Millions of people suffer from allergies—to mold, pollen, dust mites, and their own pets. While we have yet to diagnose a pet’s allergy to their owner, veterinarians treat dogs and cats who suffer from many of the same allergens as their owners. Given the frequency of pets’ allergies, learn to recognize this prevalent condition’s signs and how you can help alleviate your pet’s suffering by learning these 10 important pet allergy facts from the Little Animal Hospital team.

#1: Three common pet allergy causes

Pets can be allergic to virtually anything, but most react to flea bites, their food, or their environment, or several allergens. Pets with flea allergies are usually sensitive to a flea saliva component. Environmental (i.e., inhalant) allergies from grasses, pollens, molds, or other inhaled allergens may cause a pet’s allergic reaction. Food sensitivities are usually because of a protein such as chicken or beef. 

#2: Pets’ food allergies are uncommon

Although pet food allergies are uncommon, your veterinarian may have to rule out food sensitivities when diagnosing your pet’s allergies. Pets rarely react to gluten or grains, despite the recent grain-free pet food marketing trend. In fact, grain-free foods may potentially be dangerous for your dog

#3: Scratching is the most common pet allergy sign

While allergic pet owners likely suffer from watery eyes, a scratchy throat, or a stuffy nose, pets are more likely to manifest allergic reactions through scratching. Allergic pets will often scratch their ears, armpits, or flank. Pets may actually bite their skin if the itch is in a hard-to-reach place. 

#4: Pets’ paw licking and ear infections are common allergy signs

Environmental allergens on the ground where your dog walks or plays may manifest as incessant paw licking or biting—occasionally to the point of hair loss and skin irritation. Chronic ear infections are another common underlying allergy manifestation. Who would have thought?

#5: Pets’ allergies can lead to secondary infections

When an itchy pet scratches their skin, the protective barrier can become compromised, allowing commensal skin organisms to cause bacterial and fungal skin infections.

#6: Diagnosing your pet’s allergies can take time

While your pet’s allergy signs can be easy to spot, pinpointing their specific allergens is key to keeping them comfortable and avoiding frequent veterinary visits. The process of determining your pet’s specific allergens can be time-consuming, and often may require a visit to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist, who may conduct a strict diet trial and intradermal allergy testing (IDAT). Being patient through this lengthy process is worthwhile, to ensure your pet finds allergy relief for the long run. 

#7: Multimodal therapies to alleviate pets’ allergy symptoms

Allergies can affect pets in a multitude of ways, and your veterinarian may choose to prescribe therapies that work concomitantly to alleviate your pet’s allergy signs and keep them comfortable. These multimodal therapies may include topical gels, sprays, or ointments, specific shampoo or conditioners, oral or injectable anti-itch medications, or prescription pet food. 

#8: Pet-safe over-the-counter allergy medications

To help relieve your pets’ allergy signs, such as scratching, your veterinarian may recommend over-the-counter antihistamine medications. You must closely adhere to your veterinarian’s dosing guidelines—not the package insert instructions, which are for humans, and may be quite different from the dose that is safe for your pet. Remember, never give your pet over-the-counter medications without first consulting with your veterinarian.

#9: Allergic pets’ routine parasite prevention

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) recommends year-round flea prevention for all pets, but since allergic pets may have intense flea saliva reactions, remembering to administer routine preventive medications is paramount to keeping them itch-free.  

#10: Allergic pets’ routine veterinary care

Your pet’s overall health is dependent on regular wellness care. For our allergic four-legged friends, routine checkups are much more important, because an untreated itch can lead to secondary infections, resulting in a vicious allergy-scratch-infection cycle. 

By using trusted diagnostics and effective treatments, our Little Animal Hospital team is dedicated to helping you manage your pet’s allergies. If your pet is incessantly scratching or showing other allergy signs, contact us to schedule an allergy consultation.