Cat and Dog Allergies

Many of us know the misery of seasonal allergies—the sneezing, the watery eyes, all thanks to the pollen, mold and dust particular to warmer weather. But did you know that your pets can also suffer from seasonal allergies? It’s true, and they can be allergic to many of the same things that we are (ragweed, grass, trees, flowers, molds). Allergies to inhaled substances or those that come in contact with the skin (like pollens from grasses, flowers, etc.) are the most common dog allergies and somewhat less common in cats. These allergies are known as atopy. Other kinds of allergies your pets can have include flea allergies (flea dermatitis), food allergies, and contact allergies (to things like chemicals or carpet fibers).

Nala has allergies.Atopy for dogs and cats isn’t the same as the allergic reactions we’re used to in humans. In fact, seasonal dog allergies (and cats) most commonly manifest as itchy feet, skin and ears. The watery eyes and sneezing we usually experience is, actually, rare in dogs and cats. That doesn’t mean that it’s rare for them to have allergies, though. Allergies in pets today are increasingly common. Other typical symptoms dogs exhibit from seasonal allergies include reddish discoloration on paws or skin, “hot spots” that the pet licks and bites, skin rashes or pimples and, sometimes, coughing and wheezing. These reactions can get worse as the pet gets older, and they can escalate over time from seasonal allergies to year-round ones. Because of this escalation, it’s important to start treating your pet’s allergies early! There are some highly effective treatments, so be sure to talk to your vet if your pet is having these issues.

Of course, spring and summer weather also means fleas, and for some pets, that means more discomfort from flea dermatitis. This allergy, which is much more extreme than the normal itchiness that results from a flea bite, is the most common one found in cats, but dogs can also suffer from it. Pets with flea dermatitis experience extreme itchiness and irritation from even a single flea bite. Because of the extreme reaction, they often lose patches of hair and have sores around their rumps, heads, and necks where they have the most bites. The only way to combat this allergy is to strictly control the fleas in your pet’s environment and use flea preventatives to keep them off your pets.

In addition to allergies, some pets have asthma. Like us, our dogs and cats can develop asthma, though it’s much more common in cats than dogs. Just like us, too, their asthma can be triggered by environmental allergies (like tree pollen, mold, etc) and irritants (including pollutants, from cigarette smoke to air pollution, car exhaust, hairspray, or even cat litter dust). The most common symptom of asthma in your pets is coughing and wheezing. For cats, many owners mistake the asthma coughing fits for attempts to cough up hairballs! The coughing fits can be intermittent in mild cases, though in severely affected pets, they can happen daily. There are, of course, lots of causes for coughing in your pets (some more serious than others), so it’s always best to talk to your vet. For those pets with asthma, there are a number of effective treatments that let them live happy, normal lives. If you do suspect that your pet has allergies or asthma, don’t hesitate to come see us. Getting your cat and dog allergies diagnosed and treated quickly means you can both go back to enjoying your spring and summer vacations!

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