Skin problems are unfortunately very common in our pets (estimated to affect up to 15% of dogs and cats worldwide) and they are often related to a pollen allergy.
Pollen is produced by grasses, trees, weeds, flowers and shrubs at varying times throughout the year (see this useful link) and it is possible for your pet to be allergic to one or more of these pollens. Like most allergens, pollen can enter the body by being inhaled, eaten or absorbed through the skin and because it is microscopic and carried readily on air currents and objects, it is impossible to avoid pollens altogether.
A Type I hypersensitivity reaction (as pollen allergy is termed) results in the release of substance called histamine from special immune cells throughout the body, called the mast cells. Histamine's role in a healthy immune system is simply to rid the body of potential threats, but in an allergic reaction histamine recognises low risks (e.g. pollen) as major threats to the body and triggers an aggressive response. It is this aggressive histamine reaction that results in the symptoms of allergy.
The signs of allergy in cats and dogs are very similar but some pets may show only mild localised symptoms whilst others will have a strong and potentially life threatening response. Pollen allergy symptoms include...
To definitively diagnose a pollen allergy, there are skin allergy tests your pet can have under the care of a veterinary dermatologist, but many owners recognise a seasonal pattern of allergy symptoms in their pet which starts and ends in time with a particular pollen season and it is not unreasonable for them to draw the conclusion of pollen allergy in such cases, even if allergy testing has not been undertaken.
Unfortunately, many pets suffer year round with their allergies so it is not possible to say for sure what pollens if any affect them. And if your pet is allergic to substances other than or as well as pollen, the picture can be very confusing. For this reason, it is always best to seek the advice of a veterinary surgeon if you are unsure whether your pet is allergic to pollens or not.
As there is no cure for pollen allergy, the most any owner can do is manage the disease in the best possible way for their pet. There is no single strategy which works for every pet, so be prepared to try different things until you find the right approach for your pet. Below are some key actions you can take...
For many pets, their symptoms are severe enough to warrant the use of prescribed medication. Vets may suggest multiple options and will help you to balance the good effects of the medication with the inevitable side effects associated with them.
One of the most effective but challenging ways of managing an allergy is to avoid the allergen but as we have already discussed, this is impossible with pollens. Instead there are a variety of ways to reduce the amount of pollen your pet is exposed to...
True food allergies are relatively rare and are thought to be responsible for only 1% of all skin disease in dogs, but feeding your pet the right supportive nutrition will help them cope with allergy season, especially if you maintain a skin supportive diet year round.
This may come in the form of a specialist skin diet or you can add a skin supplement to their current diet, especially if changing their food is not an option. Look for key nutrients like...
Pollen allergies are common and can be difficult to manage but there are lots of things you can do to make a difference to your pet's health...
If you have any questions regarding your pet's allergies, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 1585 332.
Saridomichelakis MN, Olivry T. (2016) An update on the treatment of canine atopic dermatitis. Veterinary Journal. 207 29-37.
Olivry T, Mueller RS. (2017) Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (3): prevalence of cutaneous adverse food reactions in dogs and cats. BMC Vet Research 13(1): 51
Hillier A, Griffin CE (2001) The ACVD task force on canine atopic dermatitis (I): incidence and prevalence. Vet Immunol Immunopathol. Sep 20; 81(3-4):147-51.