Understanding Pet Allergies: An Itchy Proposition
At some point or another, you may have had some experience with an itchy, miserable pet. Unlike allergies in people, pet allergies most often result in skin problems, such as red, smelly ears or skin rashes and intense scratching.
Before you can battle allergies in your pet, though, you must understand their cause. Read on to learn what causes pet allergies and what you can do about them.
Flea Allergies in Pets
Flea Allergic Dermatitis (FAD) is the leading cause of allergies in both dogs and cats. Just as some people can an extreme reaction to a mosquito bite, some pets are very allergic to flea saliva.
For these pets, even one flea bite can set off a severe itchy allergic response. In these patients, it is essential to provide comprehensive flea control to prevent flare ups.
Though you may have never seen a flea in your household, if your pet is not on a vet-recommended flea prevention regimen, it is impossible to rule out flea allergy as a potential cause of allergy symptoms. Luckily, we have some excellent, effective preventatives on the market to help stop the suffering of those pets with flea allergies.
The Atopic Pet
Atopy is a term that refers to the overreaction of a pet’s immune system to airborne allergens. It is a very common and frustrating problem.
Atopic pets can be allergic to anything. Common culprits are dust, pollens, weeds, grasses, and molds. Many atopic pets are allergic to multiple things.
The most frequent signs of atopy include:
- Itching or scratching, especially of the ears, armpits, face, paws, and underside
- Biting or licking certain areas excessively
- Shaking the head
- Discoloration of hair due to licking
- A bad odor
There is not a cure for atopy, and pets are often treated using a combination of oral medications, topical treatments, avoidance, and allergy vaccines. An identical treatment may not work for every pet, so we must work together to find an acceptable solution for affected animals. Atopy can be a frustrating cause of allergies in pets, but for most animals we are able to manage it.
Pet Food Allergies
Food sensitivity is also a common cause of allergies in dogs and cats. Pets can be allergic to many ingredients, but there are a few common culprits: the most common food allergy offenders include proteins or carbohydrates such as beef, chicken, fish, corn, wheat, or soy.
Despite common belief, a pet can develop food allergies at any time, even to an ingredient they have been eating for an extended period without problems. If your pet exhibits any of the following signs, he or she may have a food allergy:
- Itching that persists all year round
- Chronic ear infections
- Repeated problems with the anal sacs
- Allergy symptoms starting later in life
- Allergy symptoms which are only minimally responsive to steroids
Food allergies are most often diagnosed by a strict food trial during which the animal is fed only a hypoallergenic diet. This diet must be followed strictly for 10-14 weeks to determine if the symptoms resolve. Most food allergies, if diagnosed, are manageable by simply avoiding the food your pet is allergic to.
Allergies in pets can be a difficult problem to deal with. In the case of foods and fleas, the allergens are controllable, but atopy can be more challenging. Whatever the cause, we can work together to keep your pet comfortable. Please let us know if you feel that your pet is suffering from allergies so that we can start working on a solution today.