Spring Allergies Affect Our Pets!

By Dr. Doug Pernikoff, DVM

Every year about this time, pet owners approach me and ask whether pets do indeed suffer spring time allergies, much as we humans do. And, my answer is an emphatic, YES!!! The pollens released from grasses, flowers and trees can impact your dogs and cats.

I often explain that allergies, or the allergic condition, referred to as ‘atopy’, is a body’s immune system reacting to chemicals in our environment, often protein or proteins mixed with lipids or fat related cells. More commonly, they are referred to as ‘allergens’.

Pets can be exposed to allergens by direct physical contact to the skin surface, as might occur when your dog lies in grasses; by ingestion of certain food components; by injection as occurs with a bee or wasp stings; by insect bites like fleas or ticks; by inhalation into the lungs, and more.

The signs of atopy in animals are often expressed by draining, weepy eyes, by smelly ear infections, or, as skin problems like hot spots, and chewing at the coat or feet.
Diagnosing specific causes of atopy or allergy in your pet may not be a simple process. Sometimes the physical distribution of lesions may offer suggestion to cause. As mentioned above, should Fido develop very regionalized irritation to his/her tummy, one would strongly consider a grass allergy contact dermatitis. More generalized symptoms, as referred to herein, would make one think of something inhaled or ingested. Food allergies would be more persistent year round, however. Your veterinarian may suggest very specialized allergy testing through a blood test. In this manner, one can identify a whole list of potential allergens that are impacting, or could impact your pet. Food trials are often employed to rule out that group of possible allergens.

Managing and treating allergies can be a real challenge. Preventatively, the simple process of wiping down your pets coat and paws after being outside this time of year, may cut down the incident of contact borne allergies. In more serious conditions, pet owners may consider incorporating portable hepa filters in the home, that work to remove aerosolized allergens from your pet’s environment. Your veterinarian often reaches first to treat a specific condition brought on by allergies, like yeast or bacterial ear infections, or staphylococcus dermatitis. Along with this very directed approach, there are a number of antihistamine products which may significantly help your pet combat his/her allergy issues. Food additives, like Omega 3 supplements, can prove very useful in improving skin condition as well. Allergy testing mentioned here might guide your vet to suggesting a prolonged series of specific allergy shots in order to familiarize the body’s immune response to these chemicals, so the response to exposure is not so dramatic. Further, there are various protocols that incorporate pharmaceuticals like steroids that will retard the body’s immune response, and can be very effective when used correctly. Over use of certain drugs can prove harmful to your pet, so please be cautious to medicate ONLY under the direct supervision of your veterinarian.

Yes, spring time can be a challenge for our pets as they become exposed to so many seasonal influences. The key is good preventative management and a quick response to symptoms. Get to your vet early in the game before any allergic condition sets in and you find yourself playing catch up in order to keep your beloved pet comfortable and symptom free through the spring time onslaught of environmental allergens.
Enjoy the season with all the beauty that comes with it.

Have a great and enjoyable spring season!

Fondly, Dr. Doug
Douglas S. Pernikoff, DVM
32 Clarkson-Wilson Center
Chesterfield, Missouri 63017