Current Ragweed Season One of the Worst for Pets as Well as People

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Some record pollen readings recorded in Eastern Iowa last week should tell allergy sufferers why they're sneezing and wheezing more than normal in the middle of this allergy season. It may be a surprise that the same tree, grass and weed pollen that causes respiratory problems in humans from early spring until early fall is also a problem for some pets.

Dog owner Nancy Crist, who is involved in animal rescues and shelter issues locally, knows her mixed-breed dog "Petey" is prone to allergies, but the severity of the problem caught her by surprise last weekend. Crist is allergic to ragweed and while she was congested and wheezing her dog was having problems of his own.

"[He was] scratching, scratching, scratching, licking at his fur, tugging and scratching. So it was just like we were playing the same song," Crist said.

Crist took Petey to the vet on Wednesday for some medication to ease the dog's discomfort and begin healing the "hot spots" on his coat created by the constant scratching due to allergies.

She wasn't alone. Several Cedar Rapids veterinarians say in the last two weeks, between 30 and 50 percent of all the dogs brought in for visits were suffering from some problem connected with airborne allergies.

Dr Ryan Steen, DVM at Frey Animal Hospital, is treating Petey. He said cats occasionally show signs of allergic reactions to pollen in the air. But it's primarily an issue for dogs. And while a few dogs can display some of the respiratory problems humans get from allergies, most of the pet pollen issues lead to itching and scratching or licking of paws by the animals.

Dr. Steen said he wasn't sure if this was the worst allergy season he's seen for pets, but he said it certainly ranks near the top.

"It's as bad as I've seen. I don't know if it's the worst ever but it's as bad as I've seen," Dr. Steen said.

Dr Steen also said while his office is seeing the pets who have allergy problems every year, he's also seeing animals who've never shown any sign of trouble with airborne pollen before. He said that's also another indication this allergy season is a bad one both for pets and people.

Iowa's ragweed season starts in mid-August and lasts until mid-September. The peak is usually around Labor Day.
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