May is Allergy Awareness Month

If your pet seems particularly itchy lately, you may wonder whether she’s suffering from allergies. Many pet owners aren’t aware their dog or cat can also be miserable with seasonal allergies in the spring and summer months. Excessive scratching is the most common sign of an allergic condition in your pets, but it’s not the only sign; of course, itching can also indicate any number of other problems, so leave the exact diagnosis to your vet. However, by considering your pet’s signs and symptoms, you can get a good idea whether he or she is being impacted by food and/or environmental allergies.

Allergy Awareness Month - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal

Food Allergies and Your Pets

Food allergies are caused by the immune system’s hypersensitivity to a protein in a food. They can manifest as either dermatological or gastrointestinal problems—this type of allergy only accounts for about 10% of pet allergies. Beef, dairy, wheat, egg, chicken, lamb and soy are the most common food allergens in dogs, in this order; common culprits in cats include beef, dairy and fish. Hypersensitivity to a food can develop at any age, even to something your cat or dog has eaten without issue for years. Typical signs and symptoms of a food allergy in pets include rash, hives and itching, especially on the face, limbs, sides of the body and anal region. Respiratory symptoms are sometimes seen, too. Diarrhea, vomiting and other gastrointestinal distress may also occur.

Environmental Allergies and Your Pets

Environmental allergies are also commonly referred to as seasonal allergies, airborne allergies and inhalant allergies. Exposure to this type of allergen occurs through inhalation. Common irritants include dust mites, mold, mildew, and pollens from grass, trees and weeds. Pollens cause seasonal allergies, while other environmental allergens are problematic year-round. While humans associate environmental and seasonal allergies with hay fever, pets are more likely to develop severe body-wide itching as the primary symptom. Excessive scratching, licking and biting can cause hair loss, injuries and infections. Inflamed ears and ear infections also occur, especially in dogs. Hay fever symptoms, such as puffy or watery eyes, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing and coughing, are occasionally present, too.

Diagnosing and Treating Pet Allergies

The clinical signs observed by your vet provide important clues as to which type of allergy your cat or dog is dealing with. Your ability to accurately report any symptoms your pet has exhibited helps as well. Skin or blood tests that measure the body’s immune response to suspected allergens can confirm the diagnosis of environmental allergies. Food allergies are diagnosed with an elimination diet trial. Your vet will advise you on feeding your pet a limited, hypoallergenic diet, usually for two to three months. Then, suspected foods are gradually reintroduced. You monitor your pet closely, watching for the return of allergic symptoms.

Preventing exposure to allergens is key to managing your cat or dog’s allergies. Prescribed antihistamines or other medicines often help control symptoms, while specially formulated shampoos or other topical therapies minimize itchiness and reduce excessive scratching. Allergy shots, which aim to desensitize your pet to an allergen with repeated exposure to minute quantities via injection, sometimes reduce or eliminate environmental allergies over time. Regardless of your pet’s symptoms, you can rest assured that 5 Points Animal Hospital can provide the absolute best in pet care to ensure your pet’s health and vitality for years to come. For questions of scheduling information, contact us today! We take pride in providing the best care for your pets.

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Leave a Comment

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