Many people know the challenges that come with allergies, but unfortunately, our pets can also experience an allergic reaction to many of the same environmental factors as humans.
As a result, pets can become extremely uncomfortable, and attempts to alleviate their symptoms through excessive scratching or grooming can actually make things worse (secondary health issues can occur).
Learning how to recognize and respond to allergies in pets is essential to keeping our furry friends at the top of their game.
Allergies in Pets
In general, an allergy is an overreaction of the immune system to foreign particles that enter the body. These particles, called allergens, can be practically anything. The most common forms of allergies in pets include:
- Inhalant allergies – Also known as atopy, this can be an allergy to tree or grass pollen, dust, mold, perfume, or any other particles inside or outside the home. Inhalant allergies may be seasonal in nature, such as during spring when pollen is at its peak.
- Flea allergy dermatitis – Most pets find fleas uncomfortable, but some experience an intense allergic reaction to flea saliva. It only takes one bite to feel the effects.
- Food allergies – Food allergies in pets are typically in response to a protein source in the diet, most commonly beef, soy, chicken, or eggs. Other culprits include corn and wheat. An elimination diet is usually recommended for pets with a suspected food allergy. Identifying the specific allergen can take weeks.
- Contact allergies – Contact allergies are more rare and occur when a pet comes into contact with a chemical irritant, such as cleaning products, medications, and more.
What to Watch For
Unlike humans, who tend to experience respiratory symptoms in response to allergies, allergies in pets usually manifest as intense itching of the skin. Signs include:
- Licking or biting at the paws, belly, groin, back, and other areas on the body
- Rubbing the ears or head shaking
- Red, swollen, or scabbed skin
- Foul odor emanating from the skin or ears
- Digestive issues (vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain)
- Watery eyes, wheezing (less common)
Responding to Your Pet’s Allergies
If your pet is experiencing any of the symptoms of allergies or you just sense that they’re uncomfortable, bring them in to Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital. Determining the source of your pet’s allergies and developing a plan to make them more comfortable is our top priority.
Common methods of treating allergies in pets include:
- Administering allergen-specific immunotherapy
- Regular bathing using a prescription shampoo and conditioner
- Use of prescription allergy medications and antihistamines
- Prescription food and treats
- Year-round flea preventive medication (all pets should be doing this whether they’re allergic to fleas or not)
- Avoidance of known allergens whenever possible
Please don’t hesitate to contact our vet staff with any questions or concerns about your pet. We’re passionate about protecting the health, comfort, and happiness of pets with allergies and are committed to doing whatever we can to help!