Spring is here and so is allergy season! As any allergy sufferer knows, this changing of seasons brings all the beauty of the spring, as well as all of the pesky allergens. All. Of. Them. Just as our allergies flare this time of year, so can our pets’ allergies.
Your pets’ allergies can generally be divided into two categories, seasonal allergies, or atopy, and food allergies. Seasonal allergies, or atopy, are allergies caused by environmental factors, such as various trees, grasses, plants and flowers. As the name implies, these allergies tend to vary with the seasons, generally becoming most severe during seasonal changes, mainly the spring and fall. As the trees, flowers and plants begin to bloom, the allergens are released, causing allergies to flare in affected individuals, human and furry. Another form of these allergies can be flea allergies, which can flare this time of year as fleas begin to appear. Using a recommended flea and tick preventative will repel fleas and thereby prevent this allergy from occurring.
Food allergies, on the other hand, tend to occur at any time of the year with exposure to the specific food the pet is allergic to. Animals are generally allergic to the protein in the diet. Main culprits include chicken, beef, turkey, and some fish. In very sensitive animals, even trace amounts of these ingredients can cause allergies. Hypoallergenic diets avoid these ingredients and use novel protein sources, such as alligator, which pets would not be allergic to.
The time of year in which allergies occur can generally tell us which type of allergy your pet has. If their allergies are flaring during this spring time of year, it is most likely atopy, or environmental allergies. Signs of allergies can be increased licking, scratching, head shaking, redness of the skin or even scabbing and hair loss, and scooting or rubbing. Allergies compromise the skin health, causing skin infections, ear infections, and even anal gland issues. Patients can also have eye problems such as conjunctivitis (red, runny eyes with yellow discharge).
Many patients require treatment for relief, and these vary with the severity of the allergies as well as with the patient’s age and other health conditions. There are many safe and effective newer allergy medications that can greatly help our pets feel better and make the spring time fun again. There are other things owners can do at home to help their pets as well. This includes wiping your pets’ paws with unscented baby wipes after playing in the grass to remove gross allergens, as well as frequent bathing with medicated, hypoallergenic and fatty acid-containing shampoos to rinse off allergens and improve the health of the skin to aid in defense. Using monthly flea and tick preventative is also imperative to preventing flea infestations which are a large and common cause of spring time itching. Antibiotics are generally needed to treat any skin infections that have developed secondary to allergies.
While allergies are a nuisance and can truly affect your pet’s health and happiness, the good news is they are treatable. Using at home management as well as medications as needed can help keep allergies controlled and allow you and your pet to enjoy this long awaited warm and beautiful weather!