Indoor Allergies in Pets: Environmental and Seasonal

We usually think of air purifiers as a way to prevent humans from having allergic reactions to their pets, but pets can have allergies too. Springtime pollen or household dust can trigger sneezes, congestion and itchy eyes for your dog or cat just like they can for you. While your air purifier can help remove pet dander from the air, it can also help remove the allergens that cause your pet’s allergies to flare up as an additional benefit.

We will discuss the different types of pet allergies, the allergens that might be affecting your cat or dog and how an air purifier might be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of allergies in dogs or allergies in cats.

Types of pet allergies

It is important to know the symptoms of allergies in pets, so you can tell if your dog has allergies or your cat is suffering from an allergy attack. Pet allergies come in several types: food allergies, skin allergies, inhalant allergies (also known as atopy) and acute allergies. 

Acute allergies are sudden, severe allergic reactions to a single event, like a vaccine injection, a flea bite or bee sting. An acute allergic reaction in your pet, just like in a human, can be a serious medical emergency that might even result in death. Know the location of the nearest emergency veterinary office and have their phone number handy in case your dog or cat ever has a severe acute allergic reaction. These reactions often present as swelling, skin rash and irritation.

Food allergies can be difficult to deal with because they may present as another type of allergy or ailment. Some food allergies cause skin problems, for example, which may appear to be a skin allergy. Or a food allergy might cause diarrhea or lack of appetite. If you suspect your pet has a food allergy, work with your veterinarian to find what is causing it and develop a healthy diet for your pet that avoids the things to which they are allergic. 

Skin allergies may accompany inhalant allergies. You might notice your pet has red, inflamed or itchy skin after rolling around in the grass or sleeping on a blanket (some laundry detergents or dryer sheets can leave chemical residue on pet bedding that causes skin irritation if the cat or dog is allergic to it). Skin allergies often respond to steroid treatment (although this has side-effects), so regular baths and avoiding allergy triggers can be better long-term solutions.

Inhalant allergies are caused by pollen, dust mites, mold spores or other allergens floating in the air. These allergens can be seasonal, such as pollen released by plants every spring, summer or autumn, or they could be environmental, tied to the dust or other things inside your house. This is the type of allergy that an air purifier can address, because the right type of air purifier can remove the allergens from the air before they are inhaled.

How to tell when your pet has inhalant allergies

Many of the symptoms of inhalant allergies in pets are similar to those in humans: itchy, watery eyes (in pets, this can manifest as more of a thick goop than liquid tears); wheezing or sneezing; or runny nose. But some pet allergy symptoms are quite different from human allergy symptoms. Cats or dogs might suffer from frequent ear infections when affected by allergies. They may also show skin discoloration, flaky skin or oily fur. Their skin may be itchy, which can result in paw chewing or constant scratching, leading to red, inflamed paws or bald patches where fur has been scratched away. 

Some of these symptoms look a lot like skin allergy symptoms, so a visit to your vet is a good idea to find out which type of allergy your pet has. In fact, there is so much crossover between inhalant, skin and food allergy symptoms that it can be impossible to know for sure which kind of allergy you are dealing without a skin test or a controlled diet test. Allergies can also lead to secondary problems like yeast infections on the skin, and your vet can prescribe medicated shampoo, steroids or antibiotics as necessary.

What pollutants cause pet allergies?

The most common seasonal allergen is pollen, but mold spores can also be seasonal. Mold on fallen leaves can release spores in autumn, and those spores can enter your home and trigger allergic reactions. According to Veterinary Centers of America, “The main inhalant allergens are tree pollens (cedar, ash, oak, etc.), grass pollens, weed pollens (ragweed), molds, mildew, and house dust mites. Many of these allergies occur seasonally, such as ragweed, cedar, and grass pollens.”

Environmental allergies, which may be present in your home at any time of the year, include dust mites and mold spores. 

Ways to reduce allergy symptoms in your pets

Shampoo: Regular bathing with fragrance-free shampoo can help with skin allergies and even inhalant allergies (as airborne allergens can get caught in your pet’s fur). If your cat or dog is suffering from a skin infection along with allergies, medicated shampoo can help clear it up. 

Improve indoor air quality: Removing allergens from the air in your home may help. Keep windows closed when pollen counts are high, and change the filter in your HVAC system regularly. An air purifier intended to remove particulate pollutants from the air can significantly reduce the allergen load in your home. A HEPA filter can trap larger particles, though. an air purifier that uses PECO technology goes a step further and destroys allergens that pass through it.

Medication: Some pets can benefit from the use of medication to treat their allergies. Antihistamines may reduce symptoms, and serious allergies can be curbed by the use of steroids. Note that you should consult with your veterinarian before giving any medication to your pet, as it is important to make sure the medicine is safe for your pet and to determine the appropriate dosage. 

Holistic approach: Because food, skin and inhalant allergies are often connected and have similar symptoms, it can be beneficial to approach the problem from every angle. This can be done by improving your indoor air quality, shampooing your pet and reducing contact with potential skin allergy triggers like grass or laundry chemicals. You can also switch to a pet food that uses only a single source of protein to see if that leads to improvement (known as an elimination diet). And as always, talk to your vet to find an approach that will work best for you.

Watch your pet for the symptoms of allergies so you can take action and help your furry friend stay comfortable even when pollen counts are high. Considering all the possible allergy triggers and making a few simple changes in your home can stop the itching, skin infections and respiratory problems associated with allergies in pets.