Being responsible for a pet is a real learning curve for many owners, and something that surprises many people is discovering that pets can suffer from allergies just like we can.
To help you understand your furbaby a bit better and give him the help that he needs to manage his allergies and enjoy a healthy, happy life, here is what you need to know about pet allergies.
What Are Allergies?
An allergy is a reaction that the body has to come into contact with a specific substance. This could be something that is in the environment, a type of food or ingredient, or being bitten by an insect. The substance that causes the reaction is known as an allergen. It is not always clear exactly why the body responds to the allergen as though it is harmful. However, it can have some unpleasant effects for the person - or pet - experiencing the allergy.
Symptoms of Allergies in Pets
A challenging aspect of pet ownership is that animals have a natural tendency to mask signs of illness - and this includes symptoms of an allergic reaction. Your pet will probably do his very best to avoid showing you any indication that he might be suffering until it is impossible to avoid it any longer.
Exactly what symptoms your pet might experience will depend on the type of allergy that he has. However, there are some general symptoms that tend to be experienced across many allergies irrespective is actually causing them. Some of the signs of allergies that you can look out for in your pet include:
- Extreme itchiness that sees your pet biting, chewing, and scratching his skin
- Skin rashes/hives
- Recurrent ear infections
- Skin wounds caused by aggressive itching
- Loss of appetite
- Diarrhea and/or vomiting
- Runny eyes or nose
Types of Allergies Seen in Pets
Allergies in pets tend to be divided into different categories based upon the type of allergen believed to be causing them. These are as follows:
Food allergies: Food intolerances are fairly common amongst pets and can develop even if your furbaby has been eating the food all their life. Common food intolerances include eggs, dairy, wheat, fish, and meat.
Environmental allergies: The most common type of allergy seen in pets, environmental allergies can occur in response to many different substances including tree and grass pollen, dust, and smoke. Some of these allergens are more prevalent at certain times of the year and they are sometimes known as season allergies.
Bite allergies: These allergic reactions are caused by irritants in the saliva of creatures that bite your pets. Flea allergy dermatitis is extremely common, believed to affect as many as one in four animals. The reaction experienced by pets with flea allergy dermatitis is so severe that just one bite can leave your furbaby unbearably itchy for months.
Contact allergies: As their name suggests, these occur when your pet's skin comes into contact with an allergen. Typical causes include cleaning products, washing powders or fabric softeners, shampoos, or even just rubbing up against a plant or tree.
What Can Be Done to Help a Pet with Allergies?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. However, this doesn't mean that your pet has no choice but to experience a range of unpleasant and debilitating symptoms. There are still some things you can do to reduce the likelihood of your fur baby suffering from an allergic reaction and to manage one should the situation arise.
- Limit your pet's exposure to the allergen. Not always easy, but by reducing contact with the allergen where possible, you can minimize or eliminate the effect that it has on your pet. For example, keep your pet indoors when the pollen count is high.
- Protect your pet against parasites. Since parasites, and in particular, fleas, are responsible for a huge number of allergic reactions, by giving your pet adequate preventative medication you can not only reduce the likelihood of him suffering, you can also protect your home and family from the misery of a flea or tick problem.
- Utilize medications. There are a number of different drugs that can be taken to keep your pet's immune system under control so that it doesn't overreact to allergens. These include antihistamines which temper his body's response.
- Enlist the help of a professional. Not only might you need the help of an experienced vet to help you determine the cause of your pet's allergy in the first place, but a professional can also help you find effective ways at managing your pet's condition. Knowledgeable vets can often make recommendations that we haven't otherwise thought of - such as using an air purifier, altering our pet's diet, or changing where he sleeps.
Want more advice on pet allergies and what you can do to help your pet? Contact our veterinary team at Safe Harbor Animal Hospital in Pensacola, FL today at (850) 476-5571 or schedule an appointment.