Allergies can affect pets the same way they affect people, but with a few key differences. Here are seven facts you need to know about allergies that are making your furry pal itchy and miserable.
#1: Pets most commonly suffer from environmental allergies
Atopic dermatitis, or environmental allergies, can make your pet miserable year-round, or only during certain seasons. Common environmental allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Aerosol sprays
Atopic dermatitis can be triggered by many of the same allergens that cause people to suffer with hayfever or asthma, so your furry pal may display allergy signs the same time as you’re reaching for the tissues during hayfever season.
#2: Pets can develop a severe hypersensitivity to flea bites
While flea bites are never pleasant, some pets are incredibly sensitive to the bites of these blood-sucking parasites. Pets who have a flea allergy are hypersensitive to the protein in flea saliva, and can develop a severe reaction to bites from only a handful of fleas. If your pet has a flea allergy, their intense itching will let you know that you missed a dose of their flea preventive. Often, a pet with a flea allergy will lose excessive hair on the hind end and tail base, and their skin will be red and irritated. By administering quality flea prevention year-round, and treating an infested house and environment, you can keep your flea-allergic pet comfortable and itch-free.
#3: Pets are rarely allergic to corn
That pets have food allergies, with corn a common culprit, is a huge misconception. In fact, pets rarely have food allergies, and a hypersensitivity to corn is highly unlikely. A pet who develops a true food allergy is typically sensitive to the protein source in their diet. The most common food allergens for pets include:
- Dairy products
Cats can develop allergies to fish, since most cat foods and treats contain fish.
Food allergies often develop after years of eating the same diet, rather than cropping up the first time a pet is exposed to a particular ingredient. Food allergies are not only uncommon, but also can be difficult to diagnose, as they require a strict food trial lasting 8 to 12 weeks, during which your pet can eat a diet that consists of only a novel protein or a prescription hydrolyzed food. After your pet has completed the food trial, an ingredient, such as chicken, from the original diet is reintroduced to see if the pet has an allergic reaction. Several food trials may be needed to determine the source of a pet’s food allergy, so environmental and flea allergies are typically ruled out first to grant the pet relief as quickly as possible.
#4: Pets can suffer from allergies year-round
Some pets experience seasonal allergies to pollen and plants that flare in the spring, and then taper off during the summer and fall, completely resolving during the winter. However, some pets have allergies to multiple allergens, and can itch all year long. Mold, dust mites, and food can be triggers for year-round allergies, so if your furry pal itches most of the year, they are likely allergic to multiple substances.
#5: You and your pet may not show the same allergy signs
You know your springtime allergies have set in because you cannot breathe through your congested nose, and your itchy, watery eyes are so uncomfortable. Sneezing and itchy eyes are common allergy signs in people, and, while they can be present in allergic pets, cats and dogs typically display skin issues. The most common allergy signs in pets include:
- Red, irritated skin
- Scratching and chewing
- Hair loss
- Skin infections
- Chronic ear infections
- Anal gland issues
- Paw licking
- Face rubbing
An itchy pet is often suffering from uncontrolled allergies, although other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, also can cause itching and hair loss. A thorough physical exam and diagnostic testing should be performed by your Town & Country Animal Hospital team to determine the true cause of your furry pal’s itching.
#6: Your pet’s allergies will likely change over time and become more severe
Although your pet’s allergies may have taken months, or years, to appear, they will likely worsen with age. Seasonal allergies will appear earlier and last longer, and year-round allergies can become more intense. However, by working together with you to find the most effective therapies for your pet, we can keep them comfortable with a good quality of life.
#7: Numerous treatments can help soothe your pet’s allergies
Antihistamines affect allergic people and pets differently. They are highly effective in people, but if your four-legged friend is sneezing and has watery eyes, Benadryl can help dry up their respiratory signs, but will probably not do much for their itching and scratching. Instead, treatment options revolve around suppressing the itch response and treating associated yeast and bacterial infections. Your pet may receive any combination of the following allergy therapies:
- Medicated shampoo
- Ear cleaners and medications
- Topical and oral skin supplements
- Prescription diet
Since your pet’s allergies may change over time, their treatment protocol will also need to change to ensure their ongoing comfort.
Is your furry pal becoming less furry by the day with their chewing, licking, and scratching? Your itchy pet may be losing hair because of allergies to pollen, fleas, or any environmental substance. Contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital, PC team for an appointment.
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