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Allergies in Pets? More Common Than You May Realize

A white and tan puppy jumping through a grass field

From the tell-tale scratching of ears to the biting of paws, allergies in pets are one of the most common reasons for visits to the vet. And, here in the Phoenix area, with our mild winters, fruit trees, and wide array of native and introduced plants, pollens and airborne allergens are problematic year-round.

Unfortunately, when pet allergies remain untreated they can pose a number of health problems, along with discomfort.

Types of Allergies in Pets

When most of us think of allergy symptoms, we often think first of sneezing and watery eyes. Pets, however, will display symptoms that may not be easy to attribute to allergies, and yet an estimated 50% of all dogs and many cats also suffer from one or more forms of allergies.

Allergies are an overreaction by the immune system to a perceived threat. When the immune system responds to this threat it releases a chemical called histamine.

Histamine is what causes itching, sneezing, and the gamut of problems we associate with allergic response.

In pets, allergy symptoms may include:

  • Dermatological problems, including rash, hives, hot spots, and inflammation
  • Hair loss
  • Dull coat
  • Persistent scratching of the skin (including ears)
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Sneezing and/or nasal discharge
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Allergies in pets typically fall into the following three categories:

Environmental allergies/atopy

Atopy or ‘seasonal allergies’ are caused by airborne allergens, specifically those that can be inhaled. Seasonal is misleading, however, depending on climate and what the specific allergen happens to be. Dust mites, for example, are an environmental problem year-round. Other atopic allergens include grasses, pollens, and ragweed.

Food allergies

While pet owners may notice the skin problems an allergy can create, it is often surprising to find that the culprit is what a pet eats. Food allergies are most often caused by a protein source in your pet’s food, such as beef, dairy, eggs, chicken, pork, and fish, as well as soy and wheat.

Flea bite dermatitis

Finally, several cats and dogs experience an allergic reaction to the proteins released when a flea bites the skin. This reaction produces skin problems and persistent scratching and biting, oftentimes at the base of the tail. Flea allergies are signaled by skin inflammation, hair loss, and sores.

Flea bite dermatitis can be prevented by using a year-round flea and tick medication, which can be obtained during your pet’s annual wellness exam.

Treating pet allergies involves both determining the particular allergen(s) causing an allergic response, managing the allergy by desensitizing the immune system to the allergen, and addressing the secondary conditions or symptoms being produced. At Animal Medical & Surgical Center, we offer oral immunotherapy drops, an effective, pain-free alternative to traditional injections.

If your pet is exhibiting allergy symptoms or you would like to learn more about our innovative approach to allergies and dermatological conditions, please contact us.

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