Yes, allergy season is upon us, and it doesn't just affect us but our four legged friends as well. There are three main categories of allergies in pets, flea allergies, pollen allergies and food allergies.
A flea allergy is the most common allergy amongst cats and dogs. It is actually the flea's saliva that a flea allergic dog or cat is allergic to. As a result, in sensitive dogs a single flea bite can cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms of a flea allergy include hairloss on the backs of thighs, tailbase and rump; chewing or scratching on the back half of body; and flea dirt (the flea's waste product). The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is monthly, year round flea prevention.
Pollen allergies are called Atopic allergies, or atopy for short, and describes an allergic reaction caused by inhaled allergens such as dust, mold, pollen, or even dust mites. This is the second most common allergy in pets and can be seasonal or non-seasonal. Atopy can present in many different ways, the most common are: itching, licking paws, skin irritation or redness, recurrent ear infections that are difficult to cure and skin chewing. Although you cannot cure allergies, there are many treatments available such as: antihistamines; fish oil supplementation; topical shampoos, oils and cream rinses; topical antihistamines and anti-inflammatories; acupuncture; oral herbal therapy and diet therapy. In addition allergy testing and immuno-therapy can be helpful. In severe cases immune suppressing drugs must be used.
Food allergies are not as common, but do occur. Food allergies are caused by an allergic reaction to a protein and or carbohydrate in the food your animal eats. The most common food allergens (the particle that cause the reaction is called an “allergen”) in dogs are beef, dairy and wheat. Whereas the most common food allergies in cats are beef, dairy and fish. Only a food trial with a single protein and carbohydrate source lasting 6-8 weeks can rule out a food allergy. Keep in mind, food allergies are not seasonal.
So, what is the take home message? There are three main types of allergies: flea allergies, atopy and food allergies. Flea allergies and atopy are the most common with food allergies being the least common. Animals can have more than one or even all three types of allergies. If you suspect that your pet has allergies you can bring them in for a consultation.