Did you know pets are just as prone to allergies as humans? There are five known types of allergies in pets: contact, flea, food, bacterial, and inhalant. Allergies have many signs and symptoms and trying to pinpoint exactly what your pet is suffering from can sometimes be trial and error. There are three ways in which allergies usually manifest. The most common presentment is itching and chewing of the skin, either in one local area or over the entire body. Another manifestation involves the respiratory system resulting in coughing, sneezing, and wheezing sometimes associated with nasal or eye discharge. Lastly, the digestive system can be affected, causing vomiting and diarrhea. There is no cure for allergies but with proper diagnosis and treatment, they can be efficiently managed.
Contact allergy is the least common and can usually be remedied quite easily. It is caused by direct contact with an irritant to the animal’s skin such as: collars, types of bedding, rubber bowls, topical sprays and shampoos, and some surfaces causing an allergic reaction. Finding the actual contact irritant can be the tricky part, but once found and removed no further problems persist.
Flea allergy is fairly common. It is the direct result of a flea biting an animal and injecting its saliva under the skin causing an itch reaction. This sometimes results in: chewing, scratching, hair loss, and/or rash. The best treatment is ultimately prevention. Visit your vet to find out the best products for your pet and household.
Bacterial allergy is commonly caused by staph; normal bacteria found on the skin. In a healthy animal with a normal immune system it causes no problems, however some dogs develop an allergic reaction to the bacteria causing hair loss and lesions. This can be treated with a course of antibiotics, but can sometimes require long term medications to help.
The most common allergy is the inhalant allergy. There are many inhalant allergens pets can have reactions to; things they are exposed to daily such as: pollen, trees, grass, weeds, molds, mildew, and household dust mites, to name a few. Usually it can cause: itching, chewing, sneezing, coughing, runny eyes, and nasal discharge. Many times these allergies are seasonal, but sometimes can be year round. Getting proper testing done to see exactly what your pet is having reactions to will help with treatment. Omega 3 fatty acids, anti- inflammatory drugs also known as steroids, and/or antihistamines such as Benadryl are most commonly used to help with itching and discomfort. Sometimes just rinsing the allergens off your dog daily with cool water will help.
Food allergies are not something pets are born with, rather, they develop over a period of time from eating certain food products. The allergy usually develops in response to the main protein component of the food, for example beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Food allergies can have all the same signs and symptoms as discussed previously. Testing or food trials are usually best for diagnosis. A minimum 4-6 week food trial is required for proper response because it takes up to 6 weeks for other food products to leave the system and it has to be a hypoallergenic food (not to be confused with a grain free diet). Testing will allow a full breakdown of all ingredients your pet may be allergic to. With a well-managed diet pets tend to recover well from this allergy.
While there is nothing you can do to prevent your pet from getting allergies, there are plenty of treatments available to help maintain your pets health and keep them happy. Allergies can be frustrating for you as well as your pet, so be sure to consult with your veterinarian and have your pet examined if you notice any signs or symptoms of allergies.
By Crystal Lujan