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Pet Allergy Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

Probably the single most misunderstood condition that affects our pets is allergies. Unfortunately, this misunderstanding can result in people wasting copious amounts of money and effort on treatments that prove ineffective. Likewise, when a vet is explaining about allergies to many owners, experiences with human allergy suffering sometimes causes confusion to the listener.

Your Pet Can Get Allergies

Dog With Mask

Cats and especially dogs do suffer from allergies. For dog allergies, it is one of the most common causes for owners to bring their pets to us during certain times of the year. However, the symptoms are not what the hay fever suffering owner is afflicted with as they are sniffling with their afflicted dog in the exam room. Let’s look at the causes.

Causes For Pet Allergies

Dog In Leaves

There are two main causes of allergies in dogs and cats here in Utah. The first is called atopy. This is basically equivalent to what we call “hay fever” in humans. The suffering dog will usually be afflicted at certain times of the year, usually spring and fall.

The other main allergy is food.  The symptoms are similar, but the affected pet usually has a nonseasonal pattern, meaning he/she is afflicted year round. If you live in an area that has fleas, then a third common cause is flea allergic dermatitis. Happily, for us Utahns, we don’t have fleas here very often so we see flea allergic dermatitis very rarely and usually only in traveling pets.

Pet Allergy Symptoms To Watch For

Dog Sneezing

The hallmark of dog and cat allergy symptoms is itching, licking, and scratching. Dogs and cats do NOT have the same hay fever signs as we do. Dogs do not sneeze and have a runny nose or watery eyes when they have hay fever.

So, what are the pet allergy symptoms?

Here in Utah, an overwhelming percentage of itchy dogs are suffering from allergies. Symptoms of dog allergies include itchy inflamed ears and frequent ear infections also are often allergy sufferers. Pets with food allergies will often act very similarly, but sometimes have diarrhea or lick their bottoms excessively. Often, the itching and scratching are bad enough to cause small to large sores to appear. These are usually Staph infections but are sometimes yeast infections as well.

So Itchy

Cat Scratching

With regards to the itchy dog, I see a tremendous amount of money wasted here in Utah on over the counter flea control products from pet stores, assuming that their itchy pet has fleas. These items invariably fail to work because the dog doesn’t have fleas. Do not buy these items unless you have actually confirmed that your pet truly has fleas. In Utah, they almost never do.

Allergy Treatments

Dog Taking Pills

There are multiple ways that pets with allergies can be treated, but any individual case should generally be discussed with your vet. For mild cases, we often will use over-the-counter antihistamines, often combined with special shampoos or supplements. OTC antihistamines do not work as consistently in dogs as they do in people or for an intensely itchy dog, we almost always have to use something stronger.

Nevertheless, they are often used as part of allergy therapy. One additional note on shampoos, “hypoallergenic” shampoos are only designed to be low irritating to the skin, they are not designed to be a therapy. An allergy treating shampoo, usually with colloidal oatmeal and some other products are designed to treat allergies.

Office Exams

Cat At Veterinarian

Most allergy cases that end up requiring an office examination generally need prescription medications to get the needed relief. This will often include medications like specific types of steroids, sometimes combined with antibiotics if needed for infections and/or ear medications for specific problems.

Apoquel is a new pet allergy medicine that has been introduced to the market and can provide relief to severely affected dogs, however, it is in short supply from the manufacturer. Often the start to relief is through prescription medication but OTC medications can be used for long-term management.

For the severest cases, therapies like allergy testing and desensitization injections can be considered. However, it should be noted that each case is handled differently, based on a pet’s problems and medical history.

Your Pet Is Ready For The Allergy Season

Pet Allergies

Hopefully, this was helpful in covering the basics of pet allergies and that you don’t let hay fever and allergies get either your pet or you down while you enjoy the spring and fall months.

Read more on Pet Health.