Signs of Fall Allergies in Dogs & Cats & What to Do Next

A dog playing amongst autumn leaves and potentially inhaling environmental allergens that trigger dog fall allergies

As autumn descends upon us, leaves change color, the air is crisp, and, surprisingly, some of our four-legged companions may start to scratch and sneeze more than usual.

During the fall season, many pet owners observe their dogs and cats displaying symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and persistent itchiness in their skin. This leads to the question: is dog or cat fall allergies possible? The answer is a resounding YES; environmental allergies are common in our four-legged companions, — just as it is for humans!

Within this comprehensive guide, you'll know the telltale signs that your beloved pet may be struggling with cat or dog fall allergies, along with effective strategies to alleviate their discomfort.

What’s in this Guide? 

Common Fall Allergens for Dogs & Cats

When we think of seasonal allergies in dogs and cats, springtime pollen often comes to mind. However, certain types of plants can release large amounts of pollen during the fall.

In addition, the fall season also creates ideal conditions for mold to thrive. Lastly, another common cause of fall allergies in dogs and cats is dust mites, a year-round potential allergen that can be released in households en masse as dormant heaters are switched on. 

Note: None of these environmental allergens are exclusive to the autumn season. In fact, pollen, mold, and dust mites are also prevalent allergens during the springtime. However, there are nuances as to how these allergens become prevalent during the fall and become the causes of fall allergies in dogs and cats. 

Pollen During Fall

Pollen is a fine powder produced by plants and dispersed by the wind, insects, animals, and even people's clothing. As covered in our Spring Allergies in Pets Guide, grass and tree pollen are dominant during spring, and they can cause seasonal allergies in dogs and cats. 

But what about autumn? During autumn, weed pollen can cause or aggravate cat or dog fall allergies. There are two notable weeds that produce pollen during autumn: ragweed and pigweed. 

In many parts of the United States, a large portion of the autumn season is ragweed season, which begins in early August, peaks in September, and continues until October.  Pigweed is another type of weed that is especially prevalent during the autumn season. Ragweed and pigweed commence their seasons at the same time, but pigweed typically continues releasing pollen until November.

Note: Other weeds such as sagebrush, pigweed, and Russian thistle may also release pollen during the fall — although generally NOT as prevalently as ragweed and pigweed.

Mold Spores During Fall

Mold spores, the microscopic reproductive cells produced by mold, can also play a role in causing dog or cat fall allergies. Much like pollen, mold spores can be carried by the wind or hitch rides on animals and clothing. 

Certain aspects of autumn make mold allergies in pets more likely. Firstly, mold spores can be carried by even the slightest breeze, meaning breezy autumn weather can carry mold spores far and wide. In addition, the decaying plant matter during autumn (e.g. dead leaves, wood on Christmas trees and other decor) — creates the perfect environment for the proliferation and spread of mold. 

Dust Mites During Fall

Dust mites are hardy microscopic organisms that feed on dead skin cells and pet dander. They are a potential year-round allergen for both humans and pets. Moreover, dust mites don’t necessarily have to be alive to cause allergies; their bodies and their feces cause allergic reactions.  

Dust mites are also included in our list of allergens that can cause cat or dog fall allergies because of certain seasonal factors. During fall, dormant heaters may be turned on for the first time in a while, potentially releasing large amounts of trapped dust mites or dust mite debris into the home. 

In addition, both people and pets may prefer to spend more time indoors during this year, which can also contribute to more dead skin cells and dander in the home — the things which dust mites feed on. Lastly, holiday cleaning may also disturb dust mite debris from corners or carpets, triggering cat or dog fall allergies. 

Signs Your Pet Has Dog or Cat Fall Allergies

Pets can display respiratory or skin symptoms associated with environmental fall allergies Symptoms of dog or cat fall allergies include the following:

  • Experiencing excessive shedding
  • Displaying dandruff and dry skin
  • Exhibiting redness, inflammation, or skin infections
  • Demonstrating behaviors like biting their coat or skin
  • Engaging in compulsive paw licking (common in dogs)
  • Engaging in boot scooting or anal gland licking
  • Having red and waxy ears (common in dogs)
  • Suffering from recurring ear infections
  • Observing nasal and/or eye discharge (typically clear for allergy-related cases; colored discharge may indicate an infection)
  • Showing symptoms such as wheezing,  coughing, or breathing difficulties (common in cats)

Diagnosing Cat or Dog Fall Allergies

Although we've covered an extensive list of symptoms that could indicate cat or dog fall allergies, it's important to note that diagnosing a pet's condition based solely on symptoms can be misleading. 

Note: The only dependable method for diagnosing or ruling out dog or cat fall allergies is through a RAST test (radioallergosorbent test) conducted by a veterinarian

Cat or Dog Fall Allergies: Environmental vs. Food

Fall allergies in dogs and cats are often triggered by environmental factors like pollen, mold spores, and dust mites. However, food allergies in pets can also be the root cause of allergic symptoms. 

Dogs and cats can be allergic, even to food that we perceive as ‘usual’ food for them — in fact, some dogs and cats are allergic to chicken, turkey, beef, and so on. Upon ingesting food that a pet is allergic to, most allergy symptoms will be skin-related, but some pets may also sneeze or cough.

Seasonal Fall Allergies vs. Other Health Issues in Pets

In addition, it is very important to distinguish between environmental fall allergies in dogs and cats and other respiratory or skin issues that may produce the same symptoms. 

For example, some fungal skin infections in pets can be mistaken for allergies. In addition, a wide variety of respiratory issues, including kennel cough (which is common during fall), can produce symptoms like sneezing, coughing, and nasal discharge.

What to Do About Cat & Dog Fall Allergies

Once a veterinarian has diagnosed that a pet is suffering from dog or cat fall allergies, pet parents may receive recommendations, which may include: 

1. Using Antihistamine

Veterinarians may prescribe antihistamines to alleviate allergic symptoms. Antihistamines help block the action of histamines, which are chemicals produced by the body that cause allergic symptoms such as itching, sneezing, nasal/eye discharges, etc.

It's essential to determine the correct dosage, taking into account factors like the pet's weight, age, and overall condition, to avoid antihistamine toxicity. Additionally, some antihistamines may have contraindications with other medications your dog or cat might be taking. Therefore, consulting with a veterinarian is crucial before considering antihistamine treatment for cat fall allergies and dog fall allergies.

2. Considering Other Fall Allergy Treatments for Pets

When antihistamines prove ineffective for dogs and cats, your veterinarian may recommend alternative medications.  

Apoquel (for Dogs Only)

Oclacitinib (also known as Apoquel) is designed to manage itching associated with allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis, which can be caused by fall’s environmental allergens. Typically, dogs that are more than 1 year old can be prescribed Apoquel. 

Note: Apoquel can also be effective for other allergies in dogs — such as those caused by food, fleas, and other contact allergies. 

Apoquel involves oral administration, with the frequency determined by your veterinarian's instructions (either twice daily or once daily).

Cytopoint Injection (for Dogs Only)

Cytopoint offers an effective solution for atopic dermatitis triggered specifically by environmental allergens like pollen, mold, and dust, which are common allergens during fall.

One standout advantage of Cytopoint is its versatility, as it can be administered to dogs of any age. It also provides long-lasting relief as a fall seasonal allergy treatment, with injections given every 4-8 weeks (as needed).

Cyclosporine (for Cats & Dogs)

Cyclosporine (Atopica) helps alleviate itching associated with atopic dermatitis or allergic dermatitis. This non-steroidal immunosuppressant drug can be used on both cats and dogs.

For cats with severe allergies, Cyclosporine may serve as an alternative to antihistamines. As for dogs, cyclosporine can be prescribed in cases where antihistamines, Apoquel, and Cytopoint are not effective for dog fall allergies.

Cyclosporine is administered orally; the dosing frequency can range from once, twice, or multiple times a day, depending on your veterinarian’s instructions.

3. Using Anti-Itch Spray or Cream

Hydrocortisone, a corticosteroid, plays a pivotal role in soothing the body's immune response, specifically in response to allergens —  leading to reduced itching and swelling. Therefore, anti-itch formulations typically come in the form of hydrocortisone sprays and creams

Specialized topical treatments for pets can offer relief from itchy skin and lessen a pet’s excessive scratching.

Note: As previously mentioned, a comprehensive examination and diagnosis by a veterinarian are essential when dealing with cat or dog fall allergies — because if there is any underlying (or concurrent) infection in a dog’s or cat's skin, hydrocortisone may potentially worsen the condition.

Furthermore, pet parents are advised to steer clear of using sprays and creams intended for human use, as these remedies can be toxic when applied to your dog or cat's skin.

4. Giving Your Pet a Bath

Bathing your pet can effectively remove spring allergens from their skin and coat. It's advisable to use specialized dog or cat shampoo formulated to alleviate skin allergies. Avoid using human products, as our pH levels differ from those of pets. Using human shampoo on your pet is likely to worsen a pet’s already-inflamed skin.

Here’s some additional advice from Sploot’s veterinarian, Dr. Sylvia Berns, DVM: “For mild allergies, I recommend bathing with an oatmeal-based shampoo, letting the shampoo sit for 5-10 minutes — then rinsing with cool to lukewarm water. I do NOT recommend bathing more often than every 4 weeks or you can dry the [pet’s] skin further — unless deemed necessary by a veterinarian. For instance, medicated baths are often more frequent than every 4 weeks.”

5. Wiping Down Their Coat and Paws

As mentioned in the previous section, bathing pets too frequently isn’t advisable. To manage contact with allergens (which can happen every day, especially for pets that regularly go outdoors), we recommend wiping down the dog’s or cat’s coat and paws. This helps eliminate excess pollen and allergens once they come indoors.

It would be best to use wipes prescribed by the veterinarian (if available) or unscented baby wipes. For pet parents seeking deodorizing options, Animal Odor Eliminator (AOE) wipes are a great choice. 

6. Regular Cleaning

Implementing regular cleaning practices may also aid in alleviating fall allergies in pets. Make sure to use a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner as these filters help remove up to 99.9% of pollen, mold spores, and dust mite droppings that may be trapped in carpets or lingering in dusty corners. 

In addition, consistent cleaning of window blinds and window frames can also reduce the accumulation of trapped pollen and mold spores that might be dispersed by a breeze.

7. Be Mindful of Possible Air Irritants

Dogs and cats typically possess more delicate respiratory systems compared to humans. What might be considered safe or only mildly irritating for humans has the potential to pose more significant issues for our canine and feline companions. Si if a furry friend is already grappling with fall allergies, air irritants can intensify their symptoms. 

Here are some common air irritants to steer clear of: 

Final Thoughts on Cat & Dog Fall Allergies

In summary, dust mites, mold spores, and pollen stand as prevalent fall allergens that can cause dog fall allergies and cat fall allergies. If you suspect that your pet is experiencing allergies during autumn, we’re here to help! 

With multiple convenient locations, Sploot Veterinary Care is your go-to clinic for both primary care and urgent care needs. Our experienced vets are here to help you manage your dog or cat’s allergies, whether it’s triggered by seasonal elements, certain foods, and so on.

Easily book an appointment online or through the Sploot Vets app. Our vet clinic doors are open daily, 365 days a year, for extended hours.

Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!