Spring has sprung! The signs are all around—birds building nests, new plants springing forth, and bees buzzing from flower to flower. But, blooming flowers, trees, and grasses bring more than sweet fragrance to your yard—they also release pollen that can trigger environmental allergies in you and your pet.
When an allergic pet is exposed to a trigger such as pollen, their immune system responds with abnormal vigor and causes a series of cellular reactions that result in histamine release. Histamine is an inflammatory chemical that is ultimately responsible for the various signs, from itching, to ear infections, that you may see in your allergic pet, and that should prompt you to seek our Somerset Animal Hospital team’s veterinary help. The following five signs are a good indication your pet may have allergies.
#1: Your pet is itchy
People who have allergies often experience a runny nose, sneezing, and itchy eyes at this time of year. You may expect a pet with allergies to react the same way, but allergic pets typically suffer with skin issues rather than respiratory problems, with itchiness (i.e., pruritus) the most common allergy sign. Your allergic pet may be mildly itchy with only occasional scratching, or severely itchy to the point that they scratch, bite, and lick their skin much of the day. Pets with severe allergies can focus on little else, and their quality of life may be significantly impacted.
Although many pets experience springtime allergies, non-seasonal allergies also occur. Allergens such as mold and microscopic house mites may be present in your home year-round, and can be a constant irritation source. To make matters more complicated, most allergic pets are sensitive to multiple allergens, and a combination of seasonal and non-seasonal substances can cause year-round issues, with a possible worsening in the spring.
#2: Your pet is losing their fur
The same inflammation that makes your pet’s skin itch can also affect their hair follicles, causing hair loss (i.e., alopecia). Allergy-induced pruritus and scratching can cause additional inflammation, and further hair loss, so if your pet’s coat is becoming thin, or bald spots are appearing, allergies may be to blame.
Fleas are another common allergy culprit that can cause hair loss. Although flea bites cause all pets discomfort, pets with flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) can suffer a much more severe reaction from only a few bites. An allergen in flea saliva can lead to intense itching and hair loss, with alopecia most commonly over the tailbase and hind end.
#3: Your pet has chronic ear infections
Allergies sometimes cause more localized inflammation that affects the skin inside a pet’s ears, leading to chronic ear infections that cause your pet’s ear canal to become red and sore, sometimes with a yellow or brown, smelly discharge. Pets with ear infections are constantly uncomfortable, and may rub or scratch their ears, or shake their head. Chronic ear issues can be challenging to treat, especially if the underlying cause is not identified and managed.
#4: Your pet licks their feet
SInce your pet’s feet contact the ground, they are directly exposed to allergy-inducing grass, and pollen that settles from plants and trees. Exposure can cause the skin on your pet’s feet to become red and itchy, and your pet may lick or bite them for relief. “Saliva staining,” which causes saliva on a pet’s fur to turn brown, is a clue that your pet has been licking their feet.
#5: Your pet has a skin rash
Skin inflammation caused by allergies, paired with trauma from scratching, can set your pet up for secondary bacterial or yeast skin infections. When the skin’s natural barriers are weakened by inflammation or trauma, normal flora, such as Staphylococcus bacterial species, can seize the opportunity to overgrow and cause problems. Pets with a superficial skin infection may develop red bumps on their belly or abdomen. Unfortunately, skin infections also cause itching, which can lead to further skin trauma, and your pet may be pulled into a vicious cycle of worsening symptoms.
If you think your pet may have environmental allergies, schedule an appointment with our Somerset Animal Hospital team. A tentative diagnosis can often be made from your pet’s history and clinical signs, and pets with mild to moderate allergies can be prescribed medications to help manage their signs during peak allergy season. For more severe cases, a pet requires allergy testing to determine their particular sensitivity, and immunotherapy, in the form of allergy injections or oral medication, to reduce the pet’s immune reaction.
Our team is here to help your pet through whatever the seasons bring—give us a call.