Our friendly animal companions experience allergies just like us. Some are seasonal and others are related to food or drugs. Many pets have at least mild allergies to something in their environment, while others require consistent care to prevent a severe reaction.
Regardless of the type or severity, it is important for pet owners to be aware of common allergies and what to do if they suspect your pet has one.
Have you ever noticed that many bags of dog food now label their products as “grain-free”? That is because grains, especially corn, are a very common allergy for canines. Unfortunately, the same applies to felines.
Cats and dogs are often sensitive or allergic to similar things. Grains, eggs, dairy products, and certain meats are the most common food allergies. Pollen, dust, and mold in their environment are also known to cause reactions. Do not forget that contact with certain outdoor plants, like poison ivy, can also cause an allergic reaction.
Additionally, many pets experience allergies to uncommon foods. Pets can even react to unexpected things, like household plants, perfumes, and fancy pet foods and treats. It is important to watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction and talk to a vet if you think your pet may need treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
Sneezing, coughing, and congestion can all be signs of allergies in pets, just like in humans. These symptoms can also be indicative of respiratory infections or colds, so always consult a vet if you notice one or more of these things occurring.
However, the most common reaction is atopic dermatitis or skin rashes. Atopic dermatitis can cause mild to extreme discomfort. Many owners notice itchiness or red and broken skin. In some cases, pets may even lose fur in the affected areas.
Frequent ear infections can also be a sign of allergies. Ears are very sensitive parts of the body and pets with especially hairy ears may require frequent cleaning. Foul smell and excessive buildup are usually the first signs of an infection. Inflammation may also be present and can be very painful for your pet.
It should also be noted that pets can develop new allergies later in life. In fact, it is very common for middle-aged to older dogs to develop new food allergies or sensitivities, which can include rashes, hair loss, and even vomiting.
There are many available treatment options to suit your pet’s specific reaction. Dogs and cats can take antihistamines, which are quick and incredibly effective against most allergic reactions.
Steroids are also an effective treatment for many pets and can be especially helpful for red, itchy skin as a result of a contact allergy. For irritated ears, your vet may prescribe medicated drops to clean and treat an infection.
It is best to visit your veterinarian to diagnose an allergy and talk about the right treatment plan. Never administer over-the-counter allergy medications, like antihistamines, without consulting your veterinarian first. All prescriptions will need to be dosed according to your pet’s weight and medical history. Not all allergy medications will work for your pet.
If your pet is reacting to a certain food, eliminating it is the first step to confirming the allergy. You should notice a difference within twelve weeks. If your pet’s health improves, continue to avoid the ingredient in their diet.
If you think that your pet might be allergic to something in your home, like air fresheners, perfumes, or plants, try removing the item in question for a few weeks and see if you notice an improvement in their condition.
Keeping dust- and mold-free homes (as much as possible) is a simpler way to prevent allergic reactions and unnecessary health hazards. It is good for both you and your pet.
What About Other Pets?
Most available pet allergy information is specifically in regard to dogs and cats, but other pets are susceptible to allergies too. So, what do you do? As always, consult your vet. Large animals, like horses, may be easier to treat with similar methods (just in higher doses).
Small animals can be a bit trickier because they are harder to administer medication to and are generally more sensitive. It can also be more difficult to spot symptoms.
A specialized veterinarian will be properly qualified to diagnose and treat your pet’s allergies, whether they are a bird, hamster, or snake.
All pets can have allergies. It is important to treat allergies for your pet’s overall health and quality of life. If left untreated, your pet may suffer when it is entirely unnecessary. Additionally, untreated allergies may even result in future health problems.
If you spot sudden symptoms or suspect a food allergy, give us a call at 805-642-2191 to talk about the best treatment option for your companion.