million Americans suffering from allergies each year. And just like their human counterparts, dogs, cats, and other pets can suffer from allergies, especially in the spring.
Pet allergies — whether they’re caused by the animal’s environment, certain foods, or specific substances (soaps, wool, carpet, insecticides, etc.) — will present themselves in the same manners as they do to humans: itchy eyes, runny noses, increased scratching, sneezing, and even vomiting or diarrhea can all be indicators of an allergic reaction.
Seasonal allergies from pollen, mold, mildew, or dust will cause excessive scratching, licking and/or biting, and infection, injury, and hair loss (commonly known as “hot spots”) will exacerbate the problem, as your pet tries to calm his itch.
While only your pet’s veterinarian can truly determine the cause of the spring-time symptoms, there are ways to keep your pets allergy-free this spring. It’s pretty difficult to control airborne irritants, so consider these five tips to help alleviate your pets’ spring allergies.
1. Watch Out For Pollen
Keep an eye on the daily weather reports to get a handle on the pollen count in your area, while keeping in mind pollen is lowest on cool days and after a rainfall. Peak pollen counts also occur between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., so taking that long walk may be a better option in the evening. A good way to determine how much pollen will affect your pet is to bookmark the pollen forecast, then take notice if symptoms tend to flare up on moderate pollen count days or just on particularly high pollen count days.
2. Clean Your House
You’re probably already in the process of spring cleaning, so while you’re at it, make sure your home is as allergen-free as possible. Clean and disinfect to get rid of the pollen that can be blown or tracked in from the outside, and throughly clean out all the dust and dust mites that build up on the inside. Investing in a good air purifier system will remove impurities from the air and prevent breathing problems from escalating. Take time to vacuum, wash your pet’s bedding, and get rid of any old toys that are permanently soiled or damaged. Also, be sure to brush and groom your furry friends, and quickly dispose of all that excess hair that comes from spring shedding.
3. Watch Where You Walk
You can’t control what’s in the air, but you can control where your pet plays or takes walks. Avoid tall grasses and wait a few hours after you mow your lawn before letting your pet run around the yard. Common outdoor allergens like ragweed, pollen, animal dander, and feathers can be inhaled, pass through the pads of the feet, and even be ingested by your pets, causing bad allergic reactions. Completely avoiding these allergens can be next to impossible since they’re in abundance everywhere, but if you know your environment and stay away from problem areas, you can mitigate the risks.
4. Stay Up on Baths
Always clean your pets’ paws with a mild, hypo-allergenic wipe after they spend time outside. Also, frequent bathing will not only cleanse pollen from their coats, but will also help soothe irritations. A veterinarian-approved oatmeal- or aloe-based shampoo will promote healing, combat irritation, and moisturize the skin. Don’t just clean their coats, though. Look at their ears. Are they clean? Have they been scratching at them? Are their eyes clean and healthy or do they look red? If they’re older, do their eyes look a little cloudy? How about their toenails; do they need to be trimmed? Examine your pets in detail all over and then, if needed, contact a professional groomer or your veterinarian for help. And, yes, you can bathe your cat (and your bird).
5. Talk to Your Veterinarian
There are many ways to tackle allergies. Depending on the type of allergy, the allergen, and the pet, you might have to try a few things (or a combination of things) to find the right treatment. But, no matter what, always enlist the guidance of your veterinarian first. Antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec can help ease allergic reactions and prevent your pet from giving himself an infection from scratching or biting, but they don’t address the allergy itself. Topical treatments that contain hydrocortisone can also be applied at infected areas to provide relief for localized itching. New research has shown promising results for the use of fatty acids in the form of Omega 3 supplements to not only provide a lustrous coat, but also to treat allergies in some dogs and cats. For severe allergies, injectable or oral steroid treatment is extremely effective in relieving inflammation and severe itching. Again, consult your veterinarian before commencing any allergy treatment.