When the body has an immune reaction to a substance it is called an allergic reaction. Allergies occur in all types of people and animals, including pets like dogs and cats. Unfortunately, unlike in people, there are no direct tests for allergies in your pet. Instead allergies tend to be diagnosed by eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms.
Different animals will present with different symptoms. The signs of allergy in cats are not necessarily the same as the symptoms in dogs. If your pet is showing any of the symptoms, you should bring them in to your veterinarian to investigate further. While it may not be an allergy, your pet is uncomfortable and your vet may be able to help.
There are a number of different types of allergies including flea bite allergies (the most common), environmental allergies, and food allergies. Environmental allergies may only occur seasonally although some are present year round. Environmental allergies include dust, pollen, and plant allergies. Food allergies tend to be to individual ingredients within the food being eaten. Common ones include wheat, corn, soy, chicken, and dairy products.
Allergies develop over an extended period of exposure to the allergen. This means that the food you have always fed your pet may suddenly begin to cause a reaction where it never had previously. It may be one or multiple ingredients in the food that are causing the reaction. There are a number of food options that make use of unusual ingredients for animals with food allergies. You can also switch to a homemade diet that is designed around your pet’s allergies. If you choose to do a homemade diet, make sure you consult your veterinarian or a pet nutritionist to ensure that the diet is balanced and meets your pet’s nutritional needs.
Cats will most often develop itchy skin, hives, and a rash. The itchiness tends to lead to scratching, particularly around
the head and neck. Severe scratching can lead to open sores and infections, hair loss and red, inflamed skin. Hives may cause swelling and skin welts on the head and neck. There are a number of different things that can cause skin itchiness and hives and your vet will need to eliminate them before deciding it is caused by an allergy.
Some cats will also experience swollen, red eyes and ear infections.The ears may be moist, red, and inflamed looking. Less common but possible signs of allergies include vomiting and diarrhea.
In dogs, symptoms can vary a bit more although skin issues like hives, rashes, and itchy skin remain the most frequent sign. Dogs will scratch at itchy skin but also chew at it. The chewing can in turn become habitual resulting in open sores and hot spots. In dogs with a lot of coat, yeast infections can set in and spread underneath the coat where the owner may not immediately notice it.
Reoccurring ear infections are another common allergy symptom in dogs. The ears often have a high amount of yeast in them resulting in infections that keep coming back as soon as treatment is completed. The ears may also be itchy, red, and smell funny.
Gastrointestinal symptoms are much more common in dogs with allergies than cats. Soft stools, diarrhea, and mild vomiting are not uncommon.
Once your vet arrives at a diagnosis of food allergies, the most common way to deal with it is an elimination diet to figure out which ingredient(s) are the culprit.This tends to involve feeding prescribed foods for extended periods of time and noting any reactions. During this time it is extremely important that your pet eat only the food your vet prescribes. Often this is a simple homemade diet and, because it takes several weeks for effects to be obvious, you will likely be looking at trials of four or more weeks in length. Once the problem ingredients are identified, a diet that avoids them can be designed so that your dog’s immune system settles down.
Once your pet has adapted to his new diet, the problems will subside although care needs to be taken that he doesn’t ingest allergens. Unfortunately, sometimes further allergies will develop down the road but there is no reason your pet cannot live a long and healthy life.