Seasonal Allergies in Dogs and CatsIt’s that time of year where we start seeing pets with allergic reactions

When most people hear the term “pet allergy,” they immediately think of humans who are allergic to pet dander. But pets can also develop allergies to many different things. 

Most domesticated animals can actually be allergic to many human foods. More common allergies are seasonal, so watch your pet closely as the weather starts to change and get warmer. Read on to learn more about seasonal allergies in dogs and cats, including symptoms and treatments. 

Flea Season and Allergies

While fleas are definitely worse of a problem in the fall, they never really go away. We might see fewer fleas in the dead of winter, but we definitely still see them. Fleas are slightly less of a problem in the winter, as outside fleas hibernate in cold weather and wake up in late spring. So in those cases, there’s a definite ebb and flow to flea activity. 

Traditional flea season starts around May every year and continues until the weather turns consistently cold. The worst of the season usually comes in late August or early September, when the flea eggs and pupas that were dormant during the winter hatch and become active. One reason fleas can still be a non-stop problem for your pet is that flea eggs can last for several months in someone’s house where it never gets very cold. Failing to provide year-round flea prevention can allow fleas (and it only takes one female flea) the opportunity to lay eggs in someone’s home, and those eggs will bloom when the time is right. 

Diagnosing a Flea Allergy

A pet that is allergic to fleas reacts to flea saliva and can have severe reactions, even if only a few fleas are present on his skin. If your fur baby is very allergic, he will become almost obsessed with licking, scratching and biting. He may even develop a bald spot near his tail from the constant irritation.

Another sign of a severe flea problem is the appearance of tiny black granules on the skin. This indicates a significant infestation, so it may not be present in all pets with a flea allergy.

Treating Seasonal Flea Allergies

If your pet’s seasonal allergies are flea-related, the treatment starts with removing fleas from them and from their environment. Your veterinarian can usually recommend topical products to use on your furry friend and in your home to control the flea population.

Pets with severe flea allergies (also known as FAD, or flea allergy dermatitis) are often treated with corticosteroids. Since long-term use of steroids can result in other problems, be sure to discuss options with your veterinarian to develop the best treatment plan with minimal side effects.

Allergic Inhaled Dermatitis

Another common type of seasonal allergy in pets is atopy, also called allergic inhaled dermatitis. With this type of allergy, your pet inhales something he’s allergic to and, instead of developing respiratory symptoms as humans do, develops a skin irritation. While we do see an uptick in spring and fall, inhaled allergens are a year-round problem in central N.C. where we never get relief from pollens, etc., and also because such allergens include dust mites and mold spores that thrive in winter

Diagnosing Allergic Inhaled Dermatitis

In many cases, diagnosing this type of seasonal allergy is tougher than diagnosing a seasonal flea allergy because there are so many possible triggers. Pets can be allergic to any one of thousands of allergens, including mold, pollens or dust mites. Determining the cause of the reaction sometimes requires blood tests or intradermal testing. Even then, if we don’t test for the right allergens, we might not get a positive result.

Treating Allergic Inhaled Dermatitis

In a perfect world, people and pets would be kept away from the substances that trigger their allergies. That’s rarely possible when it comes to seasonal allergies. Unlike with food allergies, where the best solution is steering clear of the trigger, many allergens are airborne and impossible to avoid.

This means treatments for allergic inhaled dermatitis tend to focus on managing the symptoms more than eliminating the cause. The number one treatments we turn to these days are non-steroidal prescription medications such as Apoquel (oral) or Cytopoint (injectable).  These medications provide allergy relief for pets with fewer potential side-effects than corticosteroids. Other treatment options for your dog or cat can include:

  • Immunotherapy or allergy injections
  • Corticosteroids
  • Relief aids for the symptoms and side effects of allergies (some pets may develop secondary infections where they have been scratching or biting)

Whichever type of allergy your pet suffers from, it’s important to speak to your veterinarian quickly to diagnose and address the issue. Seasonal allergies can develop into dangerous conditions if left untreated, and even if your pet doesn’t experience a life-threatening reaction, allergies can still be a miserable experience for you both.

*Updated from original publish date of 4/23/2016