No More Itch: Identifying and Treating Allergies in Pets

A golden retriever scratching

Allergies affect people and pets alike, and can strike at any time of the year. For pets, most allergies cause itchy skin instead of the more typical human allergy symptoms of runny nose and eyes.

According to pet insurance companies, allergies are the number one reason people seek treatment for their pets at the veterinary hospital. Let’s take a look at what an allergies in pets look like and how to help them.

Common Causes of Allergies in Pets

In pets, the most common causes of allergic reactions include:

Environmental allergies – Pets can be allergic to the pollen of any number of blooming plants and trees, as well as to dust, mold, and grass. Indoor pets can also be susceptible since many of these particles can find their way indoors.

Flea Allergy – Pets who are allergic to fleas are usually highly allergic to the flea saliva. Even one flea bite can cause intense itching, hot spots, hair loss, and resulting chronic skin and ear infections.

Food allergies – Most of the time, pets are allergic to the protein in pet food, such as beef and chicken, as opposed to grains.

Identifying Allergies

Most people with allergies suffer from watery eyes, a runny nose, or a dry, scratchy throat. In animals, allergies usually manifest as itchy skin. Some common signs to watch for include:

  • Intense and persistent itching
  • Biting or chewing at the ears, face, underside, or under the tail
  • Rubbing their face or body against the carpet or furniture
  • Patches of hair loss
  • Open sores
  • Increased body odor
  • Red or blotchy skin
  • Head shaking
  • Red eyes
  • Scratching around the ears

Diagnosing Pet Allergies

A diagnosis of allergies in pets may be long and involved. Not every pet is allergic to the same things, and all pets respond differently to different allergens. Generally, there are clues your veterinarian can observe from your pet’s physical exam and your observations of their behavior at home. Most of the time, diagnosing allergies is a process of elimination.

Dogs and cats can be tested to find out what exactly they are allergic to. Allergy testing, a rigorous flea control program, and a food elimination trial are all approaches that we can take depending on your pet’s symptoms. Contact us to get started.

What You Can Do

If your pet has environmental allergies, here are a few things you can try at home to help manage mild itching (keep in mind that these ideas won’t work for a food allergy):

  • Wipe off your pet’s feet and belly when they come inside
  • Run a HEPA filter in your home
  • Vacuum and clean your home frequently to remove dust and pollen
  • Bathe your pet in a mild shampoo as recommended by your veterinarian
  • Keep doors and windows closed
  • Keep your pet on a regular flea preventive year round
  • Take off your own shoes in the house
  • Administer an over the counter antihistamine as directed by your veterinarian

Managing Pet Allergies

Unfortunately, there is no cure for pet allergies – only good management. So if your pet is very uncomfortable, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. With a team approach, we can discover what your pet is allergic to and make a plan to help them feel better. Berkeley Veterinary Center is your partner in maintaining and improving your pet’s health.

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