Pet Allergies Demystified
Symptoms of pet allergies bring in more pets for veterinary visits at All Pet Animal Hospital than almost all other ailments. This extremely common and oh-so-very-frustrating medical problem is the source of misery for many pets and their owners alike. Not to worry, though Learning what actually causes pet allergies, what treatment options are available, and what you can do to help can alleviate some of that distress.
Calling it Like You See It
So how do you know if your four-legged friend is suffering from pet allergies? While symptoms can vary from patient-to-patient, often they manifest in similar ways. Humans associate allergies with sneezing and trouble breathing, but respiratory symptoms are much less common in animals.
Symptoms of pet allergies can include:
- Ear infections
- Licking of paws
- Red or inflamed skin
- Anal gland infection or irritation
- Saliva staining
- Hair loss
- Bad odor
- Open sores or “hot spots”
These symptoms can wax and wane. Some pets will have multiple symptoms while others might only exhibit one!
The Source of the Problem
Similarly to humans with allergies, we are not entirely sure what causes a pet’s immune system to respond to a certain allergen while others are unaffected. Likely, genes play some role in the development of hypersensitivity with repeated exposure. This makes sense when we acknowledge that some breeds certainly seem to have more than their fair share of allergy issues.
While the causes of pet allergies are unclear, we do know that they can occur at any time in a pet’s life. Most of the time no allergic symptoms will occur at the first exposure, but will intensify with each repeated exposure. Most pets begin to really exhibit allergy symptoms around two-to-three years of age.
While we aren’t sure what causes allergies to develop, we do know what the main allergens identified are. They fall into three main categories:
- Flea allergy
- Food allergy (usually to a protein source)
- Environmental allergy (dust, pollen, mold, etc.)
Diagnosing pet allergies is often accomplished based on symptoms and response to treatment.
Pet allergy symptoms can vary from mild to quite severe. If your pet’s symptoms are mild, there are certainly things that you can do to alleviate symptoms.
- Bathe your pet to remove allergens from the skin and soothe inflammation. Pets with allergies may need to be bathed on a weekly (or more frequent) basis. Always use a hypoallergenic shampoo (call us for recommendations).
- If your pet is licking or chewing their paws, try a foot soak to remove allergens and decrease tracking them into the indoor environment.
- Keep your home as clean and allergen-free as possible. Vacuum and clean your floors regularly. Clean with non-toxic, fragrance free products.
- Administer an over-the-counter antihistamine under veterinary direction. While antihistamines like Benadryl are not as effective as we would like them to be, they can be helpful in certain circumstances.
- Supplement your pet with a good quality omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Regular administration promotes skin health and decreases inflammation.
- Don’t skimp on flea prevention. While not all pets are flea allergic, eliminating this potential possibility with prescription flea control monthly can be very helpful.
If your pet’s problem is more severe, it is time to contact us for an appointment. Treatment of secondary infection, topical skin management, and systemic drugs such as steroids or anti-itch medications may be necessary to manage your pet.
More chronic allergy problems may benefit from longer term veterinary intervention like a prescription food trial or allergy testing. Allergy testing for pets involves blood or skin testing to identify allergens. These can help the pet’s body lessen its response to problem antigens over time.
Management of allergies in pets is a big part of what we do, and our team is here to help you and your pet get through this common problem. While pet allergies are never pleasant, they are often manageable with a little teamwork.