Is your pet itching, licking, or chewing? It might be allergies!
Scratch, scratch, scratch…all night long. If your pets can’t seem to settle at night, allergies may be at play. Dogs and cats suffer from allergies just like we do, but their symptoms tend to be different. Understanding what’s happening and why is the best way to help your pet find relief.
An allergy results when the immune system overreacts or becomes hypersensitive to a harmless and often common substance (called an allergen) that enters or comes in contact with the body. Essentially, the immune system thinks the substance/allergen is dangerous and tries to destroy it. You can think of an allergy like an oversensitive car alarm that sounds at the slightest trigger.
Signs and symptoms of pet allergies
Most pets with allergies have skin issues. Itching is often the main symptom, causing allergic pets to:
- Scratch obsessively
- Rub against furniture
- Shake their head
- Frequently lick, chew, bite, or groom themselves, sometimes to the point of hair loss or hot spots (painful, raw, inflamed areas on the skin that may bleed)
Some pets with allergies also get bacterial or yeast infections from excessive scratching and overgrooming. These are referred to as “secondary infections” and contribute to your pet’s itch and discomfort.
Types of pet allergies
Seasonal allergies and atopy
Seasonal allergy and atopy describe the same type of allergic skin disease. Most dogs with atopy experience itching during certain seasons. Other affected dogs will have problems year-round, which means that the allergen is constantly present or that the dog has developed multiple allergies.
- Seasonal allergies are typically caused by trees, weeds, and other plants that pollinate during a specific time of year, as well as some molds that bloom indoors and outdoors.
- In Fair Oaks, allergies are particularly severe in the spring, caused by tree pollen (from juniper, cedar, cypress, birch, pine, oak) and grass pollen, but can occur in other seasons, usually triggered by weeds and molds.
- Common allergens that cause problems year-round include house dust mites, storage mites, and mold spores.
Signs of seasonal allergies or atopy include:
- Chewing or licking the feet, resulting in red, swollen paws or brown staining on the feet
- Irritation, itching with or without hair loss can also occur in the groin, underarms, ankles and around a pet’s eyes or muzzle
- Ear inflammation or infections
- Anal gland issues
- Nasal discharge and sneezing are less common allergy symptoms in pets
When fleas bite, pets can have an allergic reaction to certain proteins in the fleas’ saliva. This is why this condition is sometimes called flea bite hypersensitivity. Flea allergies can occur year-round and lead to a condition called flea allergy dermatitis that causes:
- An itchy rash or raw, irritated areas on their skin
- Hair loss in specific patterns
- Cats: around the head, neck, lower back, stomach, and thighs
- Dogs: around the tail, back legs, and stomach
Allergies to food are not that common in pets, but they can happen.
- Animal proteins like chicken, beef, eggs, fish, or dairy are the cause of most pet food allergies, whereas grains are an uncommon cause of allergies.
- Most pets that have issues with food have a food intolerance to a certain ingredient or property of the food. Food intolerances can occur the first time your pet eats a food and unlike with an allergy, food intolerances don’t trigger the immune system.
- Pets with food allergies can have gastrointestinal symptoms, like vomiting and diarrhea, in addition to itchy skin.
Getting your pet relief from allergies
Allergies can be tricky to treat in pets. Some dogs and cats respond quickly to treatment, while others may need long-term management.
For seasonal and environmental allergies, here are a few tips:
- Bathe your pet after being outside. This can help remove pollen and other allergens from their fur. Ask us for pet shampoo recommendations.
- Wash your pet’s bedding frequently to minimize ongoing exposure to allergens.
- We can prescribe oral and/or topical medications to give your pet relief.
- Some pets might benefit from allergen-specific immunotherapy (commonly known as allergy shots), which desensitizes pets to specific allergens over time.
- There are also some newer oral and injectable treatment options (also called immune modulators) to help itchy pets. These can provide rapid and long-term relief for pets with allergies.
- Any secondary yeast or bacterial infections need to be treated, so we may run lab tests to make sure we’re targeting the right culprit and giving your pet the most effective treatment.
- We have special diets we can recommend to help reduce your pets environmental allergies.
For flea and food allergies:
- Flea allergy can be treated and prevented by keeping pets on flea control products. We may also prescribe other medications, depending on the individual pet.
- We have special hypoallergenic diets and other options we can recommend for pets with food allergies.
If your pet is showing signs of allergies or you’re concerned about your itchy pet, schedule an appointment with our team today. We’ll rule out other potential causes of your pet’s symptoms and work with you to tailor therapy for your pet.
Old Towne Animal Hospital can help allergic pets get relief they deserve.