Nova Scotia vets expect influx of pets with seasonal allergies

The late start to spring means trees will burst with pollen when things warm up — but people aren't the only ones who will be dealing with itchy skin and watery eyes.

Extra pollen due to late spring will irritate dogs and cats just like humans, vets say

Cats with seasonal allergies can lick their fur excessively, leaving bald spots. (Teghan Beaudette/CBC)

Nova Scotia pet owners are being warned that people aren't the only ones who will be dealing with itchy skin and watery eyes when trees burst with pollen.

"We see a lot of dogs and a few cats that suffer from seasonal allergies," said veterinarian Frank Woodbury. "The allergens that cause problems with humans are the same ones that cause problems with pets."

Blair Saltel, a naval officer, didn't know what was wrong with his dog Juno when she started scratching herself constantly.

"When the seasons change or during periods of lots of humidity, she tends to get pretty irritated and itch herself a lot," he said. "We did look into it with a vet, we did a lot of research."

After visits to the vet, changing her diet and a lot of trial and error, Saltel and his wife discovered Juno was allergic to dust.

"Once all that stuff got weighed off, it turned out it was probably just dust," he said.

Now, they're careful to keep Juno's home clean and she spends even more time outside than she used to.

"After putting a lot of time in on the weekends and stuff it did make a noticeable difference," said Saltel.

How to tell if your pet has seasonal allergies

"We're mostly dealing with itchy ears and dogs that either scratch at themselves or chew at themselves," said Woodbury. "Dogs … are outdoors a lot, so they tend to have seasonal problems."

Cats can have it just as bad though, he said.

"On the cat side, it's excessive grooming. We see cats that will lick to the point where they lick out all their fur," he said, adding cats can also lick out their fur for other reasons as well.

Treatments range from something as simple as omega-3 supplements to special baths.

"Some veterinarians recommend T-shirts for dogs. The T-shirts prevent the pollens from getting on the skin and it really cuts down on the itch," said Woodbury.

"Other veterinarians will recommend that if you go for a walk with your dog, rinse your dog off with the garden hose and get those pollens off the skin before the dog comes in."

If your dog's skin is really bad, a cortisone-type drug can help, he said.

Woodbury said the first thing to do is visit a vet. They can rule out fungi, fleas or other problems and administer a blood test that will tell them exactly what the dog is allergic to.

"Once we know that, we can formulate a desensitization serum and the owners can also be taught to give injections to their pets over time to keep the itch threshold down," he said.