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Animal Skin and Allergy Clinic Blog

Autumn Pet Allergies

young Australian shepherd playing with leavesJust as it is for many people, autumn can be a difficult season for pets that suffer from allergies, too. Animals who suffer from allergies can have flare ups at any time of the year, however many pets tend to have a harder time of it as the weather shifts into fall.

Flea Allergies in Pets

Fleas are annoying to any animal. However, pets who suffer from an allergy to flea bites (flea allergic dermatitis) have reactions that are much more serious than the average pet. Just as certain people react more intensely to a mosquito bite than others, there are pets whose reaction to a flea bite is very intense as well. Flea season tends to peak in the fall in many areas, making this type of allergy a big concern.

Flea allergic dermatitis is a major complication for pets who have other allergies. Luckily, this is an allergy we have some control over. The flea-allergic patient needs 100% flea control to keep them free of symptoms. This means that in order to rule out flea allergy as a problem, your pet needs to be on year-round quality flea control, even if you have never seen a flea in your life. It only takes a few fleabites to cause a reaction in sensitive pets.

Fleas need blood to survive and the average flea bites the host animal 50 times each day, so it’s easy to see it only takes a few fleas to make an allergic pet show severe reactions! Also, the itchiness from a flea bite reaction can last for 10 days after the bite occurs. Flea prevention is changing from topical to systemic. Giving monthly chewable tablets are easier for the pet owner and more effective at flea prevention.

Atopy in Pets

Seasonal allergies are also a big problem for many pets. Populations of certain pollens, weeds, and grasses are at their height in the autumn. Indoor allergen concentrations such as dust may also rise as we close our windows to the colder weather.

Pets who suffer problems from these types of allergens are often referred to as atopic. These pets have an immune system that over-reacts to environmental allergens. In pets atopy often manifests with itching and itchy infections.

Atopic pets often exhibit one or more of the following:

  • Excessive itching , scratching, rubbing, or licking
  • Shaking of the head
  • Continued biting or licking of an area such as the paws, arm pits, groin, and under the tail
  • Discoloration of the hair due to saliva staining
  • A noticeable odor from skin infections
  • Hair loss
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Sores or irritated skin

Atopy can be difficult to diagnose and oftentimes we must rule out other conditions as a cause for your pet’s symptoms. Intradermal allergy testing is our recommended method of determining which allergens a pet is sensitive to and to develop allergy vaccines specific to the pet.

Unlike flea allergies, it can be very difficult to completely eliminate the allergy triggers in atopic pets. Management of atopy consists of topical therapies such as shampoos or sprays, antimicrobials for infection, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, antihistamines, or even other medications that alter the immune response. Along with all of these most pets need antigen-specific immunotherapy vaccines designed to stimulate a natural internal immune regulation of the allergic response.

You can help your pet by reducing common allergens in the environment. Change your furnace filters often and consider using a HEPA filter in addition to bathing your pet frequently, at least weekly. Wash your pet’s bedding often and keep them out of damp or dusty areas like basements and mudrooms. Avoid litters or pet foods that contain a lot of dust and keep up on your yard work as well.

Allergies can be frustrating, but we are here to help. Board certified dermatologists are uniquely trained to treat your pet’s allergies. If you feel that your pet is suffering from an allergy-related dermatologic issue this fall (or anytime of the year), please let us know, we are happy to set up an appointment to help your pet find some much needed relief.