Help keep your pet itch-free with these natural strategies for allergy season.
As we fully embrace the sights and sounds of spring—birds singing, bees buzzing, butterflies migrating and the super blooms that recently overtook Southern California—there’s another bit of imagery that pet owners are less happy about: seeing our pets itch.
Spring often brings with it a set of less desirable symptoms for allergic pets, which is why spring is often known as allergy season for our pets (and many of us).
“Pollens, plants and grasses are more abundant,” said Dr. Kathy Wentworth, holistic veterinarian at PetPoint Medical Center & Resort in Irvine (www.petpointcenter.com). “Some pets are very allergic to all of the different types of pollens, and especially after the rain and the super bloom this year.”
Spring can also bring parasites like fleas, ticks and mosquitoes that dogs and cats can also have sensitivity to.
“Warmer weather and dryer air also causes furry coats to dry out and become uncomfortable,” she said.
Some telltale signs of seasonal allergy symptoms in pets include itching or scratching, excessive grooming in cats and sneezing or nasal discharge.
“Skin appears more red (erythema) or flaky, and is more susceptible to bacterial or fungal infections,” said Wentworth. “Patients may lick at paws excessively.”
There may also be problems with the ears and eyes, she added.
“Ear infections or inflammation of ears—often pets will shake their heads or scratch at them. With increased discharge and moisture in the ears, bacteria and yeast may cause infections,” she said. “Eye discharge/conjunctivitis—red and increased ocular discharge is very common in the spring.”
Though allergies may be seen more frequently in dogs than cats, cats aren’t immune.
“Allergies are more common in dogs because they typically spend more time outdoors. They have a larger exposure to pollens and parasites,” said Wentworth. “Cats can be sensitive even if indoor only—if windows are open they also have more exposure to pollens.”
But as pet owners, there are things we can do to help lessen or prevent the discomfort of seasonal allergies.
Bathing: “This helps eliminate residual pollens that can linger on the fur even after a pet has gone indoors,” said Wentworth. “Wiping paws off with a moist towel, or soaking them in Epsom salts can help reduce allergens, especially after walking in grass.”
You can also take a spray bottle full of apple cider vinegar to spritz your dog’s coat and paws, and then wipe them clean with a warm towel following his walk.
Nutrition: “A fresh and balanced diet with limited additives is more likely to keep your pet’s skin and coat healthy,” said Wentworth. “Maintaining a healthy skin barrier can keep common allergens from invading the tissue, and minimize the allergic response.”
A fresh and balanced diet means whole foods that we would eat ourselves. Avoid overly processed food like kibble and canned food if possible. Home cooking (or feeding a raw diet) is your best bet for a quality diet. For ideas on home cooking, check out Orange County-based JustFoodForDogs.com, which provides online recipes.
Supplements: “Supplements, like omega-3 fatty acids, can be very beneficial to support a strong immune system that will be less likely to react to allergens,” said Wentworth.
Other supplements that may help include hemp seed oil, nettle, quercetin and vitamin C.
Remember to always check with your holistic veterinarian before adding any new supplement to your pet’s diet. Always start slow to avoid digestive upset. Also, whenever possible, try to incorporate these changes before allergy season is underway to give your pet a boost before he’s hit with the pollens and parasites of the season.
By Jessica Peralta