Allergies in Pets: A Very Scratchy Problem

Small white dog scratching himself outsideHave you noticed Fido scratching a lot more than usual? Are Fluffy’s ears particularly itchy? Or have you noticed skin issues, such as inflammation, in your pet? Allergies in pets are one of the most common problems our patients deal with, particularly our canine friends. Not unlike us, pets do suffer from allergies, which can wreak havoc on their quality of life when left untreated.

The team at Maywood wants pet owners to know more about this problem – which affects many of our fur-bearing friends, and how we can help your pet feel much better.

Allergies in Pets: What Causes Them?

An allergy is a hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Among the causes, we typically see the following types of pet allergies:

  • Food allergy – Many foods can cause a reaction in our pets, most notably beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, soy, corn, and wheat.
  • Flea allergy – This very common allergy is caused by flea saliva, often showing up as dermatitis or other skin conditions.
  • Contact allergy – Contact allergy develops when your pet is exposed through direct contact or inhalation of a substance or chemical, such as synthetic fibers used in carpet, household cleaners, or shampoos.
  • Atopy – This includes seasonal and environmental allergies resulting from pollens and plants, mold spores, and dust mites.

Symptoms of Pet Allergies

Achoo! Sniffles and sneezes are something we associate with allergies but for our pets there other, less obvious symptoms. In some cases, pet owners don’t notice an allergy because they are looking for signs of an upper respiratory illness, like weepy eyes or sneezing. Although these can manifest as an allergic response in pets, some more subtle signs of allergies include:

  • Chronic or persistent scratching
  • Skin conditions, such as hot spots, hives, and hair loss
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Inflamed ears and ear infections
  • Respiratory symptoms like coughing

It is important to have your pet seen, should these symptoms occur. Many pets with allergic reactions will develop a weakened immune system, and persistent scratching can lead to infection, hair loss, and discomfort.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Clinical symptoms noted by your veterinarian can be helpful in determining the source of the allergen(s), as can your own observations, such as when the allergy became noticeable and whether it’s persistent or intermittent.

Allergies that are suspected to be caused by food will be assessed through a food trial, eliminating certain types of food over time and gauging the response. Certain symptoms of allergies can be relieved by antihistamines and other medications prescribed by your veterinarian, as well as topical solutions and medicated shampoos to soothe the skin.

In some cases, allergy shots, which are designed to desensitize the immune system to the allergy, can be effective.

If you suspect your pet might be allergic to something, please schedule an appointment. There is no reason for the discomfort of allergies for anyone – including our furry pals. With the many good treatments available, we are sure to have your friend itch-free and feeling great very soon.