As spring arrives, birds are singing, flowers are blooming, and — pets are scratching? During the spring season, some pet parents may notice pet dogs and cats exhibiting symptoms like coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy skin — just to name a few. It begs the question: do pets get spring allergies too? The answer to this is YES, it’s possible.
In this complete article, you'll learn how to recognize the signs that your furry friend is suffering from spring allergies and what you can do about it.
What’s in this Guide?
- Common Spring Allergens for Dogs & Cats
- Signs Your Pet Has Spring Allergies
- What to Do About Spring Allergies in Pets
Common Spring Allergens for Dogs & Cats
The most commonly associated allergen with the springtime is pollen. However, spring allergies in dogs and cats can also be due to mold spores and dust mites. None of these allergens are exclusively present during spring but each allergen (or more than one) can be responsible for cases of spring allergies in pets.
Pollen is a fine powder produced by trees, flowers, and grasses as they reproduce. Pollen is carried by the wind, by insects, by animals, and by people’s clothing. Pollen from trees and grasses tend to be more allergy-inducing than flower pollen.
The warmer temperatures of spring trigger the abundant release of pollen — with tree pollination happening earlier in the season and grass pollination occurring at the later part of spring or early summer.
2. Mold Spores
Mold spores are small reproductive cells produced by mold. Similar to pollen, mold spores cling to animals and to people’s clothing. But unlike pollen, mold spores are invisible to the naked eye and are small enough to be carried far by the gentlest breeze. There are certain species of mold that tend to be associated with allergies (e.g. Alternaria, Aspergillus, etc.)
3. Dust Mites
Dust mites are microscopic bugs that thrive in warm, humid environments. Dust mites feed on skin flakes shed by both humans and pets. People and pets tend to be allergic to the dust mites’ feces — not the dust mites themselves.
Dust mites are a year-long problem. However, spring cleaning can cause the microscopic dust mites’ feces to be disturbed, therefore triggering allergies.
Signs Your Pet Has Spring Allergies
Pets exhibit environmental allergic symptoms on their respiratory system and/or skin. Keep a lookout for these signs that your dog or cat is suffering from spring allergies:
- Excessive scratching (itchy skin can be localized or on various parts of the body)
- Biting their coat or skin
- Red, inflamed, or infected skin
- Excessive shedding
- Dandruff and dry skin
- Boot scooting or licking anal glands
- Chronic ear infections
- Compulsive paw licking (common for dogs)
- Red and waxy ears (common for dogs)
- Coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing (common for cats)
- Nasal and/or eye discharge (typically clear when triggered by allergies — if colored, the discharge can be caused by an infection)
What to Do About Spring Allergies in Dogs & Cats
Though we’ve covered a long list of symptoms that could point to spring allergies in pets, diagnosing the condition of a pet based on symptoms alone can be misleading.
Spring allergies in pets (which is mainly brought about by pollen, mold spores, and/or dust mites) can be mistaken for food allergies, mites, and respiratory conditions. Therefore, the best way to start dealing with spring allergies in pets is to consult your veterinarian.
Note: The only reliable way to diagnose or rule out environmental allergies or spring allergies in pets is through intradermal testing done by a board–certified veterinary dermatologist.
Based on your veterinarian’s recommendations, you may be advised to do a few things to help relieve your furry friend’s allergy symptoms. Here are the commonly recommended action points:
1. Administering Antihistamine
While there's no permanent cure for spring allergies, antihistamines (that are prescribed by a veterinarian) will help relieve symptoms of spring allergies in pets. Antihistamines help block the action of histamines — which are chemicals produced by the body that cause allergic symptoms such as itching, swelling, and inflammation. A few examples of common antihistamines used for pets include the following:
- Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) - can cause drowsiness;
- Cetirizine (Zyrtec) - non-drowsy;
- Loratadine (Claritin) - non drowsy;
- Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimetron) - can cause drowsiness.
Note: Antihistamines that are combined with pseudoephedrine, a decongestant, are NOT safe for pets. “I tell pet parents to buy antihistamines WITHOUT decongestants,” says Dr. Sylvia Berns, Sploot’s Medical Director. “Decongestants are toxic to our pets.”
Furthermore, getting the dosage right (based on the pet’s weight, age, and overall condition) is essential to avoid antihistamine toxicity. Some antihistamines may also have contraindications with other medications a dog or cat could be taking. This is why consulting with a veterinarian is very important before taking this step.
2. Administering Other Environmental/Seasonal Allergy Treatments for Pets
In cases wherein dogs and cats do not respond to antihistamines, other medications can be prescribed by your veterinarian.
Apoquel (for Dogs Only)
Oclacitinib (Apoquel) is an immuno-modulatory drug that manages itching associated with allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis which can be triggered by environmental allergens during spring. Apoquel is only used for dogs over one year of age.
Apoquel is administered orally twice a day or once a day, depending on your veterinarian’s instructions.
Cytopoint Injection (for Dogs Only)
Cytopoint, which contains a caninized monoclonal anti-IL-31 antibody, is an effective treatment against allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis which can be triggered by environmental allergens like pollen, mold, and dust.
One of the unique advantages of Cytopoint is that it can be given to a dog of any age and it is a long-lasting seasonal allergy treatment. It is administered, as needed, every 4-8 weeks via injection.
Cyclosporine (for Cats & Dogs)
Cyclosporine (Atopica), a non-steroidal immunosuppressant drug, helps reduce itching associated with allergic dermatitis or atopic dermatitis. Cyclosporine is sometimes used as an alternative to antihistamine for cats with bad allergies. In cases where a dog’s allergies cannot be treated with antihistamine, Apoquel, and Cytopoint, cyclosporine can be prescribed to dogs too.
Cyclosporine is administered orally once, twice, or multiple times a day, depending on your veterinarian’s instructions.
3. Using Anti-Itch Spray or Cream
Topical treatments made specifically for pets can give your pet a break from itchy skin and excessive scratching. Hydrocortisone sprays and creams are especially helpful in treating skin allergies and infections in dogs. Hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid that helps calm down the body’s immune response (i.e. to allergens) and thereby reduce itching and swelling.
Note: As touched on earlier, a thorough screening and definitive diagnosis from a veterinarian is very important — because if there is an underlying infection on a dog or cat’s, this will either be not aided or made worse by hydrocortisone. In addition, avoid using sprays and creams that are made for humans. These remedies can be toxic to your dog or cat.
4. Giving Your Pet a Bath
If your pet likes baths, you're in luck. Bathing them will help remove spring allergens from their skin and coat. It would be best to use specially formulated dog or cat shampoo that relieves skin allergies.
Oatmeal-based shampoo is beneficial for dogs and cats with mild allergies. Dr. Sylvia Berns, DVM gives the following advice to pet parents:
“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 directed by a veterinarian. Medicated baths are often more frequent than every 4 weeks.”
Note: Avoid products for people because humans have a different pH level than pets. This means that using shampoo for a pet will likely irritate their already inflamed skin even more.
5. Wiping Down Their Coat and Paws
If you don't have time to give your pet a bath, no problem. You can also wipe down your pet's coat, skin, and paws. Remember to do this whenever they come inside to remove excess pollen and allergens quickly.
We suggest using wipes that are prescribed by the vet (if any) or unscented baby wipes. Pet parents who are looking for deodorizing wipes can opt for Animal Odor Eliminator (AOE) wipes.
6. Regular Cleaning
Regular cleaning with a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuum cleaner will help pick up 99.9% of pollen, mold spores, and dust mite droppings that can be stuck on carpets or lingering in dusty corners.
Cleaning the window blinds and window frames regularly will also reduce stuck pollen and mold spores that can be blown by a breeze.
As for dust mites lurking in carpeting, upholstery, mattresses, and dog/cat beds, steam cleaning is one of the most efficient ways to kill dust mites with heat.
7. Be Mindful of Possible Air Irritants
Dogs and cats generally have more sensitive respiratory systems than humans. What may be safe (or only mildly irritating) to humans can potentially cause bigger problems for dogs and cats. And if a furry companion is already suffering from spring allergies, air irritants can aggravate their symptoms. Avoid these common air irritants for cats and dogs:
- Essential oil diffuser
- Cigarette smoke
- Strong perfumes
8. Avoiding Allergens When Possible
Once your veterinarian has identified what allergen is causing your dog or cat’s spring allergy, it would be best to reduce their exposure to that allergen as much as possible.
If they are allergic to pollen, going outside during times of low pollen counts is ideal. Avoid going for walks during midday when pollen peaks.
As for outdoor mold spores, these have an increased count during night, especially in foggy, damp weather. It could be advisable to shorten walks during such nights.
For pet parents struggling with indoor mold, regularly treating moldy areas with solutions containing bleach, white vinegar, baking soda, OR hydrogen peroxide would help lessen mold over time. Some of these chemicals are best used concentrated —- while some need to be diluted. Make sure to do research on how to handle these chemicals safely. If indoor mold problems are severe, it would be best to call in an expert.
Lastly, if your furry friend is allergic to dust mite droppings, regular cleaning plus preventing your furry friend from accessing high-dust zones would be the best way to prevent an allergic reaction.
Final Thoughts on Spring Allergies in Pets
In conclusion, dust mites, mold spores, and pollen are common spring allergens for cats and dogs. If you suspect that your pet is suffering from allergies, reach out to our team! Sploot's veterinarians will be able to identify your dog or cat’s allergic triggers and recommend the best treatment plan for your furry friend.
Sploot Veterinary Care is here to help you manage your dog or cat’s spring allergies. We are a primary & urgent care clinic with multiple convenient locations. Book an appointment in advance or come on in for a walk-in appointment. Our clinic doors are open daily, from 10 am to 10 pm
Till next time, we’re with you every pounce of the way!