Hay fever or Atopy in Dogs and Cats

If you are like me, you are anxious for the longer days of spring, and the warmth that comes with it. I have been seeing the effects of the warmer days and winter rains on pets in the Gilroy area. The wet season has brought a bumper crop of grasses which has made a lot of my allergy prone patients, not to mention my dog Maisy, miserable. This last week half my patients have come to the hospital seeking relief. Cats are sneezing and wheezing and dogs are itching their ears, chewing on their feet, and licking their butts.

When human hay fever sufferers breathe pollens in, sinuses become inflamed, mucous is produced, and bugs grow in the warm mucous. This  same scenario often occurs in cats. Clear discharge from the nose due to allergies can turn to yellow and green as infection sets in.When this happens, antibiotics, antihistamines, and antiinflamatories are needed to relieve symptoms

Cats are also prone to asthma and bronchitis from “hay fever”. Cats will act like they are bringing up a hairball, but they are just reacting to the “itch” or “tickle” in their chest, with loud breathing and wheezing.(This often looks like they are having trouble breathing!) If you see these symptoms, but your cat feels fine otherwise, you can try ½ tab of 10mg Claritin for a couple days to see if it helps.

Dogs will chew on their paws, their eyes will run, they will sneeze or wheeze, and their outer ears and ear canal will turn bright red when they get “hay fever”. Antihistamines sometimes help with  the swelling , inflammation, and irritation. The dosages for Claritin and Benadryl are in my free home remedy download. Cetirizine which is the generic for Zyrtec can also be used. The dosage is ¼ tab for a small dog daily. ½ tab for a medium size dog daily, and one tab daily for a large dog. Each dog and cat will react differently to medication, so one antihistamine that works well with one does not mean that it will work well on other animals with similar symptoms.

If symptoms are severe, nothing seems to work better than an injection of dexamethasone.  I have had to give several injections to dogs and cats with moderate to severe allergy symptoms this week. I try to use far less long acting injections of steroids or long term oral prednisone usage. I try to manage allergies with better nutrition. Skin that is better nourished is less likely to become inflamed.

You can read about my nutritional ideas and treatment of allergic dogs in my book, Dog Dish Diet.

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14 Responses to Hay fever or Atopy in Dogs and Cats

  1. Dr Greg says:

    All allergic dogs may be sensitive to fleas, pollens and molds(hay fever), or food. Quit feeding any biscuits with wheat, add healthy oils, feed hypoallergenic food. The suggestions in my book and supplementing home cooked dog food helps many allergic dogs. You can order my book on my website and I will send you my updated crock pot recipes. Go to mindbites.com and search for “feed your pet to avoid the vet”. The series is only 2.99.

  2. Tiffany says:

    Hi Dr. Greg
    I took my 4yr old pit/boxer to the vet necause he was scratching like crazy which have him sores. He gave me a diagnosis of hayfever, gave in a shot and antibiotics. Cost me $150. Hes scratching and has sores again. I can’t keep paying that price every couple months. My vet also told me antihistamines humans take work about 2% of the time on dogs. Is that true? I need to do something to help Butters with the scratching and prevent infection.

  3. Dr Greg says:

    You can try 1/2 claritin to see if it helps. Could be asthma, allergies, or a viral infection that is causing the wheezing. If the claritin doesn’t help or antibiotics that you have around don’t help, he may need to be checked out.

  4. Jenn says:

    Hi Dr Greg,

    One of my 3 indoor cats has developed this kind of rasping with his tongue out over the last 18 hours only.

    He was originally half-feral when we got him from Cats Protection, but has since become very affectionate and cuddly over the 18 months we’ve had him, if still a bit nervy.

    Today he’s been impossible to get close to, hasn’t seemed to be able to eat, is often licking his face or sticking his tongue out. A very rough lick/rasping sound is coming from his mouth. My partner doesn’t think its his tongue alone making the noise. He seems happy enough if we leave him alone and don’t try to get close to him. We found a pile of sick this morning which we’re assuming is his.

    We’d assumed he might have eaten something he shouldn’t but as this has been going on for almost a day now we’re not sure whether or not to call the vet or if this is just an allergy or bad hairball reaction. What would you suggest?

  5. Pete says:

    ok, we’ve given him a 1/4 and see how he reacts, many thanks again

  6. Dr Greg says:

    I looked in up in my veterinary internet and specialists are advising 1/2 tab of Claritin daily. Try 1/4 tab per day for 4 days to see if it helps!!

  7. Pete says:

    Thank you, we’re too scared to give him claritin haha! We bought it but are too chicken! Will pick some kitty fish oil for him though (:

  8. Dr Greg says:

    Those are usually a combination of infection and irritation due to hay fever or membranes that were affected by early viral infection. Wouldn’t hurt to try claritin but I would try 5mg for such a tiny cat. I usually advise treating for 4 days.
    If you could get ahold of some pred 5mg, he could try 1/2 tab daily for 4 days. Fish oil or sardines may help, fish oil is an anti inflammatory omega oil.

  9. Pete says:

    Thanks Dr Greg.

    His eyes are rarely watery, usual just after his sneezed a lot. The coughing is rare, maybe twice week at most.

    We spent about £400 on lots of tests when he was young, they took swabs of the discharge, etc but couldn’t find anythign specifically wrong, but I guess it must be an infection of sorts if he has yellow discharge and the original antibitoics worked.

  10. Dr Greg says:

    Sounds like he has chronic respiratory issues. Some cats when infected at a really young age with common viruses never seem to get over the runny eyes and sinus problems associated with the infection. Rounds of antibiotics and sometimes cortisone injections help. My cat, Mokie, has spells of the hairball type coughing which really is asthma or chronic lung problem inflammation. I give her an injection of dexamethasone if she keeps coughing more than a few times during a given day. I only have to do that once monthly. Some clients use an inhaler for cats or prednisone tablets. Benadryl or claritin may work to help with the runny eyes and congestion. Your little guy sounds like he may need antibiotics and even prednisone on occasion. Has he been tested for FELV, FIP, FIV? How often does he have coughing spells? Do his eyes ever clear up?

  11. Pete says:

    Just to add he’s only a little thing (about 2.3kg) as he was abandonded on a farm at a young age, he’s an indoor cat and has his flu jabs each year.

  12. Pete says:

    Hi Dr Greg, out cat is 14 this year and has always suffered with sneezing and the type of wheezing you speak about, often his tongue will poke out while he’s making the rasping hairball type noise. He gets watery eves, his nose can whistle and he produces a lot of yellowish discharge from his nose. One day he had a botched hernia operation and he was on a heavy dose of antibiotics and it cleared his sneezing for the best part of 2 years. Since then we would go back and get a repeat prescirption when the symptoms returned. Sadly the product that worked has been discontinued and now the antibiotics we try do not work. Is it worth trying 10mg of Claritin? I’m in the UK so I hope the ingredients are the same and safe to use. His symptoms can last for months each year. Thanks in advance

  13. Dr Greg says:

    You’re welcome Emma, glad I could help. Cats will often get hay fever, then can develop asthma after a few years. You can use 5mg of Claritin before they go outdoors on a day when the pollen is the worst

  14. emma frith says:

    hi thanks for this information, i cant get through to my vet for an answer about hayfever in cats! 2 of my cats have weepy eyes and snezzing a lot when they are outside but when they inside after a while it all calms down! and what you mentioned about trying to itch the tickle in there chest! couldn’t work out why my cat hadnt thrown up but had been making all the noises! very helpful thank you x

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