Can Pets have Allergies?

Does your pet start scratching at this time of year? Lick and chew their feet non-stop? Or develop skin infections, bottom itching or ear problems?

The start of Autumn also marks the start of allergy season, and unfortunately seasonal allergies are very common in pets, especially dogs.

Pets actually have very sensitive skin. At only half the thickness of human skin, they are incredibly sensitive to environmental allergens. When humans have allergies, we tend to get hayfever, with runny eyes, a blocked nose and signs in our upper airways. Pets are a little different. No matter what they are allergic to, whether it’s something in their diet or perhaps pollens or fleas, they tend to get itchy… very itchy! For many of our furry friends, the only sign of their discomfort is that they lick their feet or scratch – a lot.

Contact Allergies

Pets that are allergic to grasses and wandering jew tend to lick their feet and develop redness on the tummy, where they contact the surface they are allergic to. Contact allergies are worse when there is lots of rain and sunshine and the plants are in their fast phase of growth. If you suspect your cat or dog has this type of allergy, keep your pet off grass/plants for 2 weeks and the symptoms should improve, so long as there is no skin infection present. Other tips for dogs or cats with contact allergies are:

  • Wipe your pet down with a wet towel after coming in from outside, paying particular attention to the area on the underside of the paws. Dry well afterwards.
  • Use Resisoothe either before your pet goes outside, or after coming inside to soothe irritated skin
  • Use a weekly oatmeal shampoo such as Aloveen
  • If your dog is smelly and has a secondary skin infection use Malaseb weekly and see your vet as antibiotics or antifungals may be required.

This dog has an infection between the toes, indicated by the thickened, red area of skin. It could be a staphylococcus infection or it could be fungal. Your veterinarian can do a simple test to work out the best way to treat this, as the itching will not stop until the infection improves.

Flea Allergies

One of the most common allergies in dogs and cats is a flea bite allergy – especially during the warmer months of the year, when fleas become more prevalent. Flea allergy develops in response to the saliva the flea injects into the skin during feeding and is so severe that one flea bite can keep your pet itching for 2 weeks.

Often fleas are overlooked as a cause of allergies, as pets with flea allergies don’t always have visible fleas. In fact, because one flea causes so much irritation, they tend to gnaw out that little flea pretty quickly, getting rid of any evidence of the problem. Any pet with allergies, even if fleas are not the main cause, needs super-fast flea control as part of their treatment, ideally with a Comfortis monthly flavoured chew..

Food Allergies

Interestingly, pets that have food allergies might not necessarily develop a stomach upset or diarrhoea. They just get itchy and lick their paws. Contrary to popular opinion, dogs don’t tend to develop gluten or grain allergies. They tend to be allergic to a meat protein such as chicken, beef, lamb or kangaroo. This allergy develops over time, which means your pet may be okay eating something for several years before symptoms begin to appear.

If your veterinarian suspects your cat or dog has a food allergy, a diet trial for a minimum of 8 weeks is necessary, and commonly a prescription diet like Hills Z/D or Royal Canin Hypoallergenic is recommended. It is important to consult your vet, because simply changing to another brand of cat or food will not help, as most pet foods are made up of similar ingredients.

Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis can be one of the most difficult types of allergies to diagnose and treat in pets. Essentially, it is a blanket term for all those other things that can cause itching in cats and dogs. This group of things commonly includes dust mites, pollens, moulds and other environmental allergens that are harder to eliminate from your pet’s world.

To treat atopic dermatitis often requires a combination of solutions and trial-and-error. Allergy blood testing is available, immunotherapy can be used to desensitise your pet, and various medications including prednisone, antihistamines and cyclosporine can help to suppress the signs. At Love That Pet we find that a combination of omega 3 fatty acids, particularly in the form of the weekly topspot Dermoscent (which also smells lovely), a weekly wash in Aloveen and antihistamines can be a useful combination for some pets.

If your pet suffers from itchy skin, frequent ear infections, smelly skin or licks his feet, book in to see us and we can chat about the various options available to help your pet.