Spring Has Sprung: Effectively Managing Your Pet’s Spring Allergies
Spring in Eastern Virginia brings many delights: budding flowers, warmer weather (thankfully!), rain, and of course, new beginnings. But spring also brings pollen–lots and lots of pollen–and for many pets, the onset of the intense itching and the discomfort of spring allergies.
Like people, animals can suffer from seasonal allergies as the environment changes. While people often experience a runny nose, watery eyes, and sinus congestion as allergies flare, pets typically suffer from skin problems that can manifest in many ways. Pets with environmental allergies, known as atopic dermatitis or atopy, can be allergic in one season (such as spring) or all year round. And although rain can calm symptoms down by washing the allergens away temporarily, pets will be uncomfortable again when it dries out.
What Spring Allergies Look Like in Pets
Pet allergies can be discovered at any time during a pet’s life but are most commonly noticed between 6 months and six years of age. Allergic pets commonly scratch, bite, or lick their skin and paws excessively, causing irritation, hair loss, open sores, hot spots, and, in severe cases, secondary infections. Pets can be affected by inhaling allergens through their nose and mouth or by allergens that settle on their coat and skin.
Inhaled and topical allergens can include:
- Dust mites
- Flea bites
Another common sign of spring allergies in pets is recurrent ear infections. Itchy ears and ear infections are often a result of environmental allergies, even with no other symptoms present. Because there may not be any other signs of allergies, pet owners will sometimes continue to treat the regular episodes of itchy ears without realizing that an underlying cause needs to be addressed.
What You Can Do for Spring Pet Allergies
For pet owners struggling with an intensely itchy pet, the good news is that plenty of options exist. First, schedule an appointment with your primary care veterinarian to assess the problem and ensure there is no secondary infection that requires treatment with antibiotics. Besides examining your pet and listening to the history, your veterinarian may recommend diagnostics to determine the cause of your pet’s discomfort. Depending on your pet’s condition and needs, your veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist, who focuses on allergies and diseases affecting the skin, hair coat, ears, and feet. There is no cure for allergies, only proper diagnosis and symptom management.
Diagnostics may include:
- Blood antibody testing
- Skin allergy testing
- Skin cultures
- Skin cytology
Depending on the type of allergies discovered, your veterinarian might recommend any of the following treatments:
- Allergen-specific immunotherapy
- Apoquel (an oral medication prescribed for allergic itch and inflammation)
- Cytopoint injections (monoclonal antibodies)
- Oral antihistamines
- Oral fatty acids (Omega-3)
- Prescription diets
- Topical treatments such as prescription shampoos
- Year-round flea control
Home Care for Itchy Pets
In addition to treatments offered by veterinarians, you can help keep allergic flare-ups minimal at home by:
- Making sure your pet is on flea-preventive medication year-round.
- Bathing your pet in a hypoallergenic shampoo and conditioner as recommended by your veterinarian.
- Having your pet groomed and trimming long foot hairs that may trap allergens.
- Soaking your pet’s paws daily to ease inflammation and prevent allergens from being tracked into your home.
- Removing your shoes before entering your home so as not to track allergens inside.
- Adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to your pet’s diet (ask your veterinarian for more details).
- Vacuuming your home and laundering pet bedding weekly to prevent the buildup of allergic triggers.
- Consider investing in a HEPA filter for your home.
Spring allergies are highly uncomfortable for your pet and can harm their overall health over time. If your primary veterinarian is unavailable and your pet’s discomfort or pain is debilitating, please call us at 757-935-9111.
The COVE’s veterinarians and staff wholeheartedly embrace the core values of community, collaboration, commitment, compassion, and integrity. This focus ensures that pets, the people who love them, and their primary care veterinarians have as positive and affirming a healthcare experience as possible, regardless of the circumstances that bring us all together.