Summer is here, and along with rising temperatures come blooming flowers, buzzing pests, and, for many pet owners, itching pets. Although warmer temperatures are often associated with allergies, many pets also suffer year-round allergy problems. Pet owners with allergy prone pets know the frustration of listening to their four-legged companion thumping their legs, and licking their skin raw from uncontrolled itchiness. Sleepless nights, for pets and people, are a common reason pet owners bring their furry pals for a veterinary examination. Our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team answers common questions about your pet’s allergies, including recognizing allergy signs, and treatment options.
What are pet allergy signs?
Recognizing your pet’s allergy signs is an important step in their allergy journey. Many pets, especially cats, have impeccable self-grooming practices. However, their excessive grooming may be a clue that they are uncomfortable and suffering from allergies. Pet allergy signs are similar for all allergens, and often pets are allergic or sensitive to more than one type. Common allergy signs include:
- Licking, chewing, or scratching
- Watery eyes
- Red, inflamed, irritated skin
- Red hives or wheals on the skin
- Digging at the skin, face, ears, or paws
- Brown-stained fur from excessive licking
- Rubbing the face on carpet or furniture
- Patchy areas of hair loss
- Chronic ear infections
- Skin infections
- Hot spots
- Skin with a yeasty odor
- Scabbing or flaky skin
- Anal gland issues, or scooting
- Vomiting and diarrhea, which are common in food allergies
What are common causes for your pet’s allergies?
Allergens can enter your pet’s body through ingestion, such as a food protein, or through a defective skin barrier. Pets are commonly affected by multiple allergen types. Once your pet is exposed to an allergen, their immune system mistakes the substance, or protein, as an invader, and forms antibodies against them. Additionally, pets, like people, can develop allergies to certain substances, or proteins, that have not previously affected them. Common pet allergy culprits include:
- Food — Pets who are at risk for food allergies will usually show signs between 6 months and 5 years of age. Therefore, your pet may suddenly become sensitive to a diet that previously caused no medical problems. Chicken, beef, dairy, egg, and pork are the most common food allergy culprits. Cats are most susceptible to fish allergies. Unlike people, grains and gluten are rarely an allergen source in pets. In fact, recent research suggests that grain-free diets may cause heart problems in dogs.
- Seasonal and environmental allergens — Substances in your home, backyard, neighborhood, or anywhere your pet spends time, may lead to development of environmental allergies, or atopy. Pollen, dust, mold, weeds, trees, and grasses are common allergens that may affect your pet during the spring and summer months. However, many pets have year-round allergies to dust and storage mites, which may worsen during the winter, when they spend more time indoors.
- Fleas — You may have never seen a flea crawling on your pet, but as few as one or two flea bites can cause severe itching and discomfort in pets with flea allergies. Many pets are sensitive to a protein in flea saliva, and are at risk of developing flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), or skin inflammation. Although fleas thrive in warmer environments, they can be a year-round problem.
How are allergies diagnosed and treated in your pet?
Diagnosing allergies can be challenging, since all allergy signs are similar, and many pets are affected by multiple allergen types. Bring your pet to our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital for a veterinary examination if they are showing any allergy signs. Our veterinarian will examine your pet from nose to tail to evaluate their allergy signs, and their overall health. Additionally, blood work to check for underlying medical problems and overall organ function may be recommended. If our veterinarian suspects that your pet has a food allergy, they may recommend a food elimination diet trial. Tests to determine if your pet has atopy, or environmental allergies, include a blood serum allergy test and intradermal allergy testing. Allergy treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your pet’s allergies. Year-round parasite control is the best defense against FAD in your pet, and our online store can easily ensure that pet owners don’t miss a dose. Pets with allergies are at risk for secondary skin and ear infections, and may require antibiotic or antifungal treatments. Other allergy treatments may include:
- Prescription diets
- Anti-itching oral medications or injections
- Antihistamine medications
- Immunotherapy injections (i.e., allergy shots)
- Corticosteroid therapy
- Medicated baths or wipes
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements
If your pet is constantly itching, scratching, and licking their skin and paws, call our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital office, and schedule them for an allergy evaluation appointment. We are here to ease your allergy-suffering pet’s discomfort.