Spring has arrived and—no surprise—so has the pollen and insects that cause flare-ups of our allergies. People often experience annoying allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and sniffling, at this time of year. Your furry friend can relate. Cats and dogs can experience the unpleasant symptoms of allergies, too, but their allergies manifest differently and the signs of allergies in pets can be difficult to detect. This guide will help you recognize the signs that your pet has allergies.
What do allergies look like in animals?
Allergies are caused by a hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system to a particular substance, called an allergen. When an allergen enters the body, the immune system tries to protect the body and attack the allergen, causing an allergic reaction. Although people and pets can show some similar allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, coughing, and itchy eyes, pets can show other signs as well, including:
- Over-grooming (licking, chewing, or biting)
- Rubbing, scratching, or itching
- Hair loss
- Head shaking
When pets experience allergic reactions and itch abnormally, they will commonly chew or lick the following areas:
- Hind end
Allergic pets typically experience environmental, food, and/or flea allergies.
Many environmental allergens can affect your pets, whether they spend most of their time in the great outdoors or stay indoors. Cats, in particular, often develop a sensitivity to particles in their environment. These allergies may require lifelong care and management depending on their severity. If the allergy is severe, you should remove your pet from that environment, if possible, or reduce interaction with the element triggering the reaction. If your pet shows signs of chronic allergies, call our office.
Common environmental triggers of allergies in pets are:
- Air fresheners/perfumes
Pets can develop food allergies at any age. With food allergies, the immune system attacks the protein being introduced. A pet reacting to an ingredient will commonly exhibit signs of ear infections, itchiness, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Before tampering with your pet’s diet, you should consult your veterinarian, as not all diets are suitable for some pets. Your veterinarian may opt for a food trial that involves eliminating certain food products from your pet’s diet to determine the ingredient causing the allergic reaction. This can be a lengthy process, as the body can take up to eight weeks to eliminate other food products.
Kibble is not the only food allergy culprit—wet canned food, treats, and supplements may also cause an allergy. Some treats contain flavoring or hydrolyzed forms of meat that can trigger a reaction from your pet’s immune system.
Dogs and cats can be allergic to the following:
Insect bite or flea allergy
As with people, an insect bite or sting can cause your furry friend to have an allergic reaction. Dogs and cats react differently when an insect bites or stings, and some react more severely than others. Well-known suspects that can cause allergic reactions include spiders, houseflies, horseflies, wasps, bees, hornets, ants, and fleas.
The flea is the most common pest that wreaks havoc on your pet’s immune system. The flea’s saliva can cause flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), and may lead to secondary infection if not treated. Consistent flea control is essential for all pets, especially those who are prone to FAD. Your veterinarian can help create the best treatment plan and give your pet relief.
If your pet’s allergies are left untreated, their symptoms may lead to other health complications, such as infection, self-harm and skin issues from excessive chewing and biting, or weight loss.
Do you think your pet has allergies? Schedule an appointment and, together, let’s bring your pet some relief.