As anyone who has ever had allergies knows, the experience can be truly miserable. For your pet, who can have either seasonal or year round allergies -- or both -- the experience can be confounding and further irritated by your pet’s ineffective attempts to relieve the symptoms.
What Causes Your Pet’s Allergies?
The most common substances causing an allergic reaction from cats or dogs are:
- Mold and mildew
- Dust, dust mites, feathers
- Cleaning products, detergents
- Perfumes or cigarette smoke
- Prescription drugs; insecticidal shampoos; flea control products
- Some fabrics and rubber and plastic materials
- Food ingredients (generally proteins, but also sometimes wheat)
In general, your pet’s allergies will fall into four major categories:
1. Flea Allergy Dermatitis:
The most common allergy in cats and dogs, Flea Allergy Dermatitis, is an allergic reaction to fleas. Not all pets are susceptible to FAD, but to the ones that are, the flea’s saliva, which is left behind during the biting process, will prove to be an extreme irritant. Just one bite is enough to bring on this allergy. Cats or dogs will feel extremely itchy, and will respond by grooming, licking, and chewing their skin.
Unfortunately, this response does not alleviate the itching, and instead, causes hot spots, hair loss, scabs, and skin infections. Typically, if it’s a flea-caused allergy, cats and dogs will lick at their paws, the base of their tails, and on their backs in an obsessive manner.
2. Atopy, or Inhaled Allergies:
These allergies are caused by environmental factors in your cat or dog’s surroundings that can be inhaled or absorbed through your pet’s skin. In some cases, these are seasonal allergies to whatever is currently blooming: trees, plants, flowers, etc. Or, these allergies may be caused by year-round, indoor factors like dust mites, mold, perfumes, cigarette smoke, or fabrics.
Genetics can play a role in atopic allergies -- often, the affected pet’s mother or father also experienced the allergies. Atopic allergies are difficult to diagnose and often there is more than one contributing factor at play.
3. Food Allergies:
Cats and dogs can be allergic to all sorts of foods -- proteins like chicken and beef, or grains. Figuring out which ingredient is causing the allergic reaction can be incredibly challenging and takes some time. If cats and dogs are allergic to foods, they might experience gastrointestinal issues (such as vomiting or diarrhea) or scratch themselves as a result of this allergy. Some of the symptoms mimic the symptoms of atopy and flea allergy dermatitis, making this allergy particularly tough to diagnose.
4. Contact Allergies:
A rarer occurrence, your pet will experience contact allergies when touched by an allergy-causing substance, like a detergent or chemical. This often is caused by a flea collar, and will lead to your cat or dog rubbing or scratching around the point of contact.
Now that you know the causes of allergies, you’ll be able to treat your pet for them and keep your dog or cat healthy and happy.