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Fall Allergy Season Is Upon Us Again!

The autumn season means lots of fun outdoor activities to do with your pet. But fall also means that many allergy sufferers spend their days suffering the seasonal symptoms of sneezing and congestion. While pet parents may be trying to deal with their own symptoms, many don’t realize that their pets may be in distress from allergies as well. When a pet is sensitive to allergens that can be inhaled, ingested or contact the pet’s skin, a variety of issues can occur, including skin, digestive and respiratory symptoms.

Any dog breed can show symptoms of allergies, but Terriers, Setters, Retrievers, and flat-faced breeds such as Pugs, Bulldogs, and Boston terriers are more susceptible. Cats can have allergies as well, and those who spend more time outdoors may be more prone to flea and pollen allergies. The most common indoor/outdoor fall allergens that can cause an allergic reaction in the pet include weed pollens such as ragweed; mold spores which thrive in the wet, fallen leaves; mildew; and dust mites.

Likewise, cats and dogs can also show the same symptoms from allergies including red, moist or scabbed skin; increased scratching; itchy back or base of tail; itchy ears; sneezing; vomiting; diarrhea; paw chewing; swollen paws; and constant licking.

If a pet parent notices any of these symptoms, a visit to the vet is recommended. Once they take a look at the pet’s history and conduct a physical exam, a vet may be able to find the specific allergen that is bothering the pet. If not, skin or blood tests and a special elimination diet (if the allergen is thought to be food related) will be the next step to eliminate other possibilities. If the pet parent still notices the pet showing symptoms after the vet visit, a veterinary dermatologist will then give the pet an allergy test. A pet allergy test is similar to an allergy test given to people; it’s an intradermal test, in which a small amount of an allergen is injected under the skin. The test site is “read” 15-20 minutes later, with a positive reaction being a red, itchy raised bump.

Once the source of the allergy has been found, the pet parent and the vet can then focus on the best ways and medications to control the pet’s symptoms. If dust is one of the main allergens to the pet, vacuuming rugs, curtains and other materials twice a week will significantly reduce the amount of dust around the home. (Be sure to keep your pet away from the area being vacuumed during and at least a half-hour after the vacuuming, since some dust ends up being blown into the air during the vacuuming process.) Keeping the pet’s bed clean by washing it weekly will also cut back on dust. Also, if the vet recommends giving the pet a weekly bath with a prescription shampoo, the shampoo should provide some itching and allergy relief. Making sure to use the proper vet-recommended shampoo is important, since using the wrong product can dry out the pet’s skin and potentially make the symptoms worse, or cause new ones.

Taking these steps will help the pet to be more comfortable during the fall allergy season; however, sometimes it’s not enough if the allergens cannot be removed. In this case, the vet may prescribe a medicine for airborne allergies, such as an allergy injection. The injection is meant to give the pet the advantage of developing a resistance, instead of just a temporary fix. Also, antihistamines like Benadryl or Zyrtec can be given to the pet, as well as fatty acid supplements that can help the pet’s itchy skin. It is very important to check with your vet on the proper amount of any over-the-counter medicine to give. If the pet’s allergy problem is severe, and other treatments have been unsuccessful, a vet may prescribe cortisone, either by injection or oral administration, on a very specific schedule.  

By providing the appropriate allergy relief to pets during the fall allergy season, both pet parents and pets can enjoy jumping in leaf piles, going to the pumpkin patch, and other fall activities, rather than staying indoors and missing out on enjoying the many activities the season offers.