Does my pet have allergies?
Curious why your pet is itching and scratching more than usual? Trying to figure out what may be causing your pet’s recent stomach upset? Wondering how to tell if your pet may be suffering from allergies?
Many of our pet cats and dogs develop allergies, some more severe than others. In this blog, we will discuss common symptoms to help you recognize if your pet may be suffering from allergies, and the potential therapy options available to help your cat or dog. As always, it is recommended to discuss with your local veterinarian to find the best treatment plan for your specific pet.
Humans who muddle through allergies are used to constant sneezing, congestion, and itchy eyes. However, in cats and dogs, these allergy symptoms are much less common, making allergies in our pets sometimes hard to identify.
Our pets are much more likely to show their allergy symptoms through their skin. Dermatitis, or “inflammation of the skin”, is the most typical allergy symptom in our pets. They may scratch or chew at their skin, incessantly itching areas of their body. Excessive licking of the paws can be associated with food-related or environmental contact irritants. Often times intense allergies this will lead to local “hot spots”, alopecia (hair loss), increased redness, and even open sores or scabs. Ear infections are more common in allergy ridden pets, as the sensitive skin in the ear canal also becomes inflamed and pruritic (itchy).
Depending on your pet’s issues, there are many ways to address allergies affecting the skin. Adding omega fatty acid supplements to your pet’s diet can improve the overall health of their skin and coat. More and more studies are showing that essential oils can be highly beneficial when treating allergies, reducing bacteria, fungus, and microbial load on the skin. Many veterinarians rely on antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics to reduce and relieve allergy symptoms. Sometimes medicated shampoos can aid an itchy pet. Again, every pet is different, so discuss the options with your veterinarian to find the most effective approach for yours.
In addition to showing allergies through their skin, many pets will suffer from GI distress from allergens too. My Springer Spaniel has horrible food allergies, and if he eats something he’s allergic to, his skin not only breaks out, but his stomach will be upset with diarrhea and vomiting. Though not as common as skin issues, gastrointestinal allergies in our pets can be equally as miserable. Think of someone who may be gluten or lactose intolerant — food allergies in our cats and dogs can be much the same.
Restricting access to food allergens in your pet’s diet is the best way to manage this. Limited ingredient diets and treats may be the way to go with a pet who has specific food-related allergies. Read every label and be conscious of the food and treats you feed your pet. Some pets benefit from a grain-free or raw diet. Perhaps a home-cooked diet or homemade treats are the best option for some. Adding daily probiotics can help reduce tummy upset and promote good GI health. Some pets may need more intensive therapies like anti-emetics, anti-diarrheals, and anti-acids. Your veterinarian can help you discover what will work best for your cat or dog.
Ultimately, the best way to manage your pet’s allergies is to have them tested. This gives you a basis of what your pet is allergic to, and how allergic they may be to specific things. This allows you to proceed with avoidance (for example, eliminating particular foods from your pet’s diet), or deciding if it’s worth it to desensitize with allergen shots. Hyposensitization can be done with long-term allergen shots to reduce your pet’s reactivity to specific allergens. In my experience in veterinary medicine, I have seen cats and dogs be allergic to something as universal as grass or dust, or even their human’s dander, making allergen shots totally worth the effort to increase their quality of life. Though serum/blood testing for allergies may be more convenient and economical, it does not always yield the best results. Taking your pet to a licensed dermatologist is your best bet to discovering exactly what your pet may be allergic to, including environmental and food allergens.
We’ve barely “scratched” the surface on the topic of allergies in pets, so I suggest you talk with your vet if you’re “itching” to learn more!