My Pet Has Allergies, Now What?
If you’ve spent time around a pet with allergies, you probably know how miserable it is for them and for us. Allergies happen when a pet’s immune system becomes sensitive to substances present in their environment. These substances, called allergens, are irritating to your dog or cat and can result in all kinds of symptoms. Allergies in pets typically begin by age 3 and tend to worsen as your pet ages. Unfortunately, they cannot be cured, only controlled.
Luckily, your friends at Dickinson Animal Hospital & Pet Wellness Center have some important information and resources to share about this topic. Here’s our solution if you’re wondering whether your pet has allergies and how to help them.
Signs Your Pet Has Allergies
Allergic pets often have very itchy skin and skin problems associated with allergic dermatitis. Other symptoms may include:
- Sneezing, coughing, and wheezing
- Itchy, watery eyes
- Ear infections
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Paw chewing and sensitive paws
Find the Culprit(s)
Allergies typically fall into one of three categories. It’s important to work with your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist to identify the specific culprit for your pet’s allergies. Keep in mind, it may be more than one thing causing this reaction. Identifying the source(s) of your pet’s irritation is often a process of elimination that may require patience and several steps to complete.
The most common types of allergies in pets are:
- Flea allergy — Many pets are allergic to the saliva of fleas and have a condition called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Controlling fleas in your home and on your pet becomes a crucial part of an allergy control plan.
- Environmental allergy — Dust, pollen, and spores in the home and yard may collect on your pet’s coat and skin and cause allergies. These allergies sometimes flare with the seasons.
- Food allergy — Like people, pets can be allergic to certain compounds in their food, most often proteins. This may manifest in gastrointestinal upset and/or itching all year long.
Allergy Treatment Options for Pets
Once your pet’s dermatologist has identified the reason for your pet’s allergies, they can help you form a treatment and prevention plan. Specific instructions will be provided based on the allergens in your home and area, some of which may include:
- Since FAD is so common, it’s likely that a flea control and prevention program will be recommended for your pet. Dedication and commitment are important, along with a veterinary recommended preventive and frequent vacuuming of your pet’s bedding and area.
- Baths, creams, and medications may be recommended if an environmental allergy is suspected. Make sure to follow all directions, and don’t skip doses.
- Good nutrition is an important step to controlling allergies, and a hypoallergenic or a limited ingredient diet may be part of your pet’s plan. Supplements may also be recommended.
If none of these therapies are effective, there are other options, including:
- Computer tomography (CT) scan
- Intradermal allergy testing (skin testing)
- Ear flush with video otoscopy
- Serum allergy testing
- Ear polyp removal