While many humans have pet allergies, pets’ immune systems can fail them too. Just like in people, allergy symptoms in dogs and cats develop when their immune systems begin to recognize certain everyday substances (or allergens) as dangerous. Dogs love to scratch or chew, but if your pup does it excessively, they might be suffering from an allergy. Let’s look at some of the typical signs and symptoms that something may be wrong with your cuddly pup or kitten.
What Are Dogs And Cats Allergic To?
Pets can be allergic to a wide variety of things, including environmental factors, household items, and food substances. A few common allergens include:
- tree, grass, and weed pollens
- food ingredients (e.g. beef, chicken, pork, corn, wheat or soy)
- dust and house dust mites
- cigarette smoke
- prescription drugs
- fleas and flea-control products
- cleaning products
- insecticidal shampoo
What are general symptoms of allergies in dogs and cats?
Unlike humans whose allergy signs usually involve the respiratory tract, symptoms of dog allergies and cat allergies more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation – a condition called allergic dermatitis. General symptoms of allergies in dogs and cats are:
- extensive itching
- red, irritated skin
- obsessive licking
- hair loss
- hot spots
- skin rash or hives
While respiratory symptoms aren't common in dogs and cats with allergies, they do occur. A runny nose, watery eyes, coughing and sneezing are typical allergy symptoms in both two and four-legged allergy sufferers.
Seasonal allergy in dogs
Furry family members can also spend the spring/summer season feeling miserable thanks to pollens and other environmental allergens, especially dogs. Season allergy in dogs is commonly caused by such environmental allergens as dust mites, fleas, molds and pollens from grasses, trees, weeds, and flowers. Pay close attention to your dog’s belly, paws, ears, face, and armpit region. If your dog is constantly licking, that could be one of your dog’s allergic reaction symptoms.
If your dog has allergies, their skin will become very itchy. It can start licking or scratching excessively and might bite or chew at certain areas of its body. It may rub itself against vertical surfaces like furniture or scoot across the floor. As the itch-scratch cycle continues, its skin may become inflamed. Hot spots can develop that can eventually lead to bleeding or hair loss.
Do cats have allergies?
According to veterinarians, few cats actually suffer from seasonal allergies. They can simply sneeze more due to physical irritation from pollen. If you notice excessive sneezing, keep cats inside when pollen piles up outside. To reduce the amount of pollen tracked into your home, remove shoes at the door or invest in a thick welcome mat. Those few cats with allergies, however, will display similar allergy symptoms to dogs.
My pet is scratching its ears a lot
Dogs and cats with allergies also often have problems with their ears – especially dogs. The ear canals may become itchy and inflamed as part of a generalized allergic response, or they may grow infected with yeast or bacteria. Signs your pet's ears are giving them problems include:
- scratching at the ears
- head shaking
- hair loss around the ears
If your dog’s ears are affected by allergies, your dog will shake its head often due to the irritation. They may also not want you to touch their head. If an infection is present, there will often be an odor or discharge from the ears.
Can pets be allergic to food?
It often comes as a surprise to some pet parents that their four-legged friends can also suffer from food allergies. However, hypersensitivity to food can develop in any breed at any age, even to something your cat or dog has eaten for years. It often takes some detective work to find out what substance is causing your pet allergy.
The most common food allergens for pets include: beef, chicken, dairy, and wheat. Cat and dog food allergy symptoms are similar. They will typically have itchy skin, chronic ear infections or sometimes gastrointestinal problems like diarrhea and vomiting. An elimination diet can be used to determine what food your cat or dog has an allergy to.
What should I do if I think my pet has allergies?
It’s important to address the issue at the first sign of discomfort. The more your pet is exposed to the allergens it is sensitive to, the more intense and long-lasting its allergic response can be. Some pets have relatively mild, seasonal symptoms that can be managed with bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo or applying a medicated spray.
The best treatment for allergies is to remove the offending allergens from the environment. Easier said than done, however. If you are not sure what causes your pet’s allergic reaction, visit your veterinarian. After conducting a physical examination, he or she may be able to determine the source of your dog’s allergy. If not, your vet can recommend skin or blood tests, or a special elimination diet, to find out what's causing the allergic reaction.