Outdoor and Environmental Allergies

Mar 12, 2020   Tracey Aston   Health & Wellness

Spring is right around the corner and with it the joys of warmer weather, new growth and getting outdoors. It also brings with it something we'd all rather avoid – allergens.  While these allergens show up as sniffling and sneezing for us, they can show up much differently for our pets. Outdoor, or seasonal, allergies are more common in dogs than cats and usually start to show between 1 -3 years old.

Signs of outdoor allergies in our pets most often show up as itching, swelling, hives and skin rash but can also include sneezing, chronic ear infections, runny eyes and constant licking. Most often the face, ears, groin and feet are most affected but rashes and swelling can show up anywhere on the pet's body. Contact dermatitis, where a pet has come into contact with an allergen directly, such as a chemical or laying on grass, will show up on the pet's body where they were exposed to the allergen. For example, if a pet with a grass allergy lies on a newly cut lawn they may show signs of a rash on their stomach, which came into direct contact with the grass.

While our pets show allergies much differently than we do, they do share some of the same allergens such as dust, grass, pollen, mildew and mold. Our pets are also at risk of coming into contact with chemical allergens such as lawn care chemicals, weed killers and fertilizers.  Thankfully, the risk of an allergic reaction to the latter can be lowered by reducing or eliminating the use of chemicals on areas where pets may be playing or laying in the yard.

If a pet parent suspects their pet has outdoor allergies, a trip the veterinarian should be first on the list to rule out other possible conditions or health issues that may be causing the itching and hives.  A veterinarian may recommend allergy testing to find out what allergens are affecting the pet.  

The easiest way to treat an allergy is to avoid the allergen, but as we know, that's not always possible. Many allergens are airborne and found nearly everywhere and can be found all year long.  In those cases a vet may recommended medications to help with itching and hives such as antihistamines, Prednisone, Atopica and Apoquel. Both Atopica and Apoquel are non-steroidal medications for allergies and don't come with many of the negative side effects of prednisone.   Be sure to talk to your vet about Apoquel, as studies are mixed on the side effects of long-term use.  Effectiveness of medications may diminish over a long period of time and the vet may recommend switching between medications periodically.

Coconut oil is a great, all natural supplement to add to a pet's food. Coconut oil helps clear up skin conditions such as eczema, flea allergies, contact dermatitis and itchy skin, reduces allergic reactions and improves skin health, prevents and treats yeast and fungal infections, and applied topically, promotes the healing of cuts, wounds, hot spots, and dry skin and hair.

Medicated shampoos and conditioners can bring relief from itching and bathing has the added benefit of removing allergens that are adhering to the surface of the skin. Be careful with over bathing your pet, as bathing too frequently can also lead to skin conditions.  For easy and quick cleanups, try using a wet paper towel or baby wipe on paws and outer coat.

As scratching and biting opens the skin and can increase the risk of a secondary infection, a vet may also recommend adding a topical or oral antibiotic.

It's never easy to watch our pets suffering, but thankfully, there are ways we can help them by treating the symptoms of their allergies with medications, shampoos and topical sprays and by avoiding the use of chemicals on our lawns and flower beds. 

 
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