The Most Common Causes of Allergies in Pets and What To Do About It
Published on: May 21, 2018 | Author: Starwood Animal Transport
Ah, allergy season. How we wish it would go away – forever. Our pets heartily agree since they, too, can suffer from a variety of annoying or even debilitating allergies. And not all of those allergies are seasonal. Our pets’ symptoms are often the same as what we find in humans, and also like humans, it can be tough to pinpoint just what the problem is.
It’s important to persevere, though. No loving pet parent wants to see their four-legged friend suffer. And repeatedly telling them to stop licking doesn’t work. So if you’re seeing any of these indications, it’s time to talk with your vet to get the diagnostic ball rolling:
- Incessant licking – of paws, belly, groin
- Frequent scratching (some dogs will scratch their skin raw, causing “hot spots” that invite infections)
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
- Gastrointestinal distress (vomiting, diarrhea, or reduced appetite)
Similar symptoms can also be caused by skin mites, endocrine diseases such as Cushing’s, or fungal infections.
What could be the problem?
You name it. Both dogs and cats can be allergic to:
- Pollen (especially grass)
- Food (specific ingredients such as corn, soy, wheat, chicken, beef, eggs, and dairy products)
- Fleas (yes, allergic to flea saliva, not merely reaction to flea bites)
- Prescription medications (rare in cats)
Cats can also be allergic to dust, mold, mites and other household allergens, as well as fragrances found in toys, bedding, etc. If you notice hard or pus-filled bumps on her chin, that may be “chin acne,” caused by an allergy to plastic. Serve her food and water in glass, ceramic, or metal bowls.
Almost a third of cats and dogs who have food-related allergies are also allergic to fleas or environmental triggers such as pollen.
What can you do?
Allergies can affect dogs and cats at any age. As they get older, they can develop new allergies. This is a common problem for cats. Age can also cause existing allergies to become more severe.
Moving to a geographic location or climate can bring on allergic reaction, because your pet is now exposed to a new environment. If moving to a foreign country, you’ll want to be hyper-aware of this possibility, and also learn about other local plants or wildlife that could harm your pet.
Since allergies aren’t curable, the goal is to alleviate irritating or painful symptoms. The most effective way to do that is to eliminate the cause from your pet’s environment. You can change Fluffy’s diet, but eliminating environmental sources is not always possible.
- Your vet may do a skin test, similar to that administered to humans, to narrow down the possibilities. In many cases, your vet may be able to use the results of the skin test to create a custom-tailored immunization program. This is effective for about 70% of dogs.
- Flea and tick medication is a must. These nasty critters not only cause painful, itchy bites and trigger allergies in some pegs, they carry diseases. NEVER use flea and tick medication intended for dogs on your cat, because the ingredients can make her very ill.
- Antihistamines such as Benadryl may also work, but it is essential to discuss this with your vet first. Different drugs work differently, and getting the dosage right is critical.
- Steroids can also help reduce itchiness and swelling, but they can cause serious long-term health problems.
- Fish oil or similar omega-3 fatty acid supplements support skin health, which can help fend off environmental allergens and reduce swelling. These supplements also benefit your pet’s joints and heart.
- If food is the problem, you’ll probably have to eliminate treats and stop slipping your dear girl those table scraps she loves. That really bites, she would say, so you’ll have to find some other way to make it up to her. More toys. More catnip mice.
- If grass pollen is the problem, convincing your sweet dog or cat to stay off the lawn is undoubtedly out of the question. So initiate a regular routine of paw-cleansing whenever she comes back into the house. Wiping her feet (and the rest of her fur) with a damp cloth works well. If the problem is severe, bathing your dog more frequently may also help, but too-frequent will lead to dry skin.
Because there is so much overlap of symptoms, they could point toward more than one source. You and your vet and your pet may have to try a few options before finding your way to the best solution. The sooner you get started, though, the sooner you can help your poor, beleaguered girl find relief.
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