May 2017
Ask the Vet
Ask the Vet
Keep your pets out of the ER

May 2017

Pets and Pollen:

When humans are sneezing, pets are scratching

The spring allergy season is coming, and many people don't realize that cats and dogs can suffer just as much as humans. But that doesn't mean your pets will start sneezing from all the pollen. You're much more likely to see dogs and cats scratching themselves because of allergies and developing related skin or ear infections. Although people often get allergic reactions through the air - such as when they inhale pollen - pets tend to get allergic reactions  through their skin.

There’s a simple reason for the difference. People often get allergic reactions through the air – such as when they inhale pollen. Pets tend to get allergic reactions by absorbing allergens through their skin.  So instead of sneezing and sniffling, they itch and often come down with skin or ear infections.

“It’s the itch that turns into a rash,” said Dr. Nadine Znajda, a clinician in BluePearl’s dermatology service. She often hears pet owners say “my dog has hives.”  But actually, bacterial skin infections stemming from allergies are usually the underlying cause.

Dogs and cats can be allergic to pollen, mold, dust mites and many other substances in their environment. Allergies occur when the body makes an exaggerated response to environmental proteins and allergens.

Pet owners should take special notice if their dogs scratch themselves excessively, rub their faces along the furniture, lick their feet, or repeatedly scoot their bottoms across the floor.  If cats suffer from allergies, they may lick themselves excessively and even pull out clumps of hair.

If pet owners notice these signs, they should contact their family veterinarians to see if allergies might be the cause. If problems persist, a veterinarian may refer the pet to a specialist, like those at several BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals.

Because pets tend to get allergies through their skin, they often are treated by veterinarians trained in dermatology.

If your dog is susceptible to allergies, wipe her face, underside and paws with unscented baby wipes after she goes for a walk, especially if she spends a lot of time sniffing the grass or brush. That can help remove allergens.

Although pets don’t typically sneeze from allergies, it does happen sometimes. And pets, like humans, can get allergic reactions in different ways. Among them:

  • Environmental allergies, caused by tree, grass and weed pollen. Also, mold, dust mites and other substances.
  • Contact allergies, caused by coming in contact with certain weeds, mulch and other substances.
  • Food allergies.
  • Flea allergies. Fleas can be annoying enough on their own. But when a pet is allergic, one single flea bite can cause a serious reaction for one to two weeks.

BluePearl veterinarians use a range of diagnostic techniques to identify pet allergies, including allergy testing with the purpose of developing a vaccine to lessen the allergic response. Treatments can include vaccines, antihistamines, steroids, the use of air filters, bathing and avoidance of the allergens.

But maybe the most important tool a pet can have is an owner who keeps a close watch  and notices signs of trouble. And who takes them to their regular family veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist.

BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospitals offer emergency care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Call 781-684-8387. We are located at: 180 Bear Hill Road Waltham. Learn more at

Published by CitySide Subaru
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