Allergies in pets are relatively common, and can be frustrating to diagnose and manage. In general, if a pet has an allergy to one trigger, such as flea bites, they often have an allergy to another, like pollen. The complexity of allergies requires a patient, dedicated owner to help manage their pet’s condition, and an ongoing relationship with an equally dedicated veterinary team, like our Loving Family Animal Hospital team. 

What causes allergies in pets?

An allergy occurs when the immune system mounts an over-the-top response to an allergen. For example, people who are allergic to bees can react much more severely to a bee sting than those who are not allergic. An allergen is typically a protein in plants, insects, animals, or foods, and is responsible for the immune system’s hypersensitivity. Continuous or repeated exposure to an allergen sensitizes the immune system, priming it for over-reactivity when next exposed to the allergen. In pets, allergy signs tend to become more severe with age as the immune system is repeatedly exposed to the allergen.

What are the most common allergens in pets?

Allergens in pets can cover a wide range, as they can in people. Typically, allergies are divided into categories that include environmental, contact, or food allergens. Since allergens are proteins found in plants, insects, foods, and other items your pet may contact, they can be allergic to the following:

  • Fleas
  • Dust mites
  • Insects
  • Molds
  • Pollens
  • Grasses, trees, weeds
  • Fabrics
  • Cleaning chemicals
  • Dairy products
  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Fish

Although many people believe their pet has food allergies, specifically to corn and other grains, true food allergies are rare, and a corn allergy is much less common. A pet who develops a food allergy is much more likely to be allergic to the protein source, such as beef or chicken.

What are allergy signs in pets?

When we suffer from seasonal allergies, we’re plagued with itchy eyes, a runny nose, and sneezing. Your pet, on the other hand, will more likely show skin issues, although they can still develop upper respiratory signs. If your furry pal has developed an allergy to pollen, mold, dust mites, or their food, you may notice any combination of the following signs:

  • Rubbing or scratching the face
  • Licking or chewing the paws
  • Red, inflamed, or raw skin
  • Hair loss
  • Chronic ear infections
  • Red welts or hives on the abdomen
  • Skin infections
  • Anal gland issues
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Unfortunately, although your pet may indicate they have an allergy, pinpointing the exact cause can be difficult.

How will I know my pet’s allergy trigger?

Allergies can be easy to spot, but challenging to accurately diagnose. In most cases, pets will have allergies to multiple triggers. For example, your cat may have a flea allergy, mold allergy, and fish allergy, which can all flare up throughout the year, especially if their diet contains fish. 

You can test your pet for allergies in multiple ways. Intradermal testing is the gold standard for environmental allergies, while a food trial works best for food allergies. Blood testing is also an option. To start, our Loving Family Animal Hospital team will take a comprehensive history of your pet’s signs, including the time of year they occur, and their intensity. We’ll also look closely at your pet’s diet and treats. If we believe your pet has environmental allergies in addition to food allergies, we will test for both aspects. However, keep in mind that your pet’s allergies can change over time, so re-evaluation may be necessary.

How can I manage my pet’s allergies?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies in pets, but excellent management tools are available to keep your four-legged friend comfortable. Depending on your pet’s allergy triggers, they may benefit from any combination of the following allergy management options:

  • Corticosteroids
  • Antihistamines
  • Apoquel
  • Cytopoint
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Hypoallergenic diets
  • Omega-3 supplements
  • Antibiotics
  • Antifungal medication
  • Medicated shampoo and topical treatments
  • Year-round flea prevention 

As your pet ages, they will likely need their allergy management plan adjusted for maximum efficacy. If your pet is no longer comfortable with their current regimen, you can try other options.

Allergies at any time of year can make your pet miserable, but as spring pollen counts skyrocket, seasonal allergies can be horrendous. If your furry pal is licking, chewing, and scratching, schedule an appointment with our Loving Family Animal Hospital team to find your pet relief.