Allergies and Your Pet

What to do when Fido itches

Just like people, our pets can react to allergens in their environment or diet. If your pets are constantly licking, biting, or scratching at themselves, they might be dealing with allergies. Here’s how to recognize if your pet has allergies – and what to do about it.

Allergies, whether in people or pets, are a result of the immune system overacting to an otherwise benign stimulus. Often signs of allergies will appear by the time your pet is a few years old, but sometimes allergies seem to appear later in life and out of nowhere.

Instead of the sneezing and wheezing (though this can also happen sometimes) that people often experience, pets’ allergies typically affect the skin. Signs of an allergic reaction include excessive itching, licking, hair loss, and other signs of skin irritation known as allergic dermatitis. Allergies might also affect your pet’s ears as scratching leads to swelling or secondary infection. This is most common with dogs and you’ll notice a lot of head shaking as a result.

Seasonal Allergies

Tree, grass, and weed pollens can set off you pet’s seasonal allergies, as can mold spores and mildew, which can be present year-round.

If possible, limit your pet’s exposure to these allergens by changing the route you walk to avoid high allergen areas with trees and grasses. Frequent baths and house cleaning can be effective in providing allergy relief as they help keep allergens to a minimum. 

Food Allergies

Your pet can develop an allergy to almost any protein or carbohydrate in their food. Dairy products, beef, wheat gluten, chicken, chicken eggs, lamb, and soy are common culprits of a dog’s food allergies, while cats most often will react to proteins such as beef, pork, chicken, or turkey.

Food allergies typically cannot be relieved with medical treatment, so you will instead need to focus on determining what food ingredient your pet is reacting to by changing the diet. It can take up to twelve weeks of a hypoallergenic diet before all the allergens are out of your pet’s system and there is symptom relief, so have patience.

Flea or insect Allergies

Both cats and dogs can have exaggerated reactions to flea, spider, tick, ant, or other insect bites. This type of allergy is most commonly caused by flea saliva and is usually characterized by itching or biting to the point of hair loss at the site of the bite. The best treatment is prevention. Pets should always be kept up-to-date with flea and tick treatments. Your vet may prescribe topical creams for temporary relief if needed. Keep an eye out for bee stings, too. Some pets have similar reactions as people, swelling near the site of a sting and sometimes excessively.

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