Just like in humans, spring brings allergy problems for pets. Living in the south certainly doesn’t make dealing with allergies easier. In fact, pet allergies are the most common problem veterinarians see year round. Diagnosing and treating pet allergies can be complicated for veterinarians, especially, if pet owners have made the problem worse by seeking advice from Dr. Google, Nurse Yahoo, or Professor Bing. Although the Internet has its place, it cannot diagnose the ROOT of your pet’s allergy problems. In fact, the advice can often make the problem worse, more complicated to diagnose, and even more expensive to treat. Veterinarians must first rule out possible secondary infections caused by bacteria, yeast or parasites…. then the real “allergy” hunt begins.
Types of Pet Allergies
If your pet’s itching, licking or coughing problem was not caused by bacterial, yeast or parasitic infections, allergies are likely the culprit. The most common allergies in pets are: inhalant (atopy), food, or contact allergies.
Atopy, (inhaled) is the most common form of allergy in dogs and cats. Atopy is often seasonal. If your pet is allergic to ragweed, his/her symptoms will occur in the fall. Pets allergic to spring tree pollen will show signs in March, April and May. If your pet is allergic to dust mites, the symptoms may flare up more in the winter, when your pets is spending more time inside.
Signs of atopy can include:
- chewing at feet
- constant licking
- rubbing of face
- inflamed ears or recurrent ear infections
- recurrent hot spots
- asthma-like wheezing and respiratory problems
Food allergies represent about 10-15% of all allergies in dogs and cats. Making diagnosis even more complicated is that food allergies can also show up concurrently with allergies associated with pollen, dust, and other environmental exposure. And, food allergy symptoms are also similar to atopy’s and include:
- itching, especially face, feet, trunk, limbs, and anal area
- ear problems, often yeast-related
- skin infections that respond to antibiotics, but then recur as soon as antibiotic therapy ceases
Less common but just as annoying are allergies caused by contact dermatitis, which include allergies to carpets, cleaners, or plastics. The most common symptoms being:
- red itchy bumps or blisters in place that come in contact with the allergen (belly, feet, or muzzle)
- intense scratching
- hair loss
So what’s a pet owner to do? There are many new treatment options and diagnostic test available to help your pet enjoy an “itch-free” spring. If you feel your pet is suffering from allergies, seek the help of a trusted veterinarian and be patient. Identifying the root of your pet’s allergy problem is the first step to finding relief.