Recognizing Allergies in Your Pets

Pets can suffer from seasonal and year-round allergies. Some pet allergies mirror those that also affect people, but pets often show signs of allergic reactions differently than we do. Here’s what every pet owner should know about allergies in pets.   

What are allergies?

Allergies are caused by a hypersensitivity of the body’s immune system to a particular substance, called an allergen. The immune system is your pet’s defensive mechanism against disease and infection. When the immune system encounters the substance it views as foreign, it will attempt to protect the body by attacking the allergen, which causes a reaction, such as itchiness, swelling, coughing, or sneezing. When the immune system attacks the allergens, the allergens attach to antibodies and then to mast cells, both of which circulate in the body. When the allergens, antibodies, and mast cells combine, a chemical called histamine is released. Histamines cause the itchiness, swelling, redness, and other signs associated with allergies.

What are the signs of allergies in pets?

In addition to the typical sneezing, coughing, and runny nose, pets with allergies can exhibit the following:

  • Licking, chewing, or biting
  • Rubbing, scratching, or itching
  • Hair loss
  • Dandruff
  • Head shaking
  • Scooting
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

If your pet is scratching, licking, chewing, or biting because of her allergies, you may see her focus more than usual on the following areas:

  • Face
  • Ears
  • Paws
  • Armpits
  • Groin
  • Hind end

What can cause allergies in pets?

Pet allergens typically are proteins from plants, animals, insects, or foods. Pets can be allergic to one or more allergens, with the most common falling into one of three categories—flea, food, and environmental.

  • Fleas — Fleas are the most common allergen in pets, and can affect dogs and cats. Typically, the flea bites the animal and produces a mild irritation, but in some pets the flea’s saliva triggers an allergic reaction that, left untreated, can develop into a secondary infection called flea allergy dermatitis (FAD). Pets may also damage their skin and get skin infections from their chronic scratching and biting.

Flea control that includes a year-round preventive for your pet, and treating your pet’s environment, is essential for all pets, and especially for those with flea allergies.

  • Food — Dogs and cats can develop food allergies that vary in severity at any age, although food allergies in pets are rarer than flea or environmental allergies. Closely monitor your pet’s food, always checking the labels on every product she eats. Common signs in pets with food allergies include ear infections, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Dogs and cats can be allergic to the following:

  • Chicken
  • Dairy
  • Beef
  • Eggs
  • Corn
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Additives   

Not all diets are suitable for every pet, so consult our veterinary health care team before switching your pet’s food.

  • Environment — Dogs and cats can be allergic to environmental elements, both outdoors and indoors. Cats often develop a sensitivity to the particles in the air. Pets with environmental allergies will require some level of lifetime management. Signs of environmental allergies generally include sneezing, runny nose, and itchiness.  

Common environmental allergens include:

  • Pollens
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Dust
  • Household cleaners
  • Air fresheners and perfumes   

Do you see signs of allergies in your pet? Contact our team and we will help you make her more comfortable.  

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