Allergies in Pets: Not Just a Spring Thing
Fall allergy season is in full swing for most of the United States, which means our four-legged family members may be suffering from allergy symptoms just like some of our two-legged ones. Contrary to popular belief, allergies aren’t just a spring and summer issue for our pets; for some, fall allergies can be an equally itchy problem. (Check out this allergy forecast map!)
The reasons behind fall allergy symptoms in pets are many; still, they tend to start with pollen. During spring, tree pollen reigns supreme in triggering allergy symptoms. In summer, grass pollen is the culprit. And in fall, weed pollen becomes the primary villain. When combined with mold spores, dying plants, wind and dramatic shifts in temperature and moisture, the conditions are right to make sensitive pets and their people with allergies miserable.
Ragweed is a major trigger for pets (but not the only one!)
According to pollen.com, ragweed pollen may be the single largest seasonal allergen in the United States. At least 17 ragweed species can be found across the country, although the plants are most common in the Eastern and Midwestern states. To make allergy sufferers even more miserable, scientists estimate that a single ragweed plant can release as many as 1 billion pollen grains during one growing season. Ragweed pollen is so small and light that it floats easily on even a gentle breeze, and has been detected 400 miles out to sea and up to two miles up in the atmosphere, according to webMD.com.
However, ragweed isn’t the only weed that triggers fall allergies in our pets. Depending on where you live, numerous other weeds pollinate during late summer and throughout fall. Sagebrush and wormwood are a significant cause of allergy symptoms after ragweed and grasses in the Western and Central states. Goosefoot, lamb’s-quarters, Russian thistle (tumbleweed), pigweed and amaranth, which are found across the United States, typically flower during the late summer and fall. If you have any of these plants in your area, their pollen can be a likely cause of allergies for your pet.
Grasses and some trees can still be a pet-allergy trigger
Some trees and grasses can produce pollen well into the fall months — it all depends on where you live. All grasses are pollinated by wind, and many produce large amounts of pollen. Bluegrasses, which are mostly used for animal feed (as forage), pastures or lawns, shed large amounts of pollen from spring to fall.
For allergy sufferers, the bottom line is that “pollen season” can occur all year long.
Non-pollen causes of pet allergy symptoms
Dogs and cats can be allergic to dust, dust mites, fleas, mildew and molds found indoors. Pets can also develop allergies to ingredients in their food that can appear as itchy skin. When you bring your predominantly outdoor pet inside for the winter months, watch him for increased scratching, rubbing of the ears, licking or chewing at his skin constantly and ear infections. If you notice any of these symptoms, your pet could be reacting to something in the environment.
What to do if you suspect allergies in your pet
Dogs and cats tend to scratch and lick or chew their skin when experiencing allergies, which can lead to hair loss, sores and skin infections that cause discomfort and pain. If you notice that your pet is scratching or rubbing more than normal, or has reddened, stinky and sensitive ears, it’s time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will evaluate your pet for any secondary bacterial or yeast infections and can recommend the most appropriate therapies to help manage your pet’s condition. And while it may be tempting to give your pet an over-the-counter allergy-relief medication, please talk with your veterinarian first to avoid potential side effects or overdosing.
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