Spring is just around the corner, bringing a whole lot of allergens with it. Many pet owners don’t give pet allergies a second thought, but they should—especially during allergy season. Of course, if you have seasonal allergies, you know what it’s like to sniffle and sneeze through the pollen-laden springtime, and you also know what to do to relieve your symptoms.
But your pet doesn’t know what to do, or what’s wrong, and dogs and cats are just as susceptible to allergies as humans are. In warm, rainy climates like we have here in Greenville, SC, pet allergies are even more common, and it’s even more important to treat them properly, since a simple allergic reaction, left untreated, can lead to infection or a more complicated problem like dermatitis or a lick granuloma.
How to determine if your pet has allergies
Our pets can’t tell us what’s wrong with them, so it’s up to us to watch carefully for symptoms, know what to look for, and make sure that they are treated properly. Our pets, especially dogs, can be allergic to anything that a human would be allergic to. There are four main types of pet allergies: atopy (or environmental and seasonal allergies), flea, food, and contact. Some of the most common allergens include:
- Seasonal trees and grasses
- Blooming plants/flowers
- House dust and dust mites
- Dander from other animals
- Food ingredients such as wheat, corn, chicken, or beef
- Flea saliva
- Household items like cleaners, shampoos, perfumes, and certain fabrics
By far, the most common response to atopy, flea, or contact allergens is excessive scratching, chewing, biting, and licking around the affected areas—which are most commonly the paws, face, ears, and base of the tail. If you notice your dog scratching at his ears, rolling around in the grass to scratch her head, chewing at his tail area, or licking her paws obsessively, chances are you are looking at an allergic reaction. Thinning fur or bald spots on your pet’s coat, wheezing, coughing, and sneezing, or swelling of the paws, face, and ears are all also telltale signs of pet allergies. For food allergies, rarely you may notice tummy trouble such as vomiting, diarrhea, or flatulence, but more commonly you will see scratching, licking, and butt scooting.
Treating Pet Allergies at Home
Not all allergic reactions require a trip to your vet, though the experienced and caring staff at Ambassador Animal Hospital are always happy to see you and your fur family member. While it is impossible to completely cure allergies, it is possible to limit exposure to allergens and manage the symptoms. In addition to keeping your pet on a year-round flea and tick prevention medicine, there are certain steps you can take at home to manage allergens and reduce their effects on your dog or cat.
Wipe Down Before or After Walks
Many of the things our dogs are allergic to, particularly seasonal allergens, are picked up on your daily walks, or potty trips outside. Using an allergen-blocking wipe on your dog’s paws and legs before a walk can help cut down on the allergens brought back into the house. Similarly, you can quickly wipe down your dog’s paws and legs after a walk with simply a wet cloth to remove any allergens picked up while roaming the neighborhood.
Bathe Your Pet With A Hypo-Allergenic Shampoo
Look for a hypo-allergenic shampoo, or an anti-itch shampoo, with soothing ingredients like oatmeal, aloe, evening primrose oil, shea butter, tea tree oil, and sunflower oil. Of course, when you schedule a cat or dog grooming appointment, you can request a soothing or medicated anti-itch shampoo for your pet.
Switch To A Limited Diet
If you believe you have a food allergy on your hands, try switching your cat or dog to a grain-free diet, free also from chicken and beef. Chicken, beef, corn, and wheat are the 4 most common allergens in our pet’s food today. Many manufacturers make hypoallergenic food products specifically designed to reduce food allergies. While these foods can be a little more expensive, they are also higher quality, and can save you money in the long run on emergency vet visits and ruined carpets and couches
Certain nutritional supplements, such as a high-quality biotin or Omega-3 fatty acid product, help maintain your pet’s coat and relieve dry skin and itching. Biotin is a B-vitamin often included in supplements aimed at improving joint health as well as in special diets, or liquids, and in gel form. Omega-3 is typically an oil-based supplement or an Omega-3 softgel capsule. Supplements can be a cost-effective way to reduce allergy symptoms and keep your pet healthy and happy.
When to go to your vet for pet allergies
If your cat or dog has allergy symptoms that are persistent, or don’t go away for a couple of weeks even after you do your best to reduce exposure to the allergen or switch up the diet, it may be time to come see us for help. In addition to leading to infections and other, more complicated conditions, long-term allergy symptoms can greatly reduce quality of life both for the pet and for the pet owner—as anyone who has been kept awake all night by constant wheezing or excessive paw licking and chewing already knows.
At Ambassador Animal Hospital, we have several options to help you better manage the symptoms of more severe or persistent allergies:
Prescription drugs like antihistamines or corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and block the allergic reaction so that the symptoms become more bearable. We most commonly prescribe these medications for dogs with severe reactions to seasonal or environmental allergens that are difficult to avoid.
Prescription Shampoos And Diets
Over-the-counter options are sufficient to manage most allergic reactions. However, if your cat or dog has persistent or severe symptoms, we can prescribe medicated shampoos that will also treat secondary sores or infections, as well as specialty diets designed to eliminate all allergy-inciting food particles.
When nothing else seems to work, or when you can’t determine the source of the allergic reaction, we may recommend allergy shots—also known as hyposensitization therapy. Your dog will go through allergy testing, which consists of either an intra-dermal allergy test, similar to the human scratch test, blood tests, or both. Once the cause is determined, we can administer a series of shots to help desensitize your dog’s immune system response.
Let Ambassador Animal Hospital help you keep your cat or dog healthy and happy this spring—and throughout the year. Call us at 864.271.1112 for an appointment.