Allergies plague many dogs and cats, causing a life-long battle with chronic discomfort. For pet owners, the constant scratching, licking, and general misery can be tough to watch. The Town & Country Animal Hospital team knows allergies, which often require multiple veterinary visits, can be frustrating for pet owners. We answer frequently asked questions about allergies in dogs and cats, so pet owners can help their furry pal on their journey to recovery.

Question: How do I know if my pet has allergies?

Answer: Allergies typically affect a pet’s skin, ears, and anal glands. Less frequently, allergies can manifest as gastrointestinal upset or respiratory irritation. Call our team to schedule a visit if you notice any of the following possible allergy signs in your pet:

  • Excessive licking, scratching, chewing, or biting
  • Recurrent ear infections
  • Scabs or scaling on the skin
  • “Gym sock” odor
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Hair loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Chronic runny nose, sneezing, wheezing, or coughing

Q: How do veterinarians diagnose allergies in pets?

A: Allergy diagnosis requires a thorough physical exam and health history, followed by tests to rule out other problems. General blood and urine tests may be ordered to rule out endocrine causes of skin issues, while microscopic skin exams can help rule out parasites and infections. Our veterinary team may also check your pet’s response to medication or prescription food trials to confirm an allergy diagnosis.

Q: What causes allergies in pets?

A: Allergies develop when a pet’s immune system overreacts to harmless substances. The most common allergy triggers for pets are:

  • Flea bites — Flea saliva proteins can lead to flea allergy dermatitis (FAD).
  • Environmental allergens — Pollen, dust mites, mold spores, animal dander, and insects are common environmental or seasonal allergens.
  • Food — Pets can become sensitized to any ingredient in their current food, typically the main protein.

Q: How can I determine my pet’s allergy trigger?

A: Determining your pet’s exact allergy triggers isn’t always possible. We can glean some information from the allergy’s seasonality, but a definitive diagnosis requires specialized blood work or skin prick testing. These tests don’t work for food allergies—a strict elimination diet trial is necessary to pinpoint food allergens by removing and re-introducing an ingredient. Determining allergens is helpful to facilitate avoidance, but in some cases, the knowledge doesn’t change the overall treatment plan.

Q: How are pet allergies treated?

A: Allergies aren’t curable, but treatment can help manage symptoms. Treatments may be needed year-round or only seasonally and may consist of a combination of the following:

  • Avoidance — Air purifiers, frequent vacuuming, frequent bathing, wiping paws, dust mite mitigation, and limiting time outdoors can reduce environmental allergen exposure.
  • Diet — Switching to a novel protein or hypoallergenic diet can diagnose and treat food allergies.
  • Medications — Oral immune modulators, antihistamines, and steroids are therapy mainstays, along with topical antibiotic and anti-inflammatory shampoos, sprays, wipes, creams, and powders.
  • Immunotherapy — Measured allergen doses via injection or oral drops can desensitize the immune system’s abnormal response.
  • Supplements — Fish oil can reduce inflammation and probiotics can alter the gut microbiome, which may help modulate the immune system.
  • Parasite preventivesPreventing flea exposure can reduce flea allergy symptoms.

Q: Can allergies in pets be cured?

A: Allergies aren’t curable, although your pet’s allergens may change over time. The goal of allergy treatment is long-term control, but flare-ups are likely. Owners of allergic pets must commit to their furry pal’s treatment plan to see the best results and should learn to identify early allergy flare signs or anticipate expected flares.

Although allergies aren’t curable, our Town & Country Animal Hospital team works closely with pet owners to battle allergy signs and symptoms and create practical treatment plans that fit with your family’s lifestyle. Contact us if you believe your pet is suffering from allergies, or to schedule your pet’s next routine wellness visit and parasite screening.