Just like humans, pets are susceptible to hay fever and asthma in the spring.

Your eyes itch, your nose runs and you get your asthma pump — for many allergy sufferers, the rise in hay fever symptoms marks the start of spring. For those who have pets, it should be borne in mind that they can also suffer from allergies.

Melbourne vet Richard Gowan says cat owners should be especially aware of the symptoms.

“Allergies are very common in all pets, but cats in particular suffer from a significant amount of allergies and get hay fever,” says Dr. Gowan.

While allergies in felines often manifest as allergic skin, itching, and dermatitis, asthma can look a little different in cats.

“The main one is a chronic, persistent cough,” says Dr. Gowan.

“[We] I see a lot of customers mistake this for a cat with a hairball.”

But the two can be distinguished.

“Cough is air and vomit is hair. A cough is a cough and a hairball is vomit.”

Making an appointment with the vet is the first step in diagnosing asthma.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Zilla Gordon)

Dr. Gowan advises pet owners to schedule a vet appointment if you notice anything unusual.

“Coughing, vomiting, sneezing, wheezing, changes to normal, that’s the main thing,” he says.

Generally, allergies in cats are lifelong.

“It’s just a matter of finding an appropriate strategy to try to reduce exposure to allergens, because allergies tend to be multifactorial,” says Dr Gowan.

“One of the most important is to look at food triggers as well…similar to people if you’re trying to avoid or minimize exposure to triggers.”

Inhalers for cats

In terms of treatment, there are a few options.

“We’re going to look at how [cat] present, but also maybe x-rays of their chest, and there are also more advanced diagnoses – lung hot flushes and CT scans, because the cause of asthma can be quite wide and varied,” says Dr. Gowan.

When other causes are ruled out, Dr. Gowan says it’s time for an asthma plan.

Experts say it can be difficult to get your cat to take medication with a pump.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Zilla Gordon)

“A lot of cats can be very well managed with inhaled medications, basically similar to humans,” he says.

Getting your cat to use an inhaler can be a learning process, so tempting them with treats might help close the deal.

“Some cats just don’t like things on their face and there are alternative ways,” says Dr. Gowan.

Although inhalers are the ideal method of treatment, Dr Gowan says oral medications can also “significantly reduce the symptoms of airway disease”.

The rain falls as the season kicks off

For hay fever sufferers — both feline and human — tree and grass pollens are the worst offenders, and their effects are most prevalent from October through December.

Ed Newbigin, associate professor and researcher with Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast at the University of Melbourne, says wet weather could make matters worse.

“So if you had a wetter year, that means the grasses will grow more,” says Dr Newbigin.

And although this year’s rainfall has so far been “average” across much of Victoria, a third consecutive La Niña is on the way according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Dr Newbigin said rainfall in NSW could see Sydney residents experiencing a strong pollen season, while the outlook for Melbourne and Canberra is similar to last year.

“That said, 2021 has been one of the biggest pollen seasons in Canberra, so to say it looks the same won’t be too comforting for Canberrans with hay fever and asthma,” he says.

Tree and grass pollens are the two main contributors to hay fever.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Zilla Gordon )

Dr. Newbigin says asthma symptoms are more likely to occur during pollen season.

“Melbourne is east of some of the best grazing land in Australia…you look across a sea of ​​grass that stretches to the South Australian border and beyond,” he says.

“We have a lot of westerly winds and that’s all the grass pollen that gets pumped up by these great lands and ends up in Melbourne.”

Asthmatics were also warned ahead of the peak of the thunderstorm season which usually runs from October to December.

In 2016, 10 people died when an asthma storm hit Melbourne.

This is general information only. For personalized advice, you should consult a qualified doctor.

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