Spring time is when many of us load up on Benadryl in preparation for allergy season. It’s a little harder for dogs and cats with environmental allergies to avoid the elements. Fortunately, there are some cool tips to help keep hot spots and other problems at bay during the allergy season. Itchy pets are hard to ignore because every five minutes they’re chewing and licking. Cats with true allergies will typically show signs of hair loss and have scabs or open sores. Discharge in a cat’s ears or excessive scratching also are common symptoms.
Here are some things to do to help your furry friends this allergy season:
Area Pollen Count
Allergy season for dogs and cats can mirror that of humans, so bookmark the pollen forecast in your area and monitor your pets for symptoms.
Wiping your dogs’ paws with a cool towel to remove pollen residue or scheduling a weekly cool water bath after their outside adventures will help all the animals (and humans) in your house. Also avoid tracking pollen into the house by removing your shoes at the door.
Don’t Ignore Home
The most common environmental allergens are dust mites and house dust, do what you can to reduce the amount of dust in your home by vacuuming carpets well. Focus on your pet’s favorite spots in the house such as under beds and near windows.
Don’t forget to clean window treatments regularly. Removing bedding and washing it on a regular basis using a gentle detergent that is free of dyes or perfumes. To remove dust mites, you can find several powders that you can add to the carpet.
Consult With Your Vet on OTC Medications
Not all over-the-counter medications are safe for use on pets, many dog owners use Benadryl to help relieve some of the itching and scratching. The antihistamine typically makes the pet kind of drowsy, reducing itching because they are sleepier. There’s other options are Claritin, Zyrtec and Allegra. ***NEVER*** buy antihistamines with the “D” after name. These are sold from behind the pharmacy counter and contain a decongestant which can be toxic to your pet. Always consult your veterinarian on the correct dosage and weight restrictions for your pets!
There’s No Quick Fix
Identifying and treating the source of an allergy can be tricky, that’s why skin allergies and infections ranked second and third, respectively, last year among dog insurance claims submitted to VPI, the largest pet insurance company in the country.
An intradermal skin test (allergy test) will help your vet determine the cause of your pet’s symptoms. The test is usually conducted by a veterinary dermatologist, and involves shaving a patch on the skin and injecting various allergens such as grass, pollen or dust.
Note: Keep in mind, treatment can be costly and their immune systems can change and they can grow out of the allergy, but a lot of dogs have yearly lifetime issues.
In cats, regular steroid injections can safely and effectively relieve symptoms, but potentially serious side effects make this option the least desirable form of treatment. Another option is prescribing an oral medication called Atopica.
Maintain Monthly Flea & Tick Prevention
One flea can wreak plenty of havoc, so maintain your pet’s monthly flea and tick treatment, especially if there is a chance your animal is allergic. Topical solutions such as Advantage and Frontline are popular because you simply apply a liquid solution once a month.
Pick Different Proteins
Pets can be allergic to grains, proteins or even preservatives, and the symptoms resemble symptoms for environmental allergies. Your vet may suggest a food trial, limiting the dog to a novel protein such as duck, venison or even fish, along with a vegetable.
Treats and table food will be off limits until the vet can determine the allergy source. Over time, you can reintroduce your pet to other proteins, using the process of elimination to determine the source. Take an active approach to food issues by investing in a quality dog food that lists its protein among the first few ingredients.
Cat owners have one more option: Omega-3 fatty acid supplements can keep the normal immune barrier of the skin healthy and reduce secondary infections. Of course, cats won’t mind getting their omega-3 in the form of cold water fish such as salmon, trout and sardines either.