While this might seem strange, your dog or cat can have allergies. According to some statistics, almost 10 percent of dogs have allergies. Of these, almost 9 out of 10 will have pollen allergies.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that some dog breeds are more susceptible, including popular breeds like the Golden Retriever, some terriers, Shar-pei, Shih Tzus, Dalmatians, Lhasa Apsos, and Labrador retrievers. Cats of any breed can be affected by pollen allergies, but with cats, the incidence of inhalant allergies and food allergies is about equal.
How Does Allergy in Pets Happen?
Allergy in a dog or cat works the same way that an allergy in a human works: your pet has an immune reaction to a normally harmless substance. However, don’t expect that your pet will sneeze or necessarily have a runny nose. In both dogs and cats, you are more likely to see excessive scratching or licking instead. In fact, allergic atopy (itching and skin problems) is the most common result of allergies in pets.
Next to fleas, allergies are the most likely reason behind your pet’s scratching! Keep in mind that the issue with scratching is not that your pet does this, but that it’s happening to excess. It’s also important to rule out any other potential reasons that your pet could be scratching.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergy in Pets?
Veterinarians have six different categories of dermatitis that relate to licking and scratching: environmental, nutritional, parasitic, infectious, neurogenic, and allergic. Unless there is a clear trigger for your pet’s excessive scratching, you’ll have to eliminate other potential causes first. So, you can’t assume that your pet has allergies just because of scratching. As most pet owners know, many other conditions will have very similar symptoms, including fleas, skin problems, or hormonal issues.
There is a lot of detective work in determining allergies in pets.
One clue to allergies is the time when the problem occurs. If your dog doesn’t show any sign of allergy-related itching by the time it is four years old, it’s unlikely that it will develop allergies. However, a seasonal allergy can turn into a year-round problem as the pet develops additional allergies.
Strangely enough, even when your pet’s allergy is to an airborne particle rather than food or an ingested allergen, the most likely symptom is scratching and skin problems. Unlike the primary human symptoms (typically upper respiratory tract symptoms), a pet’s first reaction is typically in the skin. The reason for this difference between dogs and cats and humans is that our pets release histamine primarily to the skin. In contrast, humans release their histamine to the membranes of the respiratory tract and eyes.
The combination of scratching and licking can be the most problematic of allergy symptoms because your pet may scratch until the skin is broken and raw and prevent healing with licking. Once the skin is open, you can have other problems like infection, excessive shedding, or even bald patches. In some cases, ear infections can be related to allergies because of scratching. The scratching breaks the skin and allows the bacteria or other intruders to have an easy entry. This means that secondary problems can complicate the diagnosis.
How Can You Know Your Pet’s Allergy?
Your veterinarian can do skin and blood tests to try to help to diagnose the allergen. This is essential to help your pet avoid the allergen as much as possible. You have to keep in mind that some of the same allergens humans have will also torment pets, including molds, dust, and pollen. These can be difficult for a pet to avoid unless you have good strategies to reduce them in your pet’s environment.
What Medicines Should You Give Your Pets?
Even pets can use antihistamines! If your pet happens to have a pollen allergy, there are dog-friendly oral antihistamines that can be taken to reduce symptoms. There are also topical medications that can help with itchy skin.
However, some veterinarians feel that the best treatment to alleviate allergies is cortisone. Cortisone should be used with caution, though, and only after other reasons for itching and scratching are rules out because it can mask another cause for the itching.
Our pets are family, and we want them to have the best life possible. So, when dealing with pet allergies, do not, in any way, self-diagnose your pets. Never give them medicine without consulting your veterinarian. Self-diagnosis can be dangerous and even deadly to your pet. Loving them means we give them the best health care possible. Get more pet health advice here!