Memphis never really got a “true” Winter in 2011-2012. Sure, there were a few days when the temperature dropped, and there were some flurries at odd times, but it seems as though the time between Fall (ragweed) and Spring (pollen) allergies was ridiculously short.
As this problem increases (as it has been projected to do in the years to come), so, too, will the discomfort that results from weather-related maladies.
As miserable as some of us are, what with the trees and flowers blooming and turning our vehicles and homes green, some of our pets are having similar issues.
Even an indoor cat or dog is exposed to allergens, in the way of dust being stirred up during Spring cleaning, and even through the simple act of their owner coming in and out of the door repeatedly.
If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, your pet may suffer from allergies (most of the symptoms are universal for cats and dogs – for birds, rats, and other animals who identify as being predominantly “prey” creatures, however, there’s a different set of standards, since they’re more likely to hide symptoms as long as possible):
- The first, and most obvious, symptom is sneezing. If your dog or cat sneezes once in a week, it’s likely an isolated incident, but sneezing several times per day can indicate that there’s an inhaled irritant.
- The second symptom is runny or watery eyes. Just like humans, animals have tear ducts, the job of which is to clear out any foreign particles that can irritate the cornea. If you find yourself blotting tears from your animals’ eyes more than once per week, it’s possible that you’ve got airborne allergens, such as dust or pollen, in your home.
- If your pet is indoor/outdoor, or even if you just take your dog on the usual walks, and return to find them scratching at their necks or chewing on their legs, that is an indication of itchy skin; this can be caused either by a contact allergy (some animals are allergic to certain plants, and can even have reactions to grass) or an inhaled allergy (this is similar to what ragweed does to many humans, which is to not only make them sneeze, but make their scalps itch, because of the high concentration of blood vessels in the area).
- In serious cases, wheezing, runny nose, and even coughing may become an issue, especially in the case of a mold allergy. Be sure to keep water bowls clean, and bathrooms clear of mold and mildew.
If you notice these symptoms, there are several steps that should be taken to ensure that your pet does not continue to experience discomfort. Also, severe allergies can lead to upper respiratory infections if left untreated, and those can be dangerous if not treated quickly and properly.
The first step, as with human allergies, is to keep up with your housework. Dust surfaces, working from the top of shelves and your ceiling fan blades down to the floor, and then vaccuum or sweep the floor. Follow sweeping with a quick mop (just to get anything that the dustpan may have missed), and try to do this weekly, in order to keep up with dander, dust, and pollen that may be tracked into the house.
If, after cleaning, your pet doesn’t show signs of improving, there are a couple of things you can try before taking your animal to the vet, but it’s generally a good idea to make sure what’s happening is actually allergies, lest you begin giving your cat or dog Chlorpheniramine (an animal-safe anti-histamine) or Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and find out later that the problem was actually related to their ears or lungs.
The aforementioned medications have been proven to work well for airborne allergies (when used correctly – ALWAYS read the instructions, and call your veterinarian with any questions), but if your pet is chewing on their skin, parasites (such as fleas and mites, which are also common at this time of year) may also be an issue. Warmer weather can also bring about ringworm infections, so it’s very important to know what you’re dealing with before you attempt to treat it. Remember: your pet may be able to show discomfort, but they can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong, so it’s important to speak with your vet to find out which symptoms are allergies, and which ones might indicate a more serious problem. Your veterinarian has the tools and experience to help you make decisions that can save both time and possibly your pet’s life, should something more serious be occurring.
Vetinfo.com has a page each for dog and cat allergy questions and tips, so that would be a good starting point, should you have any questions.
In general, allergies aren’t a big deal, but they can make life less-than-ideal for both you and your pet, so keeping a close watch and dealing with issues as they arise are your best bet during this time of year.
As the weather warms up, and you spend more time outdoors, make sure you remember that you’re not the only one inhaling that fresh air – your pets are, too, and consideration must be taken as to how their bodies will handle it.
Happy Spring, everyone!