Many animal lovers don’t know the signs of pet allergies because dogs and cats show different reactions to some of the same things we’re allergic to. Grass pollen, for example, makes lots of people sneeze and experience watering eyes. That same pollen, it turns out, can make a dog’s feet itch.
Depending on the type of allergy, your pet may exhibit different symptoms. Although pets occasionally exhibit watery eyes and some sneezing, the most common reaction is scratching. Constant scratching may lead to raised infected welts, open sores, and loss of hair. Ear infections are also common in dogs with allergies.
Pets who are affected by allergies may suffer their entire lives; typically symptoms worsen as they get older. We can help alleviate some of that suffering by knowing the signs of allergies and finding the right type of product relief for the symptoms.
Types of Allergies That Affect Pets
There are many types of allergies that can affect your pet. Environmental allergens that are inhaled or come into contact with the skin can cause allergies known as atopy. Common sources are pollens, molds, and dust mites.
Allergies that result from flea bites are referred to as flea allergy dermatitis. Certain allergies occur from items your pet ingests, and are typically called food allergies. Contact allergies are caused by something your pet comes in direct contact with, such as carpet fibers, plastics, and other things. Contact allergies are less common than atopy and flea allergy dermatitis in pets.
Atopy is the most common form of allergy in dogs and cats. Atopy is often seasonal. If a pet is allergic to ragweed, symptoms occur in the fall. Pets who are allergic to spring tree pollen will show signs in April and May. If a pet is allergic to dust mites, the symptoms may be most dramatic in the winter, when more time is spent inside. Signs of atopy include:
Chewing at the feet
Constant licking of the flank (side) and groin area
Rubbing of the face
Inflamed ears or recurrent ear infections
Recurrent hot spots in dogs and pinpoint facial scabbing in cats
Asthma-like wheezing and respiratory problems (more likely in cats)
Less common allergies include contact dermatitis, which include allergies to carpets, cleaners, or plastic. These allergies may cause:
Red itchy bumps or blisters on sparsely-haired areas of the skin and those exposed to the allergen such as the belly, feet, or muzzle
Hair loss (in chronic conditions)
Food allergies account for about 10-15% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Food allergies may show up concurrently with allergies to pollen, dust, etc. Symptoms include:
Itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs and anal area
Ear problems, often yeast-related
Skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as the antibiotic therapy ceases
Occasionally, dogs with true food allergies may have increased bowel movements and soft stool. Food allergies should not be confused with food intolerances, which are not true allergies, and generally cause diarrhea and vomiting.
Watching your pet go through the misery of allergy symptoms can be miserable in itself. If you suspect your pet has allergies, visit your veterinarian. The type of allergy and severity of the symptoms will determine how your veterinarian decides to treat them.