The Itch That Won’t Quit: Allergies in Pets
While you won’t see your pet walking around with a box of tissues, complaining about post-nasal drip, allergies in pets (including seasonal allergies) are a problem for many of our furry friends. If your dog is scratching like crazy, and yet, no flea can be found, there’s a good chance he or she may be dealing with one or more common allergies.
Like us, cats and dogs can be allergic to a wide range of substances, including pollen. To get to the bottom of this scratchy scene, let’s take a look at some of these allergies and how you can help ease the discomfort through treatment and prevention.
Allergies in Pets: A Cause of Itchy Paws
Allergies are one of the more common reasons dogs come to see us (although cats can develop different allergies, too). First, let’s define allergy. An allergy is simply an overreaction by the immune system to a substance. So, where once the immune system was doing great fighting off a flu virus, it suddenly went off track and decided that an otherwise innocuous substance, like grass or dust, was an invading enemy.
In pets, allergies often show up as skin conditions – most notably, scratching that doesn’t subside, as well as chewing at paws and rubbing areas of the body on carpet and furniture. Sometimes, depending on the allergy, pets can also develop sneezing, coughing, eye discharge, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Pet allergies generally come in one of three forms: food, seasonal, and environmental.
Food allergies – This may come as a surprise, but many cats and dogs have food sensitivities or allergies. While gluten-free is all the rage these days, the most common offenders for allergic response are chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, and plant proteins (e.g., soy).
Seasonal allergies – Ah, yes, you know them well. These allergies are the airborne variety that include grass, plant, and tree pollens. Seasonal allergies, despite the name, can sometimes affect pets year-round, particularly in regions with moderate/mild winters like ours.
Environmental allergies – These also encompass seasonal allergies but can include things like dust mites, dander (yes, your pet can be allergic to you!), shampoos and cleaners, and chemicals used in everything from laundry soap to carpet fibers.
The Problem With Untreated Allergies
So, what’s the problem with a little itching every now and then? Well, for one, many pets experience symptoms that tax the immune system, making them feel quite miserable. Skin conditions can also progress into hot spots, inflammation, and infections. Food allergies can create nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which can become serious.
If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms or suspect your pet has an allergy, please contact us for testing and a physical exam. Treatment varies from pet to pet and may include injections, medications, removing allergens from the home, switching to hypoallergenic products, and dietary changes (we often prescribe Hill’s Derm Defense, which we carry in-house).
Through allergy testing, food trials, and other forms of diagnosis, we can target the allergens and get your pet back on track to feeling better!