With spring comes pollen, and with pollen comes allergies—for you and your pet. Your pet may feel as miserable as you do, despite the fact that they seldom sneeze, or have runny noses or watery eyes. At Chatham Animal Clinic, we want you to know all about pet allergies so you can alleviate their suffering. Here are five important facts about pet allergies.
#1: Pets exhibit allergies as itchy skin
Pets do not have the same response to allergies as humans. Instead of sneezing, runny noses, and itchy, watery eyes, pets suffer from excessively itchy skin, with their face, feet, and ears most commonly affected. Other signs are largely self-inflicted, such as hair loss, crusty skin lesions, and hot spots caused by their constant scratching. Secondary skin and ear infections caused by bacteria or yeast are also common.
#2: Flea bite allergies are the most common hypersensitivity in pets
A single flea bite has the power to significantly torment your pet. When a flea bites your pet, they release saliva into their skin, and your pet reacts to substances in the flea’s saliva.
- Diagnosis — Your pet does not have to be covered in fleas to suffer from a flea bite allergy. Pets tend to excessively groom themselves in an attempt to remove the irritant, and may remove all fleas from their coat. Their environment, especially their bedding, should be examined for fleas, flea droppings, and flea eggs. Finding fleas on your itchy pet or in their environment indicates they are affected by a flea bite allergy.
- Treatment — The first step in alleviating a flea bite allergy is to eliminate all fleas from your pet’s coat using medicated shampoos and flea combs. The second step is eradicating the fleas from your pet’s environment. The third step is ensuring your pet is protected by using a flea preventive year-round.
#3: Pets can be affected by environmental allergies
Pets can react to environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander. When pets suffer from environmental allergies, atopic dermatitis is the official diagnosis.
- Diagnosis — Allergy testing is used to identify the elements causing your pet to react. Blood tests are available, but are not always accurate. Intradermal testing, where a small amount of an allergen is injected into your pet’s skin, is more reliable. If the area becomes red and swollen, your pet is allergic to that allergen.
- Treatment — Atopic dermatitis is incurable, and your pet will need lifelong veterinary care to prevent signs from recurring. Pets do not respond well to antihistamines, but the following can help alleviate their itchiness.
- Frequent bathing using medicated shampoos can help calm your pet’s irritated skin and remove allergens from their coat.
- Anti-itch medications are available that can offer some relief for your pet.
- Steroids can be used to quiet the inflammatory response, but they should not be used long-term to prevent unwanted side effects.
- Hyposensitization therapy can be useful, but may take up to six months to alleviate itchiness. Gradually increasing doses of the offending allergens are injected in your pet to help desensitize them to the problematic elements.
#4: Pets can react to ingredients in their food
The protein in your pet’s food is the most common culprit if your pet suffers from a food allergy, but carbohydrates and preservatives may also cause issues. In addition to itchy skin, food allergies may cause your pet to vomit and have diarrhea. Serology and intradermal testing are not reliable when diagnosing food allergies. A food trial is the best way to diagnose and treat a food allergy.
Your pet will need a strict hyposensitive diet for 10 to 12 weeks. The diet must include only novel ingredients your pet has never ingested, such as venison, duck, and kangaroo. A hydrolyzed diet can also be used for a food trial. This diet requires that the protein be broken down to particles so small that the body’s immune system does not recognize the elements as a threat. Once your pet’s symptoms have resolved, the foods in their previous diet can be offered back one at a time until the substance responsible is identified. This ingredient should be removed from your pet’s diet forever.
#5: Pets can react to substances that contact their skin
Allergic contact dermatitis is the least common pet hypersensitivity. Pets can be allergic to many things that contact their skin, but the chemicals in substances such as shampoos, plastics, fabrics, detergents, and topical medications seem the most common culprits. If your pet has a reaction, you will typically see a rash in the area where the object touched their skin, accompanied by excessive itching.
- Diagnosis — Removing your pet from their environment until the rash resolves can help with a diagnosis. Then, reintroduce them to the area, and monitor the objects they contact and which object is close when signs return. A contact allergy can also be diagnosed using a patch test. The suspected offending substance is taped to a shaved skin area for 48 hours, and then that spot is evaluated for reaction.
- Treatment — The best treatment for a contact allergy is bathing your pet to remove the allergen from their skin, and eliminating the offending element from their environment.
You do not want your pet to be tormented by allergies, and this information will help you know when your pet needs veterinary intervention. If you suspect your pet is suffering from an allergy, contact the team at Chatham Animal Clinic to schedule an appointment.
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