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How to Treat Allergies in Dogs and Cats

By Madeleine Burry. June 01, 2012 | See Comments

How to Treat Allergies in Dogs and Cats

Allergies are tough to deal with for both humans and animals. Luckily, there are treatments options than can help your pet cope when suffering from allergies. Learn what they are here.

Treatment options for allergies vary depending on the cause of your pet’s allergic response. If you notice your cat or dog displaying allergic symptoms, make an appointment with your vet. In the office, the veterinarian will be able to work through the potential causes -- including previous history, changes in eating habits, and other adjustments to the pet’s living situation -- to determine the most effective treatment option. As a first step, your vet may provide a perscription, food supplement, or shampoo to see if that clears up the problem.

Skin allergy tests are a next step that can help track down which allergen is setting off your pet’s symptoms. In a skin allergy test, a patch of your pet’s hair is shaved off, and a series of small amounts of potential non-food allergens are injected. All of the injections are carefully marked, so that if your cat or dog responds to any of the shots, the vet can determine which allergen causes a reaction.

Based on your pet’s reaction to initial treatment methods, including the skin allergy test if one is given, and to any background information on timing or changes in the pet’s environment or food, your vet can help determine the next steps for treatment, and the best ways to provide your pet with relief from uncomfortable symptoms.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis Treatment

Although it may not be an easy process, flea allergy dermatitis treatment is relatively straightforward: By removing fleas from your pet, and from your pet’s home, the allergic reaction will stop. Start by checking if your pet has fleas. Look for fleas around where your pet commonly rests, see if you’re getting bites on your ankles, and inspect pets for signs of fleas on their skin, such as flea dirt. If you do find evidence of fleas, treat both your home and your pet to remove the parasite -- without the fleas around to bite your pet, the symptoms will quickly cease.

Learn more about Flea and Tick Prevention.

Food Allergy Treatment

The only way to handle food allergies for your cat or dog is with avoidance of the trigger food. The challenging part of tackling food allergies is determining the part of your pet’s food causing the allergy. Generally, your vet will recommend that your pet try a prescription diet, with potential allergen-causing elements removed. This diet will be your pet’s sole food for a few weeks. Once the symptoms subside completely, you can experiment with adding back in certain types of food to identify the problematic aspect. As soon as allergy-causing food has been identified, the allergy is solved, so long as your pet stays on a restricted diet. 

Atopic, or Inhaled, Allergy Treatment

As with food allergies, the trick to resolving allergies caused by environmental factors is to find out what is causing the allergy. Is it mold? Dust? Pollen? Seasonal allergies? Skin tests can clarify what’s causing the allergies. Atopic allergies in pets can sometimes be treated with a series of allergy injections, which work by slowly getting your cat or dog accustomed to the allergen. (People with allergies to environmental factors -- including cats and dogs -- can also have this kind of treatment.) The drawback to this hyposensitisationtreatment is that the process is quite long, taking months or years to complete, and it’s not guaranteed to be effective. In some cases, oral medications like Atopica can help. While treatment can be challenging, there are many options for relieving the symptoms:

  • Antihistamines: For seasonal allergies to grass and pollen, the same antihistamines (like Benadryl) that you’d take to treat your own allergies can help your pet’s symptoms dissipate. Note that you should always consult a vet before giving your pet over-the-counter medication to determine the correct dosage.
  • Remove Allergens: It’s not always possible, but you can strive to remove or lessen allergens within your pet’s vicinity. For instance, if you pet is allergic to dust and dust mites, frequent vacuuming and laundering of pet bedding can help resolve symptoms.
  • Weekly or Biweekly Baths: Similarly, baths with colloidal oatmeal or hypoallergenic shampoos can lessen the symptoms of some seasonal and environmental allergies, although it may be tough to convince your cat of the merits of bathtime. Topical solutions with hydrocortisone can help bring relief to itchy skin, but note that some pets will lick off the solution in the areas they can reach, reducing its helpfulness.
  • Prescription Medications: Steroids tend to have side effects, so many are wary of giving them to pets; however, steroids are quite effective at relieving itchy skin and general allergy discomfort. Another medication option is cyclosporine, sold as Optimmune or Atopic.
  • Food Supplements: Two options for food supplements that can help relieve itchy skin are Biotin, a B-vitamin supplement, and omega-3 fatty acids. Both of these are long-term solutions that are only helpful if your pet persistently ingests the supplement. Often fatty acid supplements and Biotin are given to pets in conjunction to increase their effectiveness.

Contact Allergy Treatment

Relatively uncommon, contact allergies can be solved by removing the item -- whether it be a detergent, irritating blanket, flea collar, or something different -- from being in contact with your cat or dog.

With this information, you’ll be on your way to keeping your pet allergy-free and healthy for years to come.

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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