As new plants and flowers burst into life this spring, so too do the symptoms of hay fever. But humans aren’t the only ones who suffer. Blooming plants, grasses and flowers can trigger allergic reactions called atopy in dogs and cats.
The allergy is similar to hay fever that humans suffer. The animal reacts to inhaled particles such as mold, pollen, and dust. But instead of sneezing, pets typically have itchy skin and will persistently scratch, lick and bite to get relief. Like in human sufferers, the allergy is an inherited predisposition.
"If left untreated, dogs and cats with seasonal allergies will scratch or lick themselves constantly," says Dr. Link Welborn, AAHA past president. "In an attempt to relieve themselves, dogs and cats often create sores that become secondary infections."
If the signs of atopy occur for less than three months out of the year, oral medications (like cortisone) may be used to control itching. In more severe cases, pets are given a skin allergy test to pinpoint what allergies the animal is sensitive to. Your veterinarian can then give injections of the allergic material in minimal doses to build up immunities in your pet’s system. Other treatments for allergies include immunotherapy, antihistamines, steroids and medicated shampoos.
If you suspect that your pet may be suffering from seasonal allergies, please visit your veterinarian.