Dogs and cats, just like humans, can be sensitive to the changing seasons. Our pets can experience the same allergies we do and be sensitive to certain grasses, pollens, molds, dust, and other airborne allergens. While humans typically suffer from a running nose and itchy, watery eyes, allergies in pets manifest in a number of different ways, including:
● Red, itchy skin
● Hair loss
● Recurring ear infections
● Excessive licking or chewing on paws or skin
● Recurring skin infections
● Frequent pawing or rubbing at face
● Dragging face or body across carpet
What is an allergy?
An allergy is caused by a hypersensitive immune system that mistakes a benign substance for a harmful one. When the body encounters an allergen that is perceived to be harmful, it attempts to combat the allergens. All of our bodies, animal and human, are uniquely programmed and respond to outside stimuli differently, so different allergens can cause one allergy response in one dog, and entirely different symptoms in another.
What causes allergies in pets?
Allergies in pets can be caused by inhaling environmental allergens (pollen, dust, mold), direct skin contact with allergens (grass, carpet, fleas), or by ingesting food/ingredients they are allergic to. Food allergies can also cause symptoms such as vomiting and chronic diarrhea.
Did you know that flea allergic dermatitis is the most common skin disease in dogs? Flea allergies occur when a flea’s saliva comes in contact with your pet’s skin – which means it only takes one or two bites from a flea to cause a lot of itching!
My pet is showing allergy symptoms – how do I know what they are allergic to?
Without allergy testing, it can be tricky to figure out exactly what your pet is allergic to – but there are ways you can narrow down the source!
1. Stay on top of your pet’s monthly preventative medications. Flea allergic dermatitis can be a major source of itching, but can be managed with monthly prevention. Pets do not have to have an active flea infestation to be affected by flea allergic dermatitis and this type of allergy can be triggered by as little as one or two bites. Flea preventative medications treat and prevent fleas from biting, which prevent flea allergic dermatitis. Speak with your veterinarian about what flea prevention is best for your pet.
Monthly flea and tick prevention is species-specific and dosed based on your pet’s current weight. Please ensure that your pet is receiving the correct dose for their current weight. Monthly prevention for dogs and cats is NOT the same, and pets should only be given prevention marked for their species. DO NOT give flea prevention labeled for use in dogs to cats – this can be fatal and cause irreversible damage resulting in death.
2. Keep track of what time of year your pet’s allergies seem to worsen. Do your pet’s allergy symptoms seem to worsen during spring or fall, and ease up in the winter? If your pet seems to start itching around the same time that your eyes and nose start itching, your pet may be experiencing seasonal allergies. Changes in the weather tend to be accompanied by an increase in pollen, and animals and humans alike may be more impacted by allergies during this time.
3. Make note of your pet’s itching habits – when, where, and how. Does your pet lick and chew their feet after going out to potty in the grass? Do you notice them scratching their belly more often after washing their bedding with a new laundry detergent? Identifying patterns or consistencies in your pet’s habits can help you pinpoint what might be making your pet itch.
4. Conduct a food trial. If your pet tends to suffer from year-round allergies, you can discuss conducting a food trial with your veterinarian. A food trial involves feeding a strict diet consisting of a novel protein and carbohydrate that your pet hasn’t eaten before to identify if your pet’s allergies are food-related. It is extremely important to not feed any other food, treats, bones, or chew toys with food flavoring during the food trial, which typically takes 8 to 12 weeks to yield results. Consult your veterinarian and provide them with your pet’s full medical history so they can advise you on what diets might work best and be safe for your pet.
5. Get your pet allergy tested. Did you know Prosper Trail Animal Hospital offers allergy testing? Our technicians will obtain a blood sample from your dog or cat and send it off to be evaluated at the lab. The results take 10 to 14 days to come back, and will consist of a comprehensive report for your records. The report will show how sensitive your pet is to 91 different environmental allergens and common food ingredients.
These results allow you to be more conscious about what allergens your pet might be exposed to around your home, outside, or in their diet and make changes where possible to lessen their allergy symptoms. Allergy testing also makes it possible for your pet to receive custom allergy treatments designed to help with their specific allergies. Please contact our office for more information on allergy testing and pricing.
Many owners become discouraged and give up on their pet’s food trial when they don’t notice results in the first few weeks, but it is important to remember that a food trial can take upwards of 12 weeks to be successful – and requires strict compliance. Even one little table scrap can disrupt the food trial, so talk to your vet for detailed instructions on how to have a successful food trial.
Can my pet’s allergies be cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. Allergies are usually a chronic condition that your pet will experience throughout the duration of their life. However, allergies can be managed through medications and by limiting exposure to allergens whenever possible! Speak to your veterinarian about treatment options for your pet’s allergies.
Can I give my pet over-the-counter allergy medications?
Yes! Pets can take some of the same over-the-counter medications for allergies that we take, such as Benadryl, Zyrtec, and Claritin. These medications are safe for pets when given in the correct dose and are a great low-cost option for mild allergies.
Call our office and our staff can provide you with the proper dosing instructions for your pet. Do not give any over-the-counter allergy medications that contain a decongestant, as decongestants are toxic to pets. Do not give any over-the-counter medications to your pet without consulting your veterinarian.
Over-the-counter medications don’t seem to be effective in managing my pet’s allergies. What other treatment options are there?
Over-the-counter options can be beneficial to pet’s with mild allergies, but some pets may need something stronger. Thankfully, there are a number of different options your pet can try.
Oral medications, such as hydroxyzine and apoquel, can be effective in the treatment of allergies. These medications work to combat itching and redness, and can provide fast relief for pets suffering from allergy symptoms and may be safely given long-term.
We also offer an injection called Cytopoint, which is a long-lasting injection that can provide fast relief from allergy symptoms for up to 12 weeks. Cytopoint is safe for long-term use and does not have to be given on a schedule - just bring your pet by for their next injection when they start exhibiting allergy symptoms again! Cytopoint is also a great option for owners who don’t wish to give daily pills. Cytopoint is priced by weight, so give us a call for a quote on your pet’s injection.
*There is no one size fits all approach to allergies and therapy must be tailored to each individual pet.
My pet’s allergies always seem to subside when prescribed steroids. Can steroids be used long-term to treat allergies?
Steroid tablets or injections can be effective in treating a severe allergy flare up, but they can only be used short-term due to the side effects associated with long-term use. Steroids provide rapid relief and can get allergy symptoms under control while your pet gets started on a more long-term solution for their allergies.