The following bi-weekly column is written and sponsored by Bark + Boarding, which provides a heart-centered and safe environment for your pets. Conveniently located at 5818-C Seminary Road in Bailey’s Crossroads, Bark & Boarding offers doggy daycare, boarding, grooming, walking and training services, plus in-home pet care.
by Chelsea Pennington, Writer and Animal Enthusiast
While springtime can mean warmer weather and outdoor adventures, for many humans it has them reaching for the allergy meds and tissues. Just like us, our pets can also suffer from seasonal allergies. If not treated, they can make life miserable for your furry friend.
We’ve collected some tips for determining if your pet has seasonal allergies, and how to help them.
Signs Your Pet May Have Seasonal Allergies
For humans, allergies commonly manifest as respiratory issues — sneezing, runny nose, etc. For pets, allergies take the form of a condition called allergic dermatitis. What this means is that if your pet has seasonal allergies, it will result in skin irritation or even inflammation.
Due to this, one of the most common signs of allergies is excessive scratching. In some cases, the animal might even bite at their own skin to relieve the itchiness. This can lead to sensitive, inflamed skin that only hurts more, and may even develop into hot spots, an infected area that will be bright red and may bleed. Hot spots are more common in dogs, but not unheard of for cats.
Another symptom that your pet might be suffering from allergies is obsessive licking of paws, face and other areas. This is related to the fact that histamines, triggered by the allergies, are pushed to the extremities in dogs and cats, and so these areas become the most irritated. Licking is one way your pet is trying to relieve the irritation at these areas, along with rubbing their face with their paws or scooting their rear end along the ground.
If your pet is shedding or dealing with dandruff more than normal, this may be a sign they are dealing with allergies. The allergies make their skin dry, resulting in dandruff. Excessive shedding could be a result of your pet over-grooming as they try to relieve themselves from the irritation.
If your pet seems like they have allergies year-round, or have digestive issues like diarrhea or vomiting, it may be a food allergy rather than seasonal, so you should check with your vet if you think that is a possibility.
For specific animals and breeds, other signs of allergies may be present. For dogs with long ears, such as hounds and cocker spaniels, ear infections are common and often associated with allergies. If your dog keeps shaking its head or its ears are red and waxy, they likely have an ear infection and will need to be taken to the vet for treatment.
In cats, feline asthma can be caused by allergies. These symptoms are similar to human reactions to allergies: wheezing, difficulty breathing, coughing. Feline asthma can become dangerous very quickly and so you should see your vet if you think your cat may have it.
What You Can Do About It
None of us like seeing our pets uncomfortable or in pain! Thankfully, there are some easy at-home remedies to help relieve your pet’s allergies.
Frequent baths help relieve itchy skin, as well as wash away allergens that may be clinging to your dog’s coat and making their allergies worse. When you don’t have time for a full bath, wiping their paws when they come in from outside is an easy and quick way to prevent them from tracking allergens throughout the house, which may help any owners with allergies also. Vacuuming and dusting regularly will also help to remove allergy-inducing particles.
To help soothe irritated skin, there are several options available. Try cleaning your pet’s skin with witch hazel, which is soothing and drying, moisturizing dry areas with coconut oil, or applying cool green or black tea bags to the skin. There are also some great, all natural products from EarthBath and kin+kind that offer relief.
In some cases, going to the vet may be necessary. If hot spots appear or the skin looks like it might be infected, causing a bad odor or lethargy in the pet, or if irritation doesn’t clear up in 48 hours, you should take your pet to the vet to seek treatment.
In the case of severe, chronic allergies, your vet may decide to test your pet for specific allergies and potentially develop an allergy shot that can help relieve the worst of their symptoms.
We all want our pets to be able to enjoy the outdoors just as much as we do, and being able to identify and treat seasonal allergies will help ensure they’re able to!