There are three main types of allergies seen in dogs and cats. Depending on the type of allergy, pets can experience itchy skin, hair loss, skin infections, ear infections, sneezing, watery eyes, vomiting and soft stool. The three main categories of allergies in dogs and cats include environmental allergies, food allergies, and flea allergies.
1. Environmental allergies (also known as atopy in the veterinary field) are caused by allergens in the environment such as dust, pollen and dander. Your pet could be allergic to things ranging from ragweed to cockroaches or mold to dust mites! Often times, this type of allergy is worse in the spring and fall, and will improve in the winter. This correlates with the how much of the allergen your pet is exposed to. However, some pets experience chronic allergies which require ongoing attention all year long. For example, if you live in a warm climate with a year-round growing season, then your pet may have allergies year round.
Typically, pets with environmental allergies will lick and chew on their feet excessively and they may have recurring ear infections, itchy or red skin, hair loss and skin infections. Milder symptoms include sneezing and red, watery eyes. There are different treatments for this type of allergy which include anti-histamines, immunomodulating drugs, and allergy shots (similar to allergy shots in people, but these can be given orally as well). Talk to your veterinarian if you think your dog has environmental allergies.
Did you know? Environmental allergies (also known as Atopy) are the most common pet insurance claim Pets Best receives for dogs. They account for 30% of all the dog insurance claims.*
2. Food allergies, although not as common as environmental allergies, can be of concern in some dogs and cats. In these pets, certain proteins cause a reaction inside the intestines that can lead to soft stool, excessive gas, itchy skin, hair loss, dander as well as ear and skin infections. Usually, if a pet has a food allergy, they are reacting to a protein in the meat source of the food. These food allergies are often found in common meat products such as chicken, pork and beef. However, other proteins such as dairy, soy and egg can be the culprit as well. Rarely are pets allergic to fruits, vegetables or grains. If you suspect your pet has a food allergy, talk with your veterinarian about trying a special diet for your pet. These diets are formulated specially for animals with food allergies. However, they must be strictly followed with no people food or treats outside of what has been prescribed.
3. Flea allergies make up the third major allergy group in pets. Not all pets are allergic to fleas, but some dogs and cats can have severe skin reactions from a single flea bite. Typically, pets with flea allergies will have hair loss, skin infections and will itch severely around the hips and base of the tail. If your pet is allergic to fleas, it just takes one flea bite to set off a reaction! Be sure to keep your pet on a flea preventative year round if this is an issue for your dog or cat. Additionally, make sure to treat the environment for fleas including your house and yard.
Did you know? Allergies (of all types) are the fourth most common pet insurance claim Pets Best receives for cats.*
If you suspect your pet is suffering from allergies, please have your pet seen by your veterinarian to give them relief from the allergies and to prevent more serious problems from developing.
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By Dr. Eva Evans, a veterinarian and writer for Pets Best pet health insurance. Pets Best was founded by a veterinarian in 2005 and offers pet insurance plans for dogs and cats in all 50 states and D.C.