At the height of the growing season, when pollen is thick in the air, your seasonal allergies make you downright miserable. Itchy, watery eyes and constant sneezing herald bright blooms, tall grasses, and fully leafed trees, but you wish you could enjoy the beautiful flora without your allergy symptoms. You’re grateful your furry pal doesn’t seem affected by the season’s pollen overabundance, although they have been licking their paws and scratching their ears lately. Could the two issues be related? They certainly could! Your pet can also develop seasonal allergies, although they typically show different signs. To help you understand allergies in pets, our Tamberly Animal Hospital team answers common questions about itchy pets.
Question: What causes allergies in pets?
Answer: Pets can be allergic to as many substances as people, and your furry pal can flare up during your allergy season, too. Some of the most common allergens in pets include:
- Mold spores
- Dust mites
- Aerosol sprays
- Pet dander
In addition to these environmental allergens, pets can develop flea allergies, which are triggered by the protein found in flea saliva. Pets with flea allergies become incredibly itchy, and can lose their hair on their hind end from only a few flea bites.
Food allergies in pets are much less common than environmental and flea allergies. And, to make food allergies more confusing for pet owners, most pets aren’t allergic to corn or grains, despite common perception. If a pet has a true food allergy, it’s likely to be their food’s protein source, such as chicken, beef, lamb, eggs, or dairy products.
Q: What signs will my pet show if they have allergies?
A: While you are most likely to sneeze, become congested, or rub at your itchy, watery eyes, your pet will show their allergies through skin issues. Common allergy signs in pets include:
- Red, inflamed skin
- Hot spots
- Yeast and bacterial infections
- Hair loss
- Licking, chewing, and scratching
- Chronic ear infections
- Anal gland issues
Of course, some pets may develop eye discharge and sneezing during an allergy flare, but skin issues are much more likely. For example, most ear infections are allergy-related, and chewing and licking at their paws is an early sign of a pet allergy. Pets who have a food allergy may also vomit and have diarrhea.
Q: How will I know the cause of my pet’s allergy?
A: Determining the cause of your pet’s allergy requires blood or intradermal testing. Intradermal testing is the gold standard, but testing your pet’s serum can also yield accurate results in regard to environmental allergies. With intradermal testing, your pet’s side is shaved, and allergens are injected right under the skin. Reactions are noted to determine your pet’s sensitivity to common regional allergens.
If your pet has a suspected food allergy, an 8- to 12-week diet trial is performed, during which your pet is fed only a hypoallergenic diet of a novel or hydrolyzed protein. After the trial, a common food allergen that was in your pet’s previous diet (e.g., chicken, lamb, or beef) is reintroduced and, if your pet flares up, that ingredient is a known food allergy.
Q: Can my pet’s allergies be cured?
A: Allergies are a lifelong condition for pets. Although they cannot be cured, they can be successfully managed.
Q: What treatments can keep my pet’s allergies under control?
A: Many therapies are available to help soothe your pet’s allergy-related itching, including one that helps modulate the immune response to allergenic triggers. The most effective ways to manage your furry pal’s allergies—with the fewest side effects—include:
These treatment options focus on the pet’s itch response, rather than suppressing the entire immune system like corticosteroids. Additionally, these treatments are much safer for long-term use compared with steroids.
Q: What can I do at home to help manage my pet’s allergies?
A: Although you can’t put your four-legged friend in a bubble to protect them from allergies, you can limit their exposure to known allergens. For example, if you know your pet is allergic to pollen, wipe their paws and belly off with unscented baby wipes, waterless shampoo, or a black-tea rinse after coming indoors. You can also support their skin health by adding a fish oil supplement to their daily routine. The omega-3 fatty acids help the skin maintain a smooth, strong barrier and prevent allergens from ripping through that defense and causing itching and infections.
Have you noticed your pet chewing their paws, or suffering from ear infection after ear infection? They may have developed environmental allergies. Help your furry pal become itch-free by scheduling an appointment with our Tamberly Animal Hospital team.