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Hanford Veterinary Hospital Blog

Allergies in Pets: What You Need to Know

Hanford_iStock_000039219812_Large (2)Allergies are no fun, whether you have two legs or four. While pets may experience allergy symptoms a little differently than their human counterparts, allergies are just as common and annoying for our animals. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about allergies in pets.

Symptoms of Allergies in Pets

Dogs and cats are not spared from the miseries of allergies. In fact, they can be allergic to the same things as people. Different types of foods, pollens, dust, weeds, fleas, other animals, and even humans top the list of allergy sources for pets.

When we’re affected by allergies, we often experience respiratory problems. However, our pets’ allergies often present in the form of skin issues. Common allergy symptoms in dogs and cats include:

  • Excessive licking, chewing, or itching
  • Ear problems
  • Hair loss
  • Reddened skin
  • Bad odor
  • Itchy, draining eyes

What Causes Pet Allergies?

Like we mentioned earlier, pets can have allergies for many reasons. An allergy is simply an over-reaction of the immune system to a substance in the environment. Pet allergies typically fall into one of the following categories:

Flea allergies – An allergy to flea saliva is the number one cause of allergies in both dogs and cats. Pets may react to even one flea bite, sometimes without you even noticing them on your pet. For these pets, it’s vital to provide excellent flea control to prevent problems.

Food allergies – Food sensitivities are less prevalent than commonly believed, but pets can develop allergies to foods they’ve been eating a long time. Often, the allergy is not to a grain or other ingredient, but to the protein source in the food (beef, lamb, soy, fish, etc.). Food allergies can only be diagnosed by performing a strict prescription hypoallergenic food trial.

Environmental allergies – Pets who have an over-reaction to dusts, weeds, pollens, grasses, and molds are very common. These sensitivities are often seasonal and in response to more than one substance. They’re also often atopic, meaning the skin’s immune system is somewhat defective, leading to reactions to a wide variety of allergy sensitivities.

What We Can Do

Allergies in pets may be mild or severe. Some can be managed at home while others may require medical attention. If symptoms are fairly mild, you can try some of these at-home methods to help your pet:  

  • Bathe your pet with a recommended hypoallergenic shampoo
  • Perform daily foot soaks if paw licking/chewing is a problem
  • Clean your floors regularly
  • Use non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaning products
  • Try an over-the-counter anti-histamine (ask for dosing information)
  • Enhance your pet’s diet with a high-quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement

If your pet’s itching is constant and he or she is causing sores or other damage, it’s time to make an appointment. Similar to people, allergies in pets are not curable, but most are manageable. Treatments plans often consist of one or more of the following:

  • Topical treatments such as prescription shampoos, sprays, or lotions
  • Systemic steroids to break the itch cycle (especially for short term seasonal allergies)
  • Alternative medications such as Atopica or Apoquel that slow down itching without unwanted side effects
  • Allergy testing and injections to help the immune system better tolerate allergens
  • Good parasite control to eliminate any role that fleas play in an allergy
  • Diet trials to help control food allergies

Allergies stink for people and pets, and we’re happy to help you develop a treatment plan to keep your pet as comfortable as possible. In the case of flea or food allergies, we may be able to find a very effective, permanent solution. Environmental allergens and atopy can be a bit more challenging, but we’ll start working on a solution for your pet right away. Don’t hesitate – give us a call today!

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