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Pets and pollen – what to do
1st July 2016

By Karen Pickwick

While spring and early summer may bring a welcome break from the shorter days of winter, the rise in the pollen count can cause many humans to suffer from hay fever and other seasonal ailments. However, what is less well known is that pets can suffer just as badly – and this cloud can have a silver lining for retailers, who can offer advice and products to help alleviate the symptoms.
 
A survey in 2012 showed almost half (44%) of pet owners didn’t realise their pets could suffer from allergies, with 43% admitting they wouldn’t know how to tell if their pet were suffering from an allergy. 
 
Online pet healthcare retailer MedicAnimal has put together a list of things to watch out for and ways to help pets get through their ailments.
 
Andrew Bucher, co-founder and chief veterinary officer at MedicAnimal, said: “While some of us suffer more than others when it comes to seasonal allergies such as hay fever, it’s important to know that pets can have reactions, too, often worse than humans. What may cause a sneeze or a cough to us, may lead to painful rashes or swollen paws. We all need to look out for changes to our pet’s behaviour and appearance.”
 
What to look out for:
• As in humans, hay fever can cause cats and dogs to suffer from respiratory issues such as sneezing, wheezing and coughing. However, even if these may be present, it is far more likely a pet will be showing signs of allergic dermatitis such as very itchy skin and swollen paws and/or inflamed ears. Pets may bite/chew certain parts of the body, or the dermatitis may be present in a more generalised manner across their body
• Pets may rub their faces or bodies against furniture or carpets in order to try to relieve their itchiness. If left untreated, the skin will become inflamed, reddened and tender, sometimes developing areas that have hair loss or open sores
• Dogs, especially mid/long-haired, may develop hot spots. They are usually red and pretty angry looking, can appear wet and sticky in appearance and are a result of overgrowth of normal bacteria.
• Pets with allergies can also show problems with their ears, especially dogs. The ear canals may become inflamed and itchy and may appear in isolation or in combination with a generalised allergic response. Common signs to look out for include scratching of the ears, head shaking, and hair loss. In severe cases, look out for discharge
 
Steps to relieve allergies:
• First see a vet! They will be best placed to decide on the initial approach to take with an itchy pet and whether the allergy is seasonal or food related
• Frequent baths to wash away the allergens on the coat and skin, prefereably with grain-free shampoos. Foot soaks before a pet enters the house will reduce the level of allergens taken into the home and can have a remarkably positive effect
• Pet owners can also buy an air purifier that removes allergens in the home, or try covering the pet’s bedding with dust mite (a very common allergen) covers.
“Most allergies develop early, usually within the first 6-12 months of a pet’s life. It is, therefore, imperative that these problems are addressed early as the situation can escalate from one year to the next if left untreated,” Andrew advised.

“The most important thing to do is to work out the cause of the allergen, whether it be a food intolerance (normally needs 6-12 weeks on an allergen-free diet) or a seasonal allergy. The use of steroids (which numb down the immune response but do nothing for identifying the cause) might not be the first choice as it masks the signs initially as they can mask the signs of an allergic response and you will need to wait at least 4-6 weeks for the steroid to ‘wash out’ of the body before allergy testing can begin. A vet will be able to advise on the best course of treatment.”