Fall Allergies and Your Pets
By Patricia Thomblison, DVM, MS
Many people know the moment the ragweed or other plants bloom and release pollen because they instantly get congested, start sneezing or have red and watery eyes. You may know someone or be the one that feels miserable during this time of year. Dogs and cats can have seasonal allergies too. Not only are our pets inhaling these allergens, but they are also landing on their skin and fur. While they may share some signs (sneezing, red eyes) pets usually have clinical signs that relate to the skin. They may be scratching their ears or skin or chewing on their feet and looking like they feel miserable. Finding the actual allergen is difficult and sometimes impossible because a pet can be allergic to multiple things. The allergens your pet encounters can have a cumulative effect so if your pet is also sensitive to other allergens such as fleas, dust mites, or molds, the seasonal allergens may exacerbate the condition and cause clinical signs to become overwhelming. Not only do you want to make your pet feel better, but a consequence of all that scratching may lead to secondary bacterial or yeast infections.
WHY IT’S IMPORTANT TO MANAGE ALLERGIC REACTIONS
One of the reasons it’s important to keep minor skin irritation under control is other problems can develop and worsen over time, such as the formation of hot spots. The constant scratching or chewing on a spot on the skin, paws or tail creates the perfect environment for the development of acute dermatitis that is usually red, moist, smelly, and sore and can become a bloody mess. Controlling the itch before it gets out of hand is important.
PETS WITH ALLERGIES CAN BE PRONE TO EAR INFECTIONS
If the itching weren’t enough to make your sweet pet uncomfortable, add to it the fact that many pets with skin allergies are also prone to ear infections. It is believed that allergies can lead to inflammation and increased wax production which then creates a moist environment for bacteria and yeast to grow. Many ear infections can be prevented though by keeping the ears clean.
HOW TO HELP A PET WITH ALLERGIES
There are many tools that can be used to manage allergies and your veterinarian can guide you through all the options. Frequently more than one therapy may be recommended.
Itching: If your pet is itching, scratching, or chewing, the first step is to calm the skin. Bathing with a veterinarian recommended shampoo such as ZYMOX® Enzymatic Shampoo can be very helpful in removing environmental irritants and helping your pet feel comfortable. ZYMOX is formulated with the patented LP3 Enzyme System plus skin-hydrating vitamin D3 to gently cleanse, soothe and relieve irritated, inflamed skin. After cleansing your pet may benefit from the ZYMOX Leave-On Conditioner that can also be applied as a lotion between bathes. The Conditioner works to support optimal skin health and provides a powerful, protective barrier against minor skin inflammation and surface irritations due to allergies, or bacterial or fungal microbes.
For those pets who develop hot spots, the ZYMOX brand of products also includes a Topical Cream and Spray. These products help to reduce the itch and inflammation with the addition of hydrocortisone and work to manage infections due to bacteria and yeast without the use of antibiotics or concern for your pet developing antibiotic resistance.
Ear Infections: Keeping the ears clean and dry is a critical first step. The ZYMOX Ear Cleanser contains gentle cleaning surfactants plus the patented LP3 Enzyme System to prevent the overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. Sometimes you can do all the right things and your pet may still develop an ear infection. When that happens the ZYMOX line also includes solutions to resolve ear infections and they do not require you to pre-clean the ear prior to application. That’s a real bonus for the pet because that means less touching of painful ears.
While there is no cure for allergies, you can help your pet find relief. Your veterinarian may also recommend pharmaceutical intervention. Some products are available over the counter but it’s important to check with your veterinarian about dosing information as the dose is different in people and animals. There are also several prescription products that can be recommended for allergic reactions in pets. In some cases, desensitization therapy with injections may help a pet’s system build up immunity to the fall allergens.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Patricia Thomblison is a graduate of Oklahoma State University where she earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Master of Science. She has devoted her career to keeping pets healthy and happy. She has served many roles in this endeavor to educate veterinary professionals and pet parents on many topics of animal health. She has worn several hats in the areas of clinical pathology, nutrition, and parasitology. She is a well-respected medical editor, veterinary consultant, and lecturer. She enjoys the company of her two cats, Miles Davis and Stewart, as well as a rambunctious dog named Barnibus and her children’s dogs.