Pet Allergies 101: Symptoms to Look Out for and How to Eliminate Irritants

From seasonal allergies to food allergies to irritating household items — here’s a crash course on what might be causing your pet’s allergies, the symptoms to look out for, and how to take the steps toward recovery.

As nice as a conversation with your four-legged friend might be, pets, unfortunately, can’t talk to us. That’s why our pets often find other ways of communicating with us, whether it be scratching at the door to go outside or whining at the food bowl before dinner.

In much the same way, when your pet is suffering from an illness, they’re often able to communicate what’s wrong through their specific symptoms — that’s why it is crucial to be aware of what any unusual behaviors might indicate.

According to the 2018 State of Pet Health Report, environmental allergies in dogs have increased by 30.7%, while cats have shown an 11.5% increase. Additionally, while food allergies still only affect a small percentage of cats and dogs, their symptoms can be hard to pin down — and have a number of adverse effects.

If you think your pet might be suffering from an allergy of any kind, here are the symptoms to watch out for and the steps you can take towards recovery.


Seasonal Allergies

If you notice that your cat or dog starts to get a fit of sneezes and a runny nose around the same time every year, then they likely have seasonal allergies. Other symptoms of seasonal allergies include:

  • Scratching and biting
  • Inflamed skin
  • Excessive shedding
  • Compulsive paw licking
  • Floor scooting
  • Coughing and wheezing

While this may not seem worrying on the surface, excessive itching can cause wounds and sores, and extended exposure to allergens can lead to yeast or discharge. Exposure to trees, grass, plant pollens, dust mites, and dander can aggravate symptoms.


Food Allergies

Food allergies are a different beast. Since they can be caused by a variety of things, it can be difficult to narrow down the exact cause. Sometimes, pets can develop allergies to one of the ingredients in their food. Other times, they may have gotten into something they shouldn’t, and that’s what’s causing the adverse reaction. Food allergens for cats and dogs can include anything from beef, dairy, and seafood to corn, wheat and artificial colors. In any case, these are the symptoms to be on the watch for:

  • Frequent ear infections and ear itching
  • Discolored nail beds and itchy paws
  • Pink and inflamed lips
  • Red underbelly and scaly or oily skin
  • Red eyes and discharge

In rarer cases, some pets can also have diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, breathing issues, and weight loss. If your pet’s food allergy goes untreated, they may develop a secondary skin infection, more allergies, exaggerated symptoms, and behavioral changes.


Household Allergy Symptoms

Sometimes, there’s something in your home that may be causing your pet to react negatively. Since the causes of household-related allergies are so variable, symptoms can vary but oftentimes will mimic those of seasonal allergies. Common household allergens include:

  • Stuffing for dog beds and pillows
  • Indoor plants and potting soil
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Laundry detergents, cleaners, and shampoos
  • Other new pets


Telling the Difference Between Allergies

Since all of these allergies have similar symptoms, it might not be immediately clear what’s causing your pet’s problems. There are, however, a few key differences that set them apart.

For example, if the symptoms don’t get better or worse based on the time of year or your location, then they’re likely not seasonal. Additionally, food allergies are unique in that they typically start at a younger age and can extend to the gastrointestinal system. For any allergies that are caused by non-seasonal irritants, steroid treatments will be ineffective.


Managing Allergic Reactions

The first step in managing your pet’s allergies is to narrow down what’s causing them. First, take an inventory of the symptoms, and try narrowing down which type of allergy you think the culprit might be.

If you suspect food allergies, it’s best to totally switch the type of food and treats your pet is eating, then see if symptoms improve. Typically, it takes around eight weeks for symptoms to clear up. You should also track the ingredient list of each type of food or treat that your pet consumes in order to narrow down what the exact substance might be.

For household allergies, make sure you regularly dust and vacuum your home, consider moving your indoor plants to the outdoors, and switch to all-natural cleaners and detergents. These simple steps will eliminate dust and mite build-up, and decrease the amount of irritants and chemicals in the home.

As far as seasonal allergies go, the variables can be harder to control — after all, you have no influence over the pollen count outside. However, investing in a HEPA filter and vacuuming often can help decrease the amount of dust and pollen in the air.

Of course, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian your pet’s symptoms. They can recommend the best method for determining the cause and help you get to the root of the problem, making sure that your pet is back at 100% as soon as possible.


Get in Touch with Dogwood Veterinary Hospital & Pet Resort

The experienced doctors at Dogwood Veterinary Hospital & Pet Resort are always available to make sure your four-legged friend is feeling their best. If you think your pet might be suffering from allergies and you aren’t sure how to narrow down the cause, just give us a call at (919) 942-6330 to schedule an appointment.

By |2020-02-21T19:37:15-05:00February 21st, 2020|Uncategorized|