Each year, the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America declares May to be "National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month." Which makes sense when you think about it, right? With Spring comes the sun, green grass, beautiful flowers, uplifted spirits… and hay fever!
Seasonal allergies plague thousands of us all over the UK. But what about our pets? Is the change in seasons equally difficult for them? A study conducted in 2012 showed that over half of pet owners were unaware that their pets could also be suffering.
Signs Of Seasonal Allergy
With us humans, it’s pretty easy to spot an allergy - streaming eyes and nose, itchy red eyes, difficulty breathing, sneezing, coughing. Hay fever affects the respiratory system in humans. With our animals, seasonal allergies are much more likely to take the form of inflammation or skin irritation, known as allergic dermatitis.
If your pet is struggling with allergies, you might notice that they become very itchy. They might scratch constantly, rub themselves against the carpet, or even bite or chew themselves. This can lead to tender and inflamed skin. Additional warning signs might be sore patches on the skin, hair loss or bleeding.
Other tell tale signs, particularly in dogs, can be ear troubles. Ear canals can become inflamed and itchy due to the general allergic response. Your furry friend might suddenly start shaking their head a lot, and scratching their ears. If the allergy has caused an infection there may be an odour, with discharge from the ears.
It is less common but pets can also suffer with seasonal allergies in the same way we do - puffy, red or watery eyes, coughs and sneezes. Both pets and humans share a lot of the same allergic triggers. Grass, blossom and tree pollen to name a few!
Inside the house, we face the problem of dust mites, which are a very common cause of allergies in pets. These tiny but pesky mites stay with us all year round, but like everything else, they become more active at this time of year.
How You Can Help
The good news is there are lots of ways to help your pet. The very nature of allergic reactions means that these are most likely to begin outside of your home. When we return indoors, we bring the pollen and the allergens with us. We need to prevent the build up of these outside allergens inside the home.
A clean house, regularly vacuumed and dusted to get rid of seasonal pollens will help, paying special attention to your pet’s bed or cushions that they spend time on. If you can, try to use simple household cleaners that are low on chemicals (helping you, your pet and the environment - a triple win!)
You can also 'damp' dust. Get a cheap re-useable spray bottle, fill it with water and spray surfaces before dusting. It stops the dust flying all over the place. To specifically tackle any dust mite issues, we recommend blitzing your house twice a year with a really effective anti dust mite treatment, available at Roundwood Vets.
A HEPA filter vacuum with attachments for dusting may be beneficial to all family members! The benefit of the HEPA filter vacuum is that it traps and holds even minute dust and allergens, instead of sending them spiralling around the room as traditional dusting can. It's a great way to help animals and people with allergies and asthma.
Showering and bathing your pet. This will wash all the pollen off your pet, and provide instant calm to tender irritated skin. Oatmeal baths have been used for centuries to help humans with skin conditions, and there's no reason your pet should miss out on this blissful skin treatment! You can pick up an oatmeal shampoo from our Reception.
Even if you just give those furry paws a bath when pets come in from the garden or the park, this will stop allergens being tracked around the house and into their beds.
Allergies are the response of an overactive immune system, so we might need to help calm our animals immune systems. Some breeds, like Labradors and Westies, are genetically more susceptible to allergies and over active immune systems. This may need to be controlled with medication or dietary recommendations.
General good health. We all want our pets to be happy healthy family members, and prioritising their general good health with a healthy diet, exercise and playtimes will go a long way to help with allergies.
If your animal has very red, sore or inflamed skin that persists after 24- 48 hours, medical intervention might be needed, so book yourselves in and we'll do our very best to make life more comfortable for your pet.
I’m sure if you suffer with hay fever you’ll be aware that some of this advice doubles up for humans too. So follow these top tips, and hopefully it will help you and your pets will have a happy, healthy, sniffle and scratch free summer!