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Pets Have Seasonal Allergies Too, Like Itchy Paws and Watery Eyes

Why do pets get allergies and when is their allergy season? Learn what pet allergy symptoms are and how to prevent them.

By Elizabeth Gamillo
May 21, 2024 3:00 PM
Golden lab scratching
(Credit: Helen Sushitskaya/Shutterstock)


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Have you ever had your dog get irritated red paws after running around in the grass outside, or has your cat recently developed a rash?

One study from 2018 found that in the past decade, cases of environmental allergies have risen by 30.7 percent in dogs and 11.5 percent in cats.

Like humans, our pets can also get runny, sneezy noses and itchy skin during allergy seasons. Most allergy spikes coincide with the changing seasons in the spring and Fall, but changes in food and using specific types of cleaning solutions can also cause some reactions.

Pet Allergy Symptoms

(Credit: Fetrinka/Shutterstock)

Some symptoms of pet allergies include licking or chewing at paws or legs. Pets might also scratch at their faces or rub themselves against walls or furniture.

Excessive scratching and/or licking are among the first signs of allergies, according to the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Other symptoms include scooting their behinds across carpets, ear infections, watery eyes, loose stool, vomiting, or open sores from excessive scratching.

Read More: Everything to Know About Allergies

Pet Food Allergies

(Credit: Rido/Shutterstock)

One reason why a pet may have excessive itching is a flea or mite infestation. However, if your pet does not appear to have this issue and a flea or tick preventative is often used, it might be something else. The next step is to check for changes in diet.

"Some allergies arise when the pet develops hypersensitivity to the protein in their diet," explained Jennifer Clegg in an article for the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital. "In these cases, we implement a diet trial, replacing the protein source in the diet with either a prescription hydrolyzed protein diet or a novel protein diet for 8 to 12 weeks."

If a protein or carbohydrate in the food was the issue, then, according to Clegg, the pet's symptoms should be cleared up by the end of the diet's timeframe. If symptoms do not clear, it might be something else in the pet's environment. Cats and dogs might also have multiple food allergies, making it difficult to track the exact culprit.

Read More: How to Tell if Your Cat Is Sick

Environmental Allergies in Dogs and Cats

(Credit: Ozturk Art Studio/Shutterstock)

Dogs and cats can experience environmental allergies when trees, other plants, and grass release pollen in spring. These allergies can pop up again in the Fall during harvesting season, too. However, mold can also cause flare-ups in the Fall because of the decomposing plant matter and leaves.

According to Clegg, wiping your pup's paws down after they venture outside may reduce any irritation. Since most of the allergens from the outdoors can't be fully eliminated, vets might suggest using a prescription medication to help pets cope with allergies. This could also help with allergies caused by indoor allergens like dust mites and mold spores.

A vet can determine what might be causing a pet's skin allergies by performing a skin test. But these must be performed by a board-certified veterinary dermatologist, according to Hill's Pet.

Read More: Can Dogs Get Sick? How to Keep Your Dog Healthy

Allergies May Have Risen

(Credit: Tatyana Vyc/Shutterstock)

It might seem like more pets are all undergoing allergic reactions, whether that be due to their environments or lifestyles.

One factor in increasing allergies might be that there is more pollen due to more greenhouse gases trapped in our atmosphere, according to the Union Lake Veterinary Hospital.

Another reason behind increased allergies, especially food ones, could be the way pet food is processed, since there is more filler and less nutritional content. Another reason, based on a study published in Scientific Reports in 2018, might be that dogs are less exposed to the outdoors because they now live in more urban areas.

The study found that rural dogs were less likely to develop allergic symptoms, which might be because they lived outdoors and were in contact with other pets and farm animals. Urban dogs, on the other hand, spend less time outside and more of their time indoors.

Read More: Can Cats and Dogs Be Allergic to Humans? Do We Even Know?

Pet Allergy Treatments

(Credit: KDdesign_photo_video/Shutterstock)

Giving pets a bath with a soothing oatmeal shampoo or use anti-itch cream or sprays can help relieve some allergy symptoms. Wiping a pet’s coat after going outside might also help with inflamed paws or bellies.

Overall, if your pet is showing signs or symptoms of allergies, it’s best to check in with your vet and discuss treatment options especially if their allergies get worse.

Read More: Does Munchausen Syndrome Exists in Pets?

Article Sources

Our writers at Discovermagazine.com use peer-reviewed studies and high-quality sources for our articles, and our editors review for scientific accuracy and editorial standards. Review the sources used below for this article:

Elizabeth Gamillo is a staff writer for Discover and Astronomy. She has written for Science magazine as their 2018 AAAS Diverse Voices in Science Journalism Intern and was a daily contributor for Smithsonian. She is a graduate student in MIT's Graduate Program in Science Writing.

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