How to Determine If a Pet Has Allergies, and What You Can Do to Help Them

Beverly Hills MI dog with pet allergies

When a pet has allergies, they typically won’t exhibit the same signs that people do. Instead of reacting to allergens in food or the environment by sneezing, pets may suffer through their skin.

Symptoms of pet allergies can range from incredibly painful to mildly uncomfortable, but either way, pets should be tested, diagnosed and treated for allergies. Left alone, allergies can lead to other serious health problems and even diminish quality of life. 

Know the Score

Pets that can’t seem to stop scratching, licking or chewing at certain spots may be suffering from allergies. If they continue, hair loss, skin rashes or inflammation, and even secondary bacterial infection can occur. 

What Is Going On?

When a pet has allergies, their immune system overreacts to an external threat called an allergen. Histamine is then produced which leads to itchiness and discomfort. As they try to cope with this, bacteria introduced to the skin through chewing and licking can cause infection. Red, raised bumps may develop on the skin’s surface that can sometimes contain a yellow-looking pus. 

What to Expect When Your Pet Has Allergies

Allergies can arise in cats and dogs for various reasons. The most common pet allergies stem from:

  • Fleas – It doesn’t take a flea infestation to wreak havoc on a sensitive pet’s system. Even a single bite from a random flea picked up somewhere else can cause flea allergy dermatitis, a condition that causes severe itching and pain following exposure to flea saliva. A parasite and a spreader of disease, fleas should always be guarded against with a monthly parasite prevention medication. 
  • Environment – Pollen, dust, mold, smoke, grass, perfume, household chemicals and more can trigger atopic dermatitis. 
  • Food – Major proteins or carbohydrates in a pet’s food can cause similar skin reaction as environmental and flea allergies. It can be difficult to pinpoint triggers. With time, patience and diligence, food allergies can be understood and managed.

Treatments and Management

There is no cure for pet allergies, but there are certain strategies meant to keep them comfortable, including any combination of the following:

  • Antihistamine medications used only under your veterinarian’s advice
  • Antibiotics to treat secondary skin or ear infections
  • Steroids to help the immune system from overreacting to known triggers
  • Planned desensitization of triggers via allergy shots is possible after blood or skin tests confirm specific allergens
  • Strict enforcement of hypoallergenic diets for a predetermined amount of time
  • Elimination diets

When Your Pet Has Allergies

While it’s not the end of the world, dealing with pet allergies can be difficult. Our staff and veterinarians are always here for you at Beverly Hills Veterinary Associates.