Allergy season to be a bad one for your pets, say vets

Some veterinarians are warning of a particular irritating allergy season — for pets.

Dogs, cats most affected by environmental allergies, like pollen

Vets say this spring will be a bad allergy season for pets. 2:36

Some veterinarians are warning of a particular irritating allergy season — for pets.

Because of the long, frigid winter, the pollen season will be short but there will be a larger amount of pollen in the air all at once.

"We just had our cherry trees, pear trees, the maple trees are all out and the grass is now coming to seed and it's probably pollinating the grass. So it's probably going to be a bad year," said veterinarian James Sweetman of Downtown Veterinarian Hospital in Windsor.

Some allergists are calling this spring a potential "pollen vortex" for humans.

But vets say dogs experience the same symptoms, and they may itch in other areas of the body, too.

"So, our poor dogs may have a harder time with allergy season than we do," says a post on the South Windsor Animal Hospital website in Windsor, Ont.

Humans release histamines predominantly in and around the respiratory tract, causing itchy eyes, a runny nose and a scratchy throat.

Dogs, on the other hand, release histamine in a more general way so they tend to itch all over their bodies.

If your dog does any of the following things, he or she may have an inhalant allergy:

  • Licks or chews at feet.
  • Rubs face with paws or rubs face on the ground, carpet, etc.
  • Has patches of hair loss or infected skin.
  • Scratches back or belly.
  • Scratches at ears or has recurrent ear infections.

Pollen can go up a dog's nose, but in the case of Jessie, a 10-year-old border collie, it went through her skin, which makes it very itchy.

"A dog would actually chew its skin if it gets bad enough, so you get these large hot spots and they'll get huge and turn beet red and then the serum will come out," Sweetman said. "Then you have to give them a bath right away to get rid of the serum to stop the allergic reaction and get them on an antibiotic."

Sweetman said the allergies should be treated right away to prevent ear and skin infections.

If a rash gets bad enough, the fur will have to be shaved off and the rash treated. (Joana Draghici/CBC News)

"You just want to keep them off grassy areas. Some dogs get really bad so you can't even walk them on the grass you have to walk them on the cement until the season is over," he said.

Janice Huntingford is the owner of the Essex Animal Clinic, just outside Windsor.

She's seen an increase in allergic pets this spring.

Huntingford suggests people wash pollen off their pet's feet by using black tea rinses.

She said allergies are more common in dogs, but cats and horses also suffer from allergies. Livestock are more resilient and affected less.

Huntingford said pets can also suffer from food allergies, so owners should pay attention when the symptoms occur.

"If the symptoms are seasonal, we think they’re pollen and environmental. If they’re not seasonal, that points us toward food," she said.


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