While spring and early summer may bring a welcome break from the shorter days of winter, the rise in the pollen count can cause many humans to suffer from hay fever and other seasonal ailments. However, what is less well known is that pets can suffer just as badly. A survey in 2012 showed almost half (44%) of pet owners didn’t realise their pets can suffer from allergies. 43% admitted they wouldn’t know how to tell if their pet was suffering from an allergy.
MedicAnimal, the UK’s leading pet healthcare retailer, has put together a list of things to watch out for and things you can do to help your pet get through their ailments. Andrew Bucher, co-founder and Chief Veterinary Officer at MedicAnimal, commented, “While some of us suffer more than others when it comes to seasonal allergies such as hay fever, it’s important to know that pets can have reactions too, often worse than humans. What may cause a sneeze or a cough to us, may lead to painful rashes or swollen paws. We all need to look out for changes to our pet’s behaviour and appearance.”
What to look out for:
· Like in humans, hay fever can cause cats and dogs to suffer from respiratory issues such as sneezing, wheezing and coughing. However, even if these may be present, it is far more likely your pet will be showing signs of allergic dermatitis such as very itchy skin, and swollen paws and/or inflamed ears. Pets may bite/chew certain parts of the body, or the dermatitis may be present in a more generalised manner across their body.
· Pets may rub their faces or bodies against furniture or carpet in order to try to relieve their itchiness. If left untreated, the skin will become inflamed, reddened and tender. You may even spot areas that have hair loss or open sores.
· Dogs, especially mid/long-haired, may develop hot spots. They are usually red and pretty angry looking, can appear wet and sticky in appearance and are a result of overgrowth of normal bacteria.
· Pets with allergies can also show problems with their ears, especially dogs. The ear canals may become inflamed and itchy and may appear in isolation or in combination with a generalised allergic response. Common signs to look out for include scratching of the ears, head shaking, and hair loss. In severe cases, look out for discharge.
Steps to relieve allergies:
· First see your vet! They will be best placed to decide on the initial approach to take with your itchy pet, and whether the allergy is seasonal or food related.
· Frequent baths to wash away the allergens on the coat and skin and try to use grain free shampoos. Foot soaks before your pet enters the house will reduce the level of allergens taken into your home and can have a remarkably positive effect.
· You could also purchase an air purifier which removes allergens in the home, or try covering your pet’s bedding with dust mite (a very common allergen) covers.
· Most allergies develop early, usually within the first 6-12 months of a pet’s life. It is therefore imperative that you address this early as the situation can escalate from one year to the next if left untreated.
· The most important thing to do is to work out the cause of the allergen, whether it be a food intolerance (normally needs 6-12 weeks on an allergen free diet) or a seasonal allergy. The use of steroids (which numb down the immune response but do nothing for identifying the cause) might not be the first choice as it masks the signs initially as they can mask the signs of an allergic response and you will need to wait at least 4-6 weeks for the steroid to ‘wash out’ of the body before allergy testing can begin. Your vet will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment.