Allergies can be tough to deal with, especially when symptoms go on for weeks on end. For pets, dealing with seasonal dog allergies and cat allergies can be even worse, because they can’t simply ask for help. It’s up to pet parents to notice common cat and dog allergy symptoms, and then take action to make their fur babies feel better.
Jessica Stewart, DVM at the Pasadena Humane Society & SPCA in Pasadena, California, fills us in on the signs to look for and treatment options.
Can Dogs Have Allergies? Can Cats Have Allergies?
Many pet parents, especially if they sneeze their way through every spring or fall, wonder: Can dogs have allergies? Can cats have allergies? Yes, both can get seasonal allergies. Not necessarily to pollen, however, which is what we typically mean when we say “seasonal allergies.”
With animals, it can be challenging to know if the allergy is from pollen or from something else, says Dr. Stewart. For instance, fleas and mites may be more of a nuisance during certain times of year, depending upon where you live, which make them seasonal allergens. “If your pet’s allergies are due to pollen from trees, grasses or weeds, the time of year they’ll crop up also depends on location,” says Dr. Stewart. For instance, in Los Angeles, pollen can be airborne 10 months a year, from January through October, while the season is much shorter in New England. “If it comes and goes at a specific time every year, that information will help your veterinarian determine the cause of the allergy,” says Dr. Stewart.
Aside from cat and dog seasonal allergies, common pet allergies include some of the same ones people get, such as allergies to dust or certain foods.
Cat and Dog Allergy Symptoms to Watch For:
While the classic sneezing and itchy, watery eyes are familiar to human allergy sufferers, dog allergies and cat allergies display somewhat different signs.
“Sometimes dogs and cats do start sneezing,” says Dr. Stewart. “But the most common symptoms are itching and scratching.”
Dogs may lick their paws, shake their head or scratch their skin. Or you may see your cat biting or scratching her skin, pulling her hair out or wheezing. Scabs may even develop on the skin of a dog or cat suffering from pet allergies. “In general, look for redness, bumps or other signs of skin irritation,” advises Dr. Stewart. Commonly affected areas include the base of the tail, inside of the hind legs, abdomen, face, neck, ears and feet.
How You Can Help Relieve Pet Allergies
“The only way to control your pet’s allergies is by having your veterinarian diagnose the underlying cause and then make recommendations on how to avoid the allergen, as well as treat the itch,” says Dr. Stewart. A veterinarian, using tests, can identify the allergen through a process of elimination.
Some causes of dog allergies and cat allergies will require prescription medicine and long-term management. There is a range of treatment options. Depending on the specifics of your pet’s condition, these might include parasite control, anti-itch shampoos and/or sprays (NatureVet Aller-911 Allergy Aid Shampoo soothes with aloe vera), immunotherapy injections, food trials, or wiping your pet’s paws and coat down after walking outdoors.
Supplements made specifically for pets may be helpful in some cases of cat and dog seasonal allergies. You might ask your veterinarian if supplements like NaturVet Aller 911 Allergy Aid Chews, Zesty Paws Allergy Immune Bites, American Journey Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil, or Animal Essentials Seasonal Allergy Herbal Formula could be helpful in your dog’s situation.
Dr. Stewart is adamant that dogs and cats should never be treated with an antihistamine like Benadryl unless instructed by a veterinarian. Can dogs have allergies and suffer just as much as their human moms or dads do? Yes. Can cats have allergies? Absolutely. “And the best rule of thumb [whether dog or cat],” concludes Dr. Stewart, “is to always seek veterinary care if allergies are suspected.”
Christina Vercelletto is a pet, travel and lifestyle content specialist and a former editor of Parenting, Scholastic Parent & Child, and Woman’s Day. She lives on Long Island with her Chiweenie, Pickles, and 20-pound Calico, Chub-Chub.