Just like people our pets can suffer from allergies. An allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a substance or allergen causing the body to react in an adverse way.
For dogs and cats there are two groups of allergens that can cause problems; environmental allergens (substances they are exposed to in their environment through contact, ingestion or inhalation) or food allergens (an ingredient in their food).
Common environmental allergens include;
- Grass, weeds, plants, seeds, pollen
- Mould or mould spores
- Fungus or fungal spores
- Dust or dust mites
- Cockroach droppings
- Parasites – fleas, ticks, mites, mosquitoes
- Cigarette smoke
- Cleaning products
Common food allergens include;
- Beef, chicken, pork, lamb or fish
Any dog or cat can develop an allergy at any point in their life, meaning that something that never use to bother them can suddenly become an allergic trigger to their body. How every animal reacts to different allergens can vary depending on the animal, the level of exposure, age, other health factors and what the allergen is. Signs of an allergic reaction can include;
- Itchy , red, inflamed, scabby or weeping skin
- Increased or persistent scratching, biting, licking or chewing (most commonly of paws, tummy, base of tail)
- Itchy and/or runny eyes
- Itchy ears
If you think that your pet is suffering from an allergy to something you should take them to a veterinarian for a checkup, diagnosis and treatment. A vet will examine your pet, looking for symptoms or an allergic reaction and try to determine the cause. This may involve skin tests/scrapings or blood tests. Some pets may need to see a veterinarian dermatologist for testing and an accurate diagnosis. Often determining the exact allergen, ie narrowing down the exact environmental or food allergen, can involve a process of elimination by removing possible causes and seeing if symptoms reside.
Treatment of allergies will vary depending on the suspected allergen or cause. Treatment options may include;
- Preventing or removing the allergen
- Parasite control or treatment
- Bathing using either medicated or skin soothing treatments
- Omega 3, fatty acids or skin supplements
- Topical creams
- Cortisone (injection, oral or topical)
- Change in diet
- Treat any secondary infection (often bacterial or fungal infections can develop)
If you suspect your cat or dog is suffering from an allergic or any other health condition please take them to your veterinarian as soon as possible as early intervention and treatment is always best.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Issue 16, Spring 2018.
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