Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Allergies in pets can be seasonal or year-round. Year-round allergies include food allergies or flea allergies in temperate climates, while seasonal allergies include pollens, grasses, molds and fleas in parts of the country that have a four-season climate.

Seasonal vs. Year-Round Allergies

The difference between a seasonal and a year-round allergy is the amount of time your pet shows symptoms. Most pets with seasonal allergies have more attacks in the spring and in the fall, when weather patterns are changing and temperatures are either rising toward summer heat or dropping into winter chill.

Seasonal allergies break down into two main categories: flea allergies and atopic allergies. Flea allergies are the most common allergy in both cats and dogs. They only require the bite of a single flea to set off a reaction if the dog or cat has been sensitized to flea bites by having regular flea infestations.

Atopic allergies are the second most common allergy in dogs and cats. Atopic allergies are a skin-based reaction to an inhaled allergen, and symptoms can include frequent scratching, recurrent ear infections, hot spots or hair loss. Allergy triggers in spring can include flowering plants, grasses, insects and fleas. In the fall, allergy triggers can include mold and ragweed.

Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies

A pet with seasonal allergies is more likely to be a dog than a cat. He will usually be between the ages of 1 and 3 years when his seasonal allergies first show themselves. He will scratch constantly, chew at his feet and legs, and rub his face. He may also develop ear infections that do not easily clear themselves up, or he may have secondary infections on his skin from unstoppable scratching.


To diagnose your pet, the veterinarian will need to know what allergens set off the allergies. To determine this, he or she will use skin or blood tests that are designed to recreate the reaction your pet has to allergy triggers.

The skin test requires that your dog be shaved on one side of his belly, and small quantities of different allergens will be injected under your pet's skin. Test results are read after the allergens have had an opportunity to react with your dog's body.

The blood test combines small amounts of your dog's blood with allergens in a laboratory, but the goal is the same: to recreate an allergic reaction. Once test results are ready to review, your veterinarian can make recommendations as to the best way to treat your dog's seasonal allergies.

Treating Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Once you know the cause of your pet's seasonal allergy, you can begin treating it with the help of your veterinarian. Among the short-term treatment options are antihistamines, steroids or topical medications that help ease skin irritation and swelling.

A long-term solution to your pet's allergy problem involves hyposensitization treatment. This treatment, which is more commonly called allergy shots, involves giving the pet small doses of the problem allergen over a set period of time. The goal of the treatment is to have the pet's immune system no longer consider the allergen as a threat, which means that an allergic reaction will no longer be required to combat the perceived invader.