Your Pets Get Allergies Too!

If you’re grouped among the 35 million-plus Americans who suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s not news to you that the allergy season is one of the more unpleasant times of the year. Your nose knows it’s true and so do your eyes, chest, head and maybe even your ears. Sneezing, congestion, runny nose and itchiness are the common symptoms with which you’re forced to contend. Did you know your pets could suffer from seasonal allergies just as you do? It is estimated that over half of pet owners aren’t aware that the fuzzy members of their family can also spend portions of the year feeling miserable thanks to pollen and other environmental allergens.

Your Pets Get Allergies - Nashville TN - 5 Points Animal Hospital

What exactly are allergies anyway?

An allergy is a state of over-reactivity or hypersensitivity of the immune system to a particular substance called an allergen. Most allergens are proteins; with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body. The allergen protein can be of insect, plant or animal origin. Exposure to the allergen, usually on multiple occasions, sensitizes the immune system, and a subsequent exposure to the same or related allergen causes an over-reaction. Normally the immune response protects your pet against infection and disease, but with allergies, the immune response can actually be harmful to the body.

Different Pet Allergy Categories

There are primarily two types of allergies: food allergies and environmental allergies. If your pets get itchy during spring, summer or fall, they’re probably reacting to seasonal, environmental allergens. But if their symptoms continue year-round, it’s more likely that the sensitivity is to something more constant within their environment or to something in their diet. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, however. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a hard freeze in the winter, environmental allergens can build up and cause year-round issues for your pet. In addition, seasonal allergies can progress to year-round allergies.

Warning Signs of Pet Allergies

Whereas allergy symptoms in humans usually involve the respiratory tract, allergies in dogs and cats more often take the form of skin irritation or inflammation—a condition called allergic dermatitis. If pet allergies are present, you can expect their skin to become very itchy. They’ll start scratching excessively, and might bite or chew at certain areas of the body. They may rub themselves against vertical surfaces like furniture or may rub their face against the carpet, all the while trying to relieve the miserable itchiness by any means possible.

As the itch-scratch cycle continues, the skin will become inflamed and tender to the touch. Other signs can include localized hair loss, open skin sores, and scabbing. Hot spots—inflamed, infected skin that occurs when your pet’s natural bacteria overwhelms an area of skin, typically associated with very red skin, and often bleeding and hair loss—can develop as well (more typically in dogs than in cats).

Pets with allergies also tend to have ear problems. Their ear canals may be itchy and inflamed or may grow infected with yeast or bacteria. Signs your pet’s ears are giving him problems include scratching at the ears, head shaking, and hair loss around the ears. If infection is present, there will often be odor and a discharge from the ears. Another warning sign to watch for is generalized redness. Pets suffering from allergies often have puffy red eyes, red oral tissue, a red chin, red paws and even a red anus.

To date, the only reliable way to diagnose environmental allergies in dogs and cats is through intradermal (skin) testing. Commercial blood tests for canines and felines are available, but have proven controversial due to inaccurate results. Depending on the nature of your pet’s allergic reaction, your veterinarian will be able to assist you in controlling the long-term effects. Unfortunately, there is no cure for allergies. Our goal is to reduce the severity of the symptoms through preventive measures and by eliminating allergens wherever possible.

By Dr. Janet Grace | Tagged with: Tags: , , | Comments Off on Your Pets Get Allergies Too!

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