April 3, 2023
Do spring and fall bring to mind your hay fever — the sneezing, sniffles, and red, runny, itchy eyes? Well, pets in South Florida can have allergies, too, although animals display them differently.
Allergy Symptoms in South Florida Pets
Allergens — the offending source — trigger histamine release from mast cells in your pet’s skin, which in turn causes severe itching. This is why your allergic pet licks, chews, scratches, pulls their hair out, and might cause their own hot spots by chewing themself raw.
Over time, your dog or cat’s hair coat may become stained a brownish-red color from the constant licking. Chronic skin irritation and inflammation can lead to secondary bacterial and yeast infections that require antibiotics or anti-yeast drugs to treat. Secondary ear infections are also common.
Causes of Allergies in Cats and Dogs
In South Florida, the primary causes of allergies in cats and dogs are atopy (inhalant allergies to airborne pollens), fleas, and foods. Less common allergies are hypersensitive reactions, caused by insect bites, and contact allergies. These are usually stronger reactions that occur suddenly and might require emergency treatment. The pattern of itchiness on your pet’s body can often help your veterinarian determine what type of allergy they have.
Pets are frequently allergic to the same inhaled allergens that affect us. These include tree pollens, grass, molds, mildew, and house dust mites. In South Florida, due to our tropical environment, we are exposed to these allergens year-round, not just in spring and fall like our northern neighbors.
Treating Your Pet’s Allergy
Typical treatments for allergens include a combination of steroids, atopica, cytopoint, and apoquel. There is a multitude of topical medications to help alleviate your pet’s itchiness, from steroid sprays to ophytrium shampoos to leave-in conditioners.
A final option for allergy treatment is desensitization: Test first to identify the allergen, and then get allergy shots. You should see a veterinary dermatologist for this treatment.
The most important point to remember about allergies is that although you cannot cure them, you can usually control them. Learn to recognize the symptoms early — and stop the itch before it gets out of control.