When most people think of the term “pet allergy,” they immediately think of humans who are allergic to pet dander. But pets can also develop allergies – to common and not-so-common substances.
We’ve written about the causes, symptoms and treatments of seasonal allergies in dogs and cats before, so now, we’ll explore in detail the two major causes of seasonal allergies in our furbabies.
Flea Season and Allergies
Many pet owners don’t realize flea allergies are a seasonal allergy. However, since fleas hibernate in cold weather and wake up in late spring, there’s a definite ebb and flow to flea activity. 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.
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 furkid is 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 furbaby’s seasonal allergies are flea-related, the treatment starts with removing fleas from her and from her 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 a 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.
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 possible 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, however, when it comes to seasonal allergies. Unlike with food allergies, where the best solution is steering clear of the trigger, many seasonal allergens are airborne and impossible to avoid.
That means treatments for allergic inhaled dermatitis tend to focus on managing the symptoms more than eliminating the cause. Treatment options for your furbaby can include:
- Immunotherapy or allergy injections
- 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 seasonal 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.