Pollen season nothing to sneeze at

by Andy Bryenton

Spring brings with it the threat of high pollen counts, and humans with allergies prepare themselves for the inevitable sneezing and other annoying symptoms by stocking up on antihistamines and other patent cures. But what about the effect of airborne pollens and other plant-based allergies for our companion animals?

Cats and dogs may not exhibit the same symptoms as we do if they are allergic to the effects of spring on our natural environment.

Rather than sneezing, they are more likely to find pollen irritating to their sensitive skin. This is especially true of areas such as the base of the tail, paw pads and ears. You may notice your pets scratching or worrying at the fur at these points during spring, and an excess of this behaviour can have serious knock-on effects. Too much irritation combined with scratching, screwing or abrasion can lead to broken skin, with the attendant risk of infection.

There can be more subtle cues as well. Just like in humans, the sinuses and throat are a prime area for pollen irritation. If your dog has begun coughing or snoring while asleep, this may be caused by pollen allergies. Both dogs and cats can be put off their food by allergic reactions, and suffer from stomach upsets. You may also notice an aversion to going outside, which clashes with the usual behaviour of companion animals on a sunny spring day.

Check for reddening, broken skin, swelling or irritation at those sensitive points — paw pads, ears, tail — and if you can eliminate fleas as the cause, then it’s possible your pet is allergic to an environmental stimulus. If it’s only a minor problem, you can try wiping down your pet’s coat with a damp cloth several times a day, or consult your vet about products to soothe away the itches and pains. Of course, for severe allergies, it’s vital to visit a qualified veterinarian for some medical assistance. Spring should be a time to enjoy the outdoors, both for us and our animal companions.

With a little input from your local vet your whole family can take advantage of the good weather, pets and all.