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Allergies in Dogs and Cats

By Madeleine Burry. June 01, 2012 | See Comments

Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Allergies can be tough on your dog, and even tougher for you to identify. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options here.

When your cat or dog has allergies, it can be a truly miserable experience. Allergies make your pet extremely uncomfortable, and in an unfortunate twist, your pet’s efforts to alleviate symptoms by grooming and scratching will only accentuate the problem, potentially leading to secondary health issues. Find out more about how to recognize and respond to your cat or dog’s allergies, so that you can keep your pet happy and healthy.

What Causes Your Pet’s Allergies?

There are four main factors that may cause an allergic response in your cat or dog:

  • Atopic Allergies: Also known as inhalant allergies, these are allergies to environmental factors in the home or outside. These can also be allergies to seasonal occurrences, like blooming flowers, trees, or grass, or they can be year round, with allergies to dust, mold, or mildew.
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis: This allergy is caused by fleas. While nearly every pet will find fleas uncomfortable, some pets also experience an allergic reaction to the flea's saliva, which is left behind during the biting process, and will develop an extreme skin irritation.
  • Food Allergies: Just as humans can have allergies to various foods, so too can cats or dogs. Food allergies are frequently to proteins like chicken, beef, or soy, but pets may also be allergic to wheat. Tracking down which aspect of the food your pet is responding to will generally take several weeks.
  • Contact Allergies: Relatively rarer, contract allergies are caused by a pet coming in contact with an irritant, like a detergent or the medication in a flea collar.

Symptoms: How You Can Tell Your Pet Has Allergies

Pets don’t know when they develop allergies. Your cat or dog just knows that they are uncomfortable. And unfortunately, the common responses pets have to this discomfort -- excessive grooming, scratching, and licking -- do not alleviate symptoms, and can in fact cause skin infections and irritations. Pets may experience gastronomical distress, like vomiting and diarrhea. If pets have seasonal allergies, they may sneeze due to congestion and develop watery, red eyes.

Treatment: Responding to Your Pet’s Allergies

The best way to handle your pet’s allergies is to visit the vet, who will be able to ask questions to reveal the potential cause of the allergies, give your dog or cat an allergy test, and make recommendations, as well as prescribing medications, to help improve your pet’s allergy-caused discomfort and symptoms.

Potential treatments for allergies may be medications such as steroids, antihistamines, and immunosuppressants (such as Atopica). With food-related allergies, your vet may have you try out several different kinds of foods in order to determine what’s causing your pet’s allergy. In some cases, if your pet is responding to environmental conditions, you can reduce your pet’s exposure to the allergen by cleaning or frequent baths. Food supplements can also be helpful at diminishing symptoms and reducing your pet’s skin discomfort.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by,your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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