You can feel it in the air — Fall has arrived in Richmond, VA! Leaves are starting to change colors and soon we’ll be raking. Flowers are starting to go to seed and fall off the stems. Ragweed is showing up in many areas.
And at night, as you try to sleep, you are treated to the sounds of scratching, licking, chewing and coughing of your pet who is suffering from seasonal allergies! Yes, dogs and cats develop allergies much like we do.
Richmond, VA = the Allergy Capital of the US
There are probably more allergists than lawyers here in the River City! Pet allergy symptoms are similar to humans — coughing, scratching, patchy skin, hair loss, runny eyes and nose, ear scratching, skin rash and many others. And our pets can suffer just as miserably as we do.
If you have started noticing any of the seasonal allergy symptoms mentioned above and they have appeared rather suddenly, it is time to take your pet to the vet.
My Lhasa, Herbie, had terrible allergies years ago. He would scratch and chew to the point that he had open sores and his hair was falling out. He was miserable and we were miserable trying to help him. The vet gave him steroid shots to ease the inflammation. As time went on, the allergic skin reaction seemed to last longer and longer and the need for more steroids increased.
Many dogs and cats suffer from seasonal allergies. Excessive licking, biting, chewing and scratching are symptoms you want to nip in the bud before they lead to more serious problems, irritations and infections.
Unfortunately, as a result of all the steroids, Herbie developed liver problems. That resulted in a referral to a doggy allergist who recommended allergy shots as the new course of treatment. We agreed to try it and the therapy made a world of difference to Herbie. No more chewing, scratching and loss of hair!
He had allergy testing much as people do and it turned out he was allergic to everything in the outside environment PLUS cats! I had 3 cats at the time, but once he was on the allergy shot regimine, he was fine. He was about 8 years old when put on shots treatment and lived to almost 18 years old.
Last week, I had to take three of my current pet family to the vet for cough, feet licking, and scooting of rear end. I thought the scooting might be due to anal gland problem — but no, it is allergy-related and causes inflammation in the rectal area where they sit on the ground. Goody-Goody. Now we get to apply anti-itch cream to that particular area, which is not easy with long-haired dogs with black hair. Hard to find the target! They are also getting Benadryl to help with the itching.
How to tackle the allergy problem if your pet is suffering
First of all, take your pet to your vet for a preliminary evaluation. Cats experience allergies too. It may not be an environmental allergy, but a food allergy instead. If caused by the environment — molds, grass, tree and weed pollen, fleas, cleaning supplies, etc. — then try to keep your pet inside as much as possible. If outside, when brought in, wipe feet and coat with moist cloth to remove as many allergens as possible.
Your vet may recommend an antihistamine medication — either a prescription or OTC drug for your pets. Many can make your pet slightly drowsy which, in some ways, is a good thing since it also calms them down and reduces the scratching.
You may also get instructions and a prescription for a cream or ointment to treat any open sores. Your vet also may propose a short-term treatment with steroids. If your pet has environmental allergies (ie. contact dermatitis or inhalation allergies) but does not respond to traditional treatment, then you will want to consider allergy testing to see if your pet can be helped with immune therapy (a.k.a. allergy shots).
Vet Depot has posted a good article explaining more about seasonal allergies in pets along with this infographic.
Don’t ignore symptoms of allergies in your dogs and cats. They can be treated and you will have a healthier, happier pet as a result!
And everyone in the family will sleep better at night!
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.