Common Pet Allergies: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

We all know how terrible allergies can be. Between the sneezing, runny nose, and itchy skin, it’s an exhausting feat. And, while we know what foods and seasonal pollen are usually responsible, what many people don’t know is that their pets can experience allergens as well. So, what do pet allergies look like? I’m afraid this isn’t a black and white answer. It can vary from pet to pet, depending on the allergy. However, there are some key signs you can look for.

Common Signs of Pet Allergies

  1. Constantly licking paws
  2. Biting/Scratching at the skin
  3. Patches of fur missing
  4. Diarrhea
  5. Sneezing
  6. Reverse Sneezing
  7. Greasy/Flaky skin
  8. Foul odor
  9. Rubbing against the carpet
  10. Hives

What Causes Pet Allergies?

Let’s begin to break these down by the type of allergy these symptoms could be in response to.

1. Dermatitis

Dermatitis: One of the most common pet allergies

The first is Dermatitis. This is a skin condition that can result from allergies, bacteria, or food sensitivities. Another possible cause could be the chemicals used to treat your yard. The pads of dogs’ feet are susceptible. So, like our own hands and feet, they can become easily inflicted when irritants are present.

Testing for dermatitis is simple, as a blood test can quickly check for antigens in the blood. Another testing method would be to inject the possible antigen into the dogs’ skin and check for a reaction. Once a diagnosis is made, it’s as simple as either removing the source of the allergen or taking medication to combat symptoms or to clear bacteria-causing antigens.

2. Parasites

Another cause, and arguably the most annoying, is due to parasites. Fleas and mange are common causes of pet allergies. Some pets are allergic to the saliva of flea bites, which causes highly itchy skin. A simple skin test, similar to those done on humans and blood tests, can deduce whether the allergy is flea-related.

And mange, a skin disease triggered by mites, is an infection that causes hair loss, sores, scabs, and severe itching. The worst part? Mange is highly contagious to both humans and their animal counterparts. A simple skin test revolving around checking the infected skin under a microscope can check for mange causing mites. Once a parasitic invasion is to blame, the vet may prescribe a pill to kill off fleas or a medication that kills the mites by either injection, ointment, or shampoo.

3. Food Allergies

Just like people, food allergies can also be present in animals. These sensitivities can have varied consequences, including but not limited to itching, diarrhea, vomiting, hyperactivity, weight loss, and even aggression. In severe cases, the animal may even stop breathing. In this case, it is crucial to call an emergency animal hospital right away.

Dog eating dog food

The easiest way to diagnose the particular antigen causing your pet’s reaction is to work with your vet on singling out the ingredient that triggers the response. Your vet will then guide you to brands and flavors of dog food appropriate for pets with food allergies. Some of the more common food allergies include beef, lamb, chicken, chicken eggs, soy, and gluten (from wheat.) There are, of course, other foods that can cause a reaction, though they are less common.

4. Insect Bites

Insect stings and bites can also cause your pet to have an allergic reaction. This might include swelling of the area, itching, pain, and oozing of the wound. It is essential to take your pet to the vet right away if the swelling becomes severe or begins to block the airway. If you suspect a bite from a venomous insect, it is essential to take your pet to the clinic and describe the insect to the best of your abilities. A description of the bug can help determine the venom the vets need to combat with antivenom or antibiotics.   

Other Causes

Seasonal (also known as inhalant allergies or atopy), airborne, environmental, and household antigens are also possible causes of your pet’s reactions. In cases such as these, it is crucial to monitor your pet to find the antigen’s source causing allergic reactions. Your vet can provide skin and blood tests to help give a proper diagnosis. Treatments for these types of allergies typically involve antihistamines or allergy shots and removing the source of the allergy if it is something in the home.

Signs and Symptoms

Weary dog lying on the floor

According to the VCA Animal Hospital, there are different levels of reactions. There is an immediate-type hypersensitivity, also called anaphylaxis or shock, and delayed-type hypersensitivity. The first tends to happen abruptly after contact with the antigen is made, while the other occurs after some time. Anaphylaxis is the most extreme case of an allergic reaction and is cause for immediate emergency care. The vet will need to administer an intravenous injection of epinephrine to combat the attack. 

Nursing Them Back to Health

Vet checking up the dog

It is essential to monitor your pet for any changes in behavior or appearance. Watch for signs of skin irritation/alterations, including greasy skin, a dull coat, missing patches of fur, or lesions. Also, be sure to watch for lethargy, loss of appetite, change in stool, or anything else that seems abnormal.

Be sure to report these changes to your veterinarian. Keeping notes on these occurrences and any concerns you might have is a helpful tool to bring to your vet. This can help them rule out specific antigens and narrow down probable causes.

We care

We care about your pet’s health and want you to feel at ease, knowing that allergies are pretty common in pets. While it can be a frustrating and worrisome venture when trying to pinpoint your pet’s allergy, it isn’t nearly as impossible as some might think. Recognizing the signs, and seeking veterinary help, is vital in eliminating these common pet allergies and getting your furry companion back in top health. If you suspect your pet might be experiencing an allergic reaction, be sure to call your vet and set up an appointment.  

Our furry friends deserve relief. Let’s do everything we can to help them get better and more comfortable.