Allergies in Pets
For many of us, the struggle with allergies is all too real. Whether our allergies are seasonal or persist year-round, we have to find ways to cope. Our four-legged family members can suffer from allergies too. Allergens can affect the immune systems of our dogs and cats, but their manifestation may be a bit different than in humans.
Sometimes a pet's allergy symptoms get so extreme, you might worry that they're allergic to you. While, theoretically, this may be possible, it's much more likely that they're suffering from one of conditions listed below.
Flea Allergy Dermatitis
A flea allergy is caused by an immune hypersensitivity to proteins or antigens in their saliva. When a flea bites your pet, a small amount of its saliva is injected into your pet's skin.
Food allergies are the result of an immune system hypersensitivity to proteins in certain foods. They can cause both dermatological and gastrointestinal issues. The allergy-causing ingredients in these foods are slightly different for dogs and cats.
Symptoms of a Food Allergy
- Non-seasonal itching involving the whole body or focused on ears and feet
- Rash or hives under the fur, typically around the face, sides, limbs, and anal area
- Red or swollen ears, often with yellow/brown or bloody discharge
- Coughing, wheezing, difficulty breathing, or other respiratory distress
- Recurrent gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting, diarrhea or excessive gas
Common Foods that Cause Allergies in Dogs
(From most to least common)
Common Foods that Cause Allergies in Cats
(From most to least common)
Symptoms of an Environmental Allergy
- Body-wide itching, often leading to self-inflicted injuries and infection
- Excessive scratching, chewing, licking or biting at certain body parts
- Inflamed skin that is tender to the touch
- Hair loss, open sores on the skin, and scabbing
- Inflamed, itchy ears or chronic ear infections
- Puffy or watery eyes, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing or coughing
Common Environmental Irritants
Symptoms of a Contact Allergy
- Acute itching is the primary symptom
- Redness or irritation at the contact site
- Hair loss
- Hot spots
Common Contact Dermatitis Irritants
Diagnosing & Treating Pet Allergies
If you suspect your dog or cat may be demonstrating signs of allergies, consult your vet. As with allergies in humans, there are a variety of ways to help your pet cope with his or her allergies.
Diagnosing Pet Allergies
Observing your pet's clinical symptoms is the first step in determining which type of allergy your pet may have. Your vet may also perform skin or blood tests to measure the immune response to environmental allergens. Food allergies are often diagnosed by simply removing suspect foods from your pet's diet, then monitoring their reaction as the foods are gradually reintroduced.
Treating Pet Allergies
The best way to avoid pet allergies is to prevent your dog or cat's exposure to allergens. Your vet may also prescribe antihistamines or steroids to help control the allergy symptoms. There are a variety of medications, shampoos and other topical therapies that can reduce itching and scratching. Allergy shots may be given in order to desensitize your pet to environmental allergies.