As spring blooms, pets could suffer seasonal allergies as well

Dr. David Bruce details signs, symptoms to watch out for

ROANOKE, Va. – The warm weather we've experienced this week has some flowers and plants starting to bud, and with that the pollen count is rising as well.

Humans aren't the only ones starting the fight against seasonal allergies this spring. Veterinarians say our dogs and cats can be affected by the pollen and other spring allergens as well. What dogs and cats are allergic to is almost exactly the same as what humans react to, but it's how our pets' bodies react that makes their symptoms harder to spot.

In humans, the telltale signs of allergies are easy to spot: watery eyes, sneezing and coughing. Dr. David Bruce, with the Read Mountain Animal Hospital, says animals don't have the same sinus and upper respiratory systems we do, so instead their allergy symptoms affect their skin.

"We started seeing {the pollen} about a week ago with the warm air systems from the south bringing it in since our pine trees aren't active yet," he said. "Very soon we're going to start seeing the flowering trees come out. The early risers, I know that the crocuses in my yard are coming out and, as is the case with people, it's going to be spring allergy season for dogs, too."

Bruce says to watch out for rashes or swollen, itchy skin -- especially in the areas where two types of skin come together. He says to watch their eyes, the areas around their ears and ear flaps, the foot pads where the tough pad connects to the skin on their paws, and their rectum. 

While we still have a few more weeks of winter before spring is officially here, Bruce says these signs and symptoms are something pet owners should start looking out for now. If you notice your pet scratching more than normal this spring, he says it might be time to pay a visit to their veterinarian.

"You definitely want to get it checked out," said Bruce. "In dogs in particular, they love to scratch and what starts as an allergy can quickly turn into an ear infection or skin infection so you want to get them treated sooner rather than later."

He says seasonal allergies are more common in dogs with short fur, especially golden retrievers and labs which are known for their allergies.

Bruce says baths are a good way to cut down on those allergies and get the pollen out of the animal's fur. He says he wouldn't recommend bathing them more than once every two weeks. Unless they get extremely dirty, he says, about once every season should be good.