Dogs and Cats Also Suffer From Allergies

Spring is quickly approaching and many of us will suffer from allergies. Dogs and cats also suffer from allergies. Allergies are due to the immune system reacting abnormally to a substance, called an allergen. The main symptoms of allergies include itching and recurrent skin infections. Itching is seen as chewing, licking, scratching, rubbing, or scooting. One or multiple areas of the body may be involved. Many common areas include the feet, ears, anal area, abdomen, legs, groin, armpits, and face. Affected areas may show hair loss, redness, rashes, darker skin, or thicker skin. Some pets also experience respiratory symptoms (runny eyes, sneezing, etc) as we do. Infections are generally due to bacteria and/or yeast. Parasites, fleas, mites, and fungal infections can also mimic allergies in pets.

Signs of allergies can start as early as 3 months of age, with most pets showing signs between 1-6 years of age. There is no cure for allergies but fortunately, good management can be achieved. Generally, a combination of treatments is used to help prevent and treat infections, inflammation and itching. Oral medications, injections, allergy shots, supplements, topical products, shampoos/conditioners, and good flea and parasite prevention are used in combination. It can take time to find the right individualized treatment plan for each pet. Sometimes licking of a particular area may be due to other conditions, such as an arthritic joint, so a thorough exam is needed. Useful tests may include bloodwork, skin scraping to look for mites, skin cytology to look for bacteria and yeast, culture to identity resistant bacterial infections, allergy intradermal and serum blood testing, and food elimination diet trials.

The two main allergies in pets are food allergies (any ingredient in a food, most often a type of protein) and environmental allergies (pollens, dusts, molds). Environmental allergies can be due to indoor or outdoor allergens and can be seasonal or year round. Food allergies can cause gastrointestinal signs as well as itching, such as vomiting and change in stool consistency or frequency. If a food allergy is suspected the only way to know what a pet is allergic to is to perform an elimination diet trial for 8-12 weeks. Environmental allergies can be discovered with skin intradermal testing, which can be combined with serum blood testing for allergens.

If you think your pet may be experiencing allergies or skin disease don’t hesitate to talk with us. Enjoy the warmer weather and longer daylight hours soon to be arriving!