By Erica Radhakrishnan


Many Kentuckians suffer from seasonal allergies.  This suffering includes our furry friends.  In fact, some experts cite Kentucky as the worst state for allergies and debate whether Louisville or Lexington is the most unfavorable city for this affliction.  The type of vegetation grown, pollen production and environmental conditions such as rainfall, temperature and the length of season determine this ranking.   A pet’s body releases the chemical histamine when exposed to an allergen causing a physiological response to a perceived, but false invader.  This release of histamine results in the expression of a variety of uncomfortable signs and symptoms.  Unfortunately, both cats and dogs can experience the displeasure of seasonal allergies.

Signs that your pet may be experiencing allergen discomfort most commonly affect their skin. 

These include a rash or red, irritated skin particularly on the belly, between their toes or around their anus, hot spots, hair loss or red and inflamed skin around the mouth, chin, or paws. Your cat or dog may also experience red, puffy eyes, inflamed and smelly ears, sneezing or a runny nose.  Animals diagnosed with asthma or FIV are at greater risk for respiratory concerns during seasonal allergy season.  Symptoms your pet may exhibit indicating a seasonal allergy include constant scratching that increases after spending time outdoors.  They may scoot across the floor on their hind end or shake their head due to ear irritation or discomfort.  Your pet may lick and bite their paws or belly or rub their face and body on the carpet or along baseboards. Cats may excessively groom.   

You can attempt to reduce the effects of seasonal allergies for both you and your pets with the regular dusting of surfaces, vacuuming of carpets and mopping of floors.  Install a HEPA filter in your home to reduce allergens and minimize the amount of time you keep your windows open, particularly during high-pollen hours and days.   To specifically help your pet’s environmental allergies lessen the amount of time they spend outdoors.  If you own an outdoor cat, consider changing their habits to those of an indoor cat.  If this is not possible or you own a dog, be sure to wipe their paws and bodies off with a damp cloth hypoallergenic, pet-specific wet wipe after they come inside.  You can also use apple-cider vinegar to rinse their feet or clean their ears using a dampened cotton ball.  Do NOT apply vinegar to any open wounds as it will burn and cause them pain.  Give your pets regular baths with a gentle shampoo recommended by your veterinarian to wash off pollen and other allergens.  Do NOT administer any over-the-counter allergy medications to your pet without consulting a veterinarian.

If these home-remedies are ineffective, your pet’s symptoms worsen, or your pet has a diagnosed respiratory disease such as asthma, schedule an appointment to be seen by your regular, primary veterinarian to discuss options to alleviate their seasonal allergy symptoms.  Your doctor may prescribe oral or topical medications.  They may also recommend additional testing or allergy shots.   Similar to humans, the effects of allergies may not be cured, but with timely medical attention they can be managed allowing both you and your pet to enjoy the beauty and rebirth of Spring.