Allergies in Pets

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.

General allergy symptoms might include increased scratching, itchy and runny eyes, red and irritated skin, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, constant licking, paw chewing, snoring, itchy ears and infections.

And just like in humans, our pets can be allergic to pollens, mold spores, dust, dander, smoke, food ingredients, fleas, perfumes, cleaning products, fabrics, rubber, and plastics, to name a few things.  And food allergies can be particularly challenging to determine.

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.  There is a range of medications as well as shampoos and other topical therapies that can provide your pet relief.  Allergy shots are also a possibility in some cases.

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.

Symptoms of a Flea Allergy

  • Intense itching or irritation at the bite site
  • Red or inflamed skin lesions
  • Excessive chewing, licking or scratching
  • Pulling or biting the fur or skin
  • Hair loss
  • Sores or hot spots
  • Visible fleas, flea eggs or feces

Common Areas Affected

  • Hindquarters
  • Head
  • Neck

Food Allergies

Food allergies are the result of an immune hypersensitivity to proteins in certain foods. They can cause both dermatological and gastrointestinal issues.

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 Areas Affected

  • Face
  • Limbs
  • Sides of the body
  • Anal region

Common Foods that Cause Allergies


  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Lamb
  • Soy


  • Beef
  • Dairy
  • Fish

Environmental or Seasonal Allergies

Environmental allergies occur when your pet breaths in airborne allergens. Typically, environmental allergens cause year-round problems while pollens cause seasonal allergies .

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
  • Respiratory issues, including puffy or watery eyes, stuffy or runny nose, sneezing or coughing

Common Environmental and Seasonal Irritants

  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Pollens
  • Grass
  • Trees
  • Weeds

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis is the immune system’s reaction to chemicals coming in contact with a dog or cat’s skin. It is the rarest type of pet allergy.

Symptoms of an Allergic Contact Dermatitis

  • Acute itching is the primary symptom
  • Redness or irritation at the contact site
  • Hair loss
  • Sores
  • Scabbing
  • Hot spots

Common Contact Dermatitis Irritants

  • Detergents
  • Soaps
  • Shampoos
  • Carpets
  • Synthetic fibers
  • Wood
  • Leather
  • Paint
  • Petrolium
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Insecticides

Diagnosis Treatment of 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.


PetFinder: “Does My Pet Have Allergies?”

WebMD: “Allergies in Dogs”

HealthLine: “Cat Allergies”