Just like humans, pets can experience allergies — particularly in the fall, when environmental allergens like ragweed and mold are prevalent.
“As a veterinarian, I can emphasize the crucial importance of monitoring and addressing pet allergies promptly,” said Nicole Savageau, a veterinarian in Austin, Texas, who provides online care through TheVets.com.
Allergies in pets can lead to discomfort, itching, skin infections and even behavioral changes, the vet noted.
“Regularly monitoring and addressing allergies not only improves the pet’s quality of life, but also prevents secondary health issues,” she added.
Savageau shared with Fox News Digital her tips for pet owners to keep their four-legged friends healthy and happy this autumn season.
Below are some of the most widespread sources of pet allergens in the fall.
Ragweed pollen is a common fall allergen for both humans and pets, Savaheau said.
“Dogs and cats can inhale or come into contact with ragweed pollen, leading to allergic reactions,” she warned.
The damp and decaying vegetation in the fall can promote mold growth, and mold spores can trigger allergies in pets when these spores are inhaled or come into contact with the skin, the veterinarian said.
“While dust mites are present year-round, their population can increase in the fall due to increased humidity,” Savageau told Fox News Digital.
“Dust mites are a common allergen for pets that are sensitive to them.”
In some regions, fall can also bring increased allergens from weeds, grasses and outdoor molds.
The vet recommends watching out for these telltale signs of fall allergies in pets.
Excessive itching. One of the most common signs of allergies in pets is itching. If your pets are scratching, biting, licking or rubbing themselves excessively, especially in specific areas like the ears, paws, face or belly, it may be a sign of allergies.
Skin irritation. Most allergies will manifest as skin issues, Savageau said. Allergies can lead to skin problems such as redness, inflammation, rashes, hives or hot spots (localized areas of inflamed and infected skin).
Ear infections. Recurrent ear infections, head shaking or excessive ear scratching can be a sign of allergies, especially in dogs, the vet said.
Digestive issues. Allergies can also affect the digestive system, leading to symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
Food allergies, in particular, may manifest as gastrointestinal problems, according to Savageau.
Respiratory symptoms. Pets with environmental allergies may exhibit sneezing, coughing, wheezing or nasal discharge — “although these signs are more common in people than dogs,” the vet noted.
Watery eyes. Watery or red eyes can be a sign of allergies, especially in cats.
Changes in behavior. Allergies can make pets uncomfortable and irritable. “You may notice changes in your pet’s behavior, such as restlessness or aggression,” Savageau said.
Seasonal patterns. If you notice that your pet’s symptoms tend to occur or worsen during specific seasons, it may indicate seasonal allergies to pollen, grasses or other environmental factors, the vet said.
Frequent licking or chewing of paws. Excessive licking or chewing of the paws is one of the most common sign of allergies, Savageau noted, and it can lead to redness, swelling and hair loss in that area.
When pets have allergies, treatment options depend on the type and severity of the reaction, said Savageau.
Below, she shares some common treatment approaches for pet allergies.
Identify and avoid allergens. The first step is to determine the specific allergens through testing, either blood tests or intradermal skin tests, Savageau said.
It’s also important to reduce exposure to identified allergens.
“This might include changing the pet’s diet, using hypoallergenic grooming products or eliminating specific substances from the pet’s environment,” the vet advised.
Administer medications. Antihistamines can help alleviate mild allergy symptoms.
Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medications that can provide relief from itching and inflammation, but Savageau warned that they may have side effects with prolonged use.
Immunosuppressive drugs like cyclosporine can modulate the immune response to reduce allergic reactions.
Some pets get relief from omega-3 fatty acid supplements, which can help improve the pet’s skin condition and reduce itching.
Regular injections of small amounts of the allergen — a treatment known as immunotherapy — can desensitize the pet’s immune system over time, according to Savageau.
Apply topical treatments. Medicated shampoos and sprays can soothe irritated skin and reduce itching.
Topical prescription creams can also be used for localized itching or hot spots.
Switch to a special diet. Your veterinarian might recommend a special hypoallergenic diet that contains unique protein and carbohydrate sources, which are less likely to trigger allergies, said Savageau.
Manage the pet’s environment. Frequent cleaning and vacuuming can help reduce indoor allergens.
Additionally, air purifiers — in particular, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers — can trap airborne allergens, Savageau said.
“If the pet is allergic to pollen or grass, limit outdoor activities during high pollen seasons,” the vet recommended.
Seek alternative therapies. Some pet owners find acupuncture helpful in managing allergy symptoms.
Certain herbal supplements can also aid in managing allergies, but Savageau said to consult a veterinarian before use.
“If allergies are severe or chronic, seeing a specialist such as a veterinary dermatologist can provide advanced diagnostic and treatment options,” she said.
“Allergies can be complex, and the right approach often involves a combination of treatments tailored to the individual pet’s needs,” Savageau said.
“It’s essential to consult with a veterinarian before starting any treatment, and regular follow-ups are crucial to monitor the pet’s progress and adjust the treatment plan as necessary.”