Autumn brings many delights: colorful leaves, pumpkin-spiced everything, a reprieve from the heat of summer. For pets with allergies, however, a change in season can also mean the onset of uncomfortable itching and skin infections.
The idea that seasonal allergies are limited to springtime is a myth, according to Dr. Kimberly Coyner, a veterinary dermatologist at the Dermatology Clinic for Animals of Tacoma. “Pets with fall symptoms are often allergic to weeds that pollinate in the fall, especially ragweed,” Dr. Coyner says. “Other weeds that can cause allergic reactions in the fall include sagebrush, Russian thistle (tumbleweeds), plantain, and cocklebur and lamb's-quarters.”
Pets with environmental allergies, known as atopic dermatitis or atopy, can have signs limited to one season or can suffer year-round. “Animals can also be allergic to plants that pollinate in other seasons, including trees (springtime) and grasses (summer), as well as things that are in the environment all year round, such as house-dust mites and molds,” Dr. Coyner explains.
What an Allergic Pet Looks Like
Many people miss the onset of allergic disease in their pet, because they are expecting their dog or cat to start sneezing, as is often the case in people. “Dogs and cats don’t usually sneeze or have runny eyes with allergies, which is called atopic rhinitis,” Dr. Coyner says. “More commonly, they scratch and lick or chew their skin, often causing hair loss, sores and secondary skin infections.”
While inhaled allergens can create issues for the pet's skin from inside the pet, those same pollens can also be causing damage from the outside. “Pollen grains are not only inhaled; they settle on the skin and fur and then trigger allergic reactions on the skin,” Dr. Coyner says. Atopy can be suffered by both pets and people.
Itchy skin is the primary sign noticed by owners, but more common signs of allergic disease are itchy ears and recurrent ear infections, Dr. Coyner says. Recurrent ear infections secondary to atopy can occur even in the absence of any other signs of allergic disease, so many owners continue to treat the regular episodes without realizing there is an underlying cause that could be addressed.