Your pet had a sneezing fit yesterday, and although they were humorous to watch, you are now concerned they have developed an allergy. The pollen is swirling, and allergy season has definitely arrived. But, is the yellow stuff a problem for your pet? Our team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic wants to explain all that you need to know about pet allergies.

Dogs and cats who are affected by a hypersensitivity do not exhibit the same signs as human sufferers. Instead of sneezing, sniffling, and having itchy eyes, your pet will become excessively itchy over their entire body, but particularly their feet, ears, face, and tail base. Signs will include uncontrolled chewing, licking, rubbing, and scratching, as well as hair loss and crusty skin lesions. Skin and ear infections caused by bacteria and yeast are commonly seen secondary to allergies. Your pet can develop a hypersensitivity to fleas, elements in their environment, and ingredients in their food.

What do pet owners need to know about flea allergies?

Fleas are a common nuisance to cats and dogs, but some pets develop an allergy to the flea’s saliva, whose elements remain after the flea bites, causing a hypersensitivity in affected pets. One lonely flea can cause a significant reaction. Observing fleas on your itchy pet can indicate they are suffering from a flea allergy, but some dogs and cats are obsessive about grooming away the irritating parasites, leaving no evidence of the culprits. You should also inspect your pet’s bedding for fleas, flea eggs, and flea droppings. If your pet is diagnosed with a flea allergy, all fleas must be eradicated from their body and their environment.

  • Bathing — Bathe your pet with an appropriate shampoo—some medicated shampoos approved for dogs are toxic to cats—and use a flea comb to remove the parasites. Several sessions may be required to eradicate every flea.
  • House cleaning — Thoroughly vacuum and clean bedding, upholstery, and rugs. Steam cleaning can kill the fleas but not the eggs, and you may need several rounds before the fleas are completely gone. With severe infestations, an expert exterminator may be necessary.
  • Yard treatment — If your pet becomes reinfected when in your yard, you can have your lawn treated to kill the fleas. Planting mint and lavender can help repel fleas.

Once the fleas are gone, your pet will need a year-round flea prevention program to ensure the fleas and the allergic response do not return.

What do pet owners need to know about environmental allergies?

Your pet can develop a hypersensitivity to environmental elements, such as pollen, molds, dust mites, and pet dander. The technical name for environmental allergies is atopic dermatitis. Allergy testing can be performed to determine the allergen causing your pet’s itchiness. Blood tests are available, but are not always reliable. Intradermal testing is typically more accurate. A small amount of the suspected allergen is injected under your pet’s skin, and a red bump indicates they are allergic to that element. No cure is available for atopic dermatitis, but numerous strategies can be employed to help alleviate your pet’s itchiness.

  • Bathing — Bathe your pet frequently to remove allergens from their skin and coat.
  • Medication — Steroids can be used to calm the initial inflammatory response, but should not be used long-term, to prevent adverse side effects. Anti-itch medications are available that can significantly reduce your pet’s distress.
  • Therapy — Hyposensitization therapy can significantly reduce your pet’s signs, but may take up to six months to be effective. Gradually increasing doses of the problematic allergen are administered to your pet by injection to cause desensitization.

Your pet will require lifelong veterinary care, and will need frequent monitoring to prevent their itchiness from returning. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team can manage your pet’s condition effectively.

What do pet owners need to know about food allergies?

Your pet can develop a hypersensitivity to ingredients in their food. Proteins are the most likely elements to cause a problem, but carbohydrates and preservatives may also cause reactions. Food trials are the only way to effectively diagnose and treat a food allergy.

  • Novel diet — Your pet will be placed on a strict, novel diet for 10 to 12 weeks. No ingredient they have previously ingested, including treats or flavored medications, should be fed during the trial. Common proteins used in novel diets include venison, buffalo, and kangaroo.
  • Hydrolyzed diet — A hydrolyzed diet may also be used in the food trial. This involves breaking down the protein to a size small enough that the body does not recognize the element as a threat.
  • New diet — Once your pet’s signs have resolved, the ingredients from their previous diet will be gradually reintroduced to pinpoint which substance was causing the reaction. This ingredient will be permanently removed from your pet’s diet.

Allergies are not fun for humans or pets, but knowing the signs will help you get your pet the relief they need for this distressing condition. If you believe your pet is suffering from an allergy, contact the team at Cherry Knolls Veterinary Clinic to schedule an appointment.